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Henry VI (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

NB: This review is based on a preview performance. Henry VI, the fifth entry in the Globe’s 2019 Histories Cycle, was a production of compromises, if not a compromised production. Reuniting the ensemble that performed 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V over the summer (with a couple of replacement members), the decision …

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet (New Adventures) @ Sadler’s Wells/Nottingham Broadway

Illuminations’ new film of Matthew Bourne’s reimagining of Romeo and Juliet is a thrilling addition to the canon of dance adaptations of the play. Taking the classic Sergei Prokofiev score, but setting the ballet in a near-future ‘Verona Institute’ for the incarceration of young people, Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is a raw and moving piece that fascinatingly …

Macbeth @ Manchester Royal Exchange

For about half an hour before the Royal Exchange’s Macbeth started, the atrium of the Royal Exchange was rocked by rumbles and explosions, which became increasingly unsettling as the start time drew near. Christopher Haydon’s production – especially in Elena Peña’s sound design – sought to set up a world rent asunder by war long …

A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Bridge Theatre

‘Not for my fairy kingdom’ roared Oliver Chris’s Oberon during his big fight with Gwendoline Christie’s Titania, early in the Bridge Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The subtle textual change was part of an extensive series of adjustments designed to allow Oberon to remain King of the Forest while putting him on the receiving end of the love potion trick, in a …

Bartholomew Fair (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Please note – this review is of a preview performance. The sprawling Bartholomew Fair is an enormous play, a cast of seemingly thousands jostling shoulders in one of London’s most notorious fairs. Hosting it in the relatively bijou Sam Wanamaker was a bold choice, but Blanche McIntyre (with designer Ti Green) transformed it to maximise …

Venice Preserved (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

Thomas Otway’s 1682 tragedy, part of a mini-season of Restoration plays in the Swan, is a depressing affair. Despite the large scale of its political plot, as a group of conspirators led by an ambassador band together to overthrow the Venetian state, its focus is on a three-way relationship between a man, his secret wife, …

Measure for Measure (RSC/Live from Stratford-upon-Avon) @ The Broadway, Nottingham

Gregory Doran’s new Measure for Measure seemed, at times, to be almost defiantly setting itself against ‘relevance’. Eschewing the contemporary settings of several recent productions that have more explicitly responded to the #MeToo moment and the abuses of power in the highest offices (whether political, entertainment, sports), Doran returned to the text’s setting of Vienna, but updated …

Pericles (Willow Globe) @ Oystermouth Castle

The Willow Globe in Powys, Wales, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019, and the coincidence of the British Shakespeare Association holding its first conference in Wales led to a special performance of the company’s Pericles in the grounds of Oystermouth Castle. A more beautiful setting for an outdoor production of Pericles is hard to imagine; the …

Pembroke Arcadia (Fluellen Theatre) @ Taliesin Arts Centre

Romance has had something of a resurgence in recent years on the UK stage, with high-profile productions of Pericles and Cymbeline joining the more regularly staged Winter’s Tale and Tempest, and scattered productions of both Tudor and Jacobean/Caroline romances by Lyly, Greene, Fletcher and others have found welcoming audiences. To adapt one of the period’s …

Henry V, or Harry England @ Shakespeare’s Globe

When I saw Sarah Amankwah in Doctor Faustus at the Sam Wanamaker just before Christmas, I expressed a hope that she’d be a regular at the Globe. The fact that, with very little Shakespeare experience behind her, she has then taken the major through-line role of the Henries trilogy as Hal/Henry V, suggests I wasn’t …