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The Shoemaker’s Holiday (Royal Shakespeare Company) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

The RSC’s Winter season, coming at the end of a year commemorating the centenary of the start of World War I, has been unified by its engagement with war. From new plays on Oppenheimer and the Christmas 1914 truce to the anchoring of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won on either side of WW1, …

The Witch of Edmonton (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

(note – this review is of a preview performance) The Roaring Girls season, discussed in previous posts on this blog, ended with an entirely untypical coda. Directed by a man (Gregory Doran), given an early modern setting and appearing divorced from the statements about feminism and gender roles within the RSC that had characterised the …

The White Devil (Royal Shakespeare Company) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

Webster epitomises what critics such as Susan Bennett, Pascale Aebischer and Kathryn Prince have termed ‘the Jacobean’, in the sense that refers not to the literal historical period but the subset of early modern drama which usually commands an aesthetic prioritising sex, violence, spectacle and excess. Maria Aberg, who in her previous shows at the …

The Roaring Girl (RSC) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Roaring Girl is a much better idea than it is a play. The idea of the ‘Roaring Girl’ (the title, of course, of the current Swan season) is a fantastic crucible for exploring ideas of gender identity and sexual performance, and the involved plot of shopkeepers’ wives and rakes about town taking advantage of …

Arden of Faversham (Royal Shakespeare Company) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

In a year in which MacDonald P. Jackson’s new book has fairly definitively established the case for the place of Arden of Faversham in the Shakespeare canon, it’s rather refreshing to see a production of the play at the RSC that leans in no way upon Shakespeare, attributing the play to ‘Anonymous’ (much as Terry …

A Mad World, My Masters (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

Unusually for the RSC, the poster to Sean Foley’s new production of A Mad World, My Masters (the second I’ve seen, the first professional) advertises itself prominently as ‘edited by Sean Foley and Phil Porter). This is a frustrating statement to read, partly as it implies on some level that the RSC’s other productions aren’t …

Titus Andronicus (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

The trailer for the RSC’s new Titus, its first in some years, promised a macabre production: carrion birds, rusty cooking implements and chains. The play’s reputation preloads any new outing with expectation of blood, violence, sex and excess, the characteristic ingredients of contemporary Jacobean productions. In writing my own piece for this production’s programme, I …

Henry V (Edward’s Boys) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

When I first saw Edward’s Boys, they were a group of mostly eleven year olds performing extracts of John Lyly’s Endymion in a campus drama studio. Last night, the same company (indeed, with many of the same actors) filled the Swan Theatre to bursting with an audience including knights of the realm, RSC actors and …

A Tender Thing (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford

Unlike the Olympics, the World Shakespeare Festival doesn’t have a Closing Ceremony. There is no grand climax, no image of Prospero/Shakespeare drowning his books and asking for our applause, not even a celebrity-studded event production. Instead, the last officially badged World Shakespeare Festival production to open was this: a two-hander played (on this occasion) to …

King John (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

The RSC’s King John is now into its final week, and remains one of the best productions the RSC has produced in quite some time. I reviewed it in full back in July, but the production has continued to go from strength to strength. What remains remarkable about the production is its visceral intensity, turning …