Friends, Romans, countrymen…lend me your ear defenders. This version of Julius Caesar was the loudest experience I’ve ever had in a theatre and I’ve seen some of the loudest punk, metal and rock bands that have ever existed.
Indeed, this modern staging of the play starts with a live rock band playing to a small crowd of city dwellers. The band play rock cover versions of a seven or eight songs – they haven’t quite set the amps to 11 but it’s definitely louder than most of the audience were anticipating.
There is a visible sigh of relief as the play gets properly underway but that is not the end of the noise. In the scenes leading up to the assassination, Shakespeare provides stormy weather to denote the civil unrest created by Caesar’s ambition. Here, the storm is all thunder and lightning – loud rolling crashes of thunder and unbelievably bright flashes of lightning.
Once the assassination has taken place, Brutus and Mark Anthony address the crowd and there is a fight for power. “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” ….literally. At least twenty minutes of modern warfare with multiple explosions and rapid volleys of machine gun fire take the volume up to new heights.
In the midst of all this furore there are some fantastic performances by the cast – particularly David Morrissey as Mark Anthony and Ben Whishaw as Brutus. It was also great to see some of the leading parts traditionally played by men, played by women – Michelle Fairley, for example, made an interesting Cassius. Overall though it was the colossus of noise that bestrode the theatre world today!
Outside the theatre, London was covered in snow….and strangely quiet.
The other night we went to see the RSC production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in Stratford-upon-Avon and really enjoyed ourselves. It is one of Shakey’s lighter plays and it really delivered on humour. The sets and costumes were excellent and the whole cast were superb. There was one star that shone brighter than the rest – Ade Edmondson as Malvolio. He was grumpy and brusque in the first half, then colourful and absolutely hilarious in the second.
There are some musical numbers and I was disappointed that we did not get the opportunity to hear Kara Tointon sing solo. Dinita Gohil as Viola is a rising star to look out for!
It was extraordinary to see F Murray Abraham, one of the main stars of Homeland, live on the stage of a tiny theatre in Bath. Well supported in a cast of just four people, he played the role of the mentor with great humour, fabulous timing and every now and then he showed us some of the power that he has as an actor.
The Mentor is a new German play, beautifully translated by Christopher Hampton.
We went to see Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler yesterday at the National Theatre. It was easily the best rendition of Hedda Gabler we have seen. Patrick Marber has created a modern version of the Ibsen play that retains the powerful dramatic anguish of the original text but he has also introduced far more pace and some great moments of humour to the dialogue. It is also fantastically staged and directed by Ivo Van Hove, who was responsible for the extraordinary View From the Bridge we saw at the Young Vic a couple of years ago.
The Marber version gives Ruth Wilson the opportunity to give full reign to the wild, flirty and uncompromising elements of the Hedda character and he also turns Brack into a more sinister force. Rafe Spall is excellent as Brack, not quite as menacing as his part in The Shadow Line but definitely in the same ball park. Indeed, the whole cast gave great performances. All underpinned by a beautiful incidental soundtrack that included Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley & Nina Simone.
If you can get to see this live then don’t miss out. If you can’t, it’s being screened in cinemas nationwide on 9 March.
We love the intimacy of the Donmar Warehouse and we have been excited about seeing the new Nick Payne play, Elegy, for weeks now. We saw his earlier play, Constellations, at the Royal Court back in 2012 and it was fantastic.
Elegy is a play about the philosophical challenges that facing the partner of a person who has a degenerative brain condition. The partner has to choose between an operation that will preserve physical health but, at the same time, may remove two decades of memory. The play jumps from after the operation to before and back again.
The issues faced are very topical and Zoe Wanamaker, Barbara Flynn and Nina Sosanya all play their parts beautifully. Nick Payne creates some fabulous scenes and marvellous dialogue. However, for us at least, Elegy did not quite hit the high notes of Constellations.
Saw The Caretaker yesterday at The Old Vic starring Timothy Spall, Daniel Mays and George MacKay. Pinter at his best – it was fantastic. All three members of the cast were mesmerising!
We went to see The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm – starring Myanna Buring and Laura Donnelly. Both actresses gave exceptional performances as damaged human beings. Myanna – brash, funny, aggressive, vulnerable. Laura – posh, patronising, devious, controlling. The play has some great twists and turns and, in this tiny studio theatre, it is like having a front seat on a rollercoaster of emotions. One of the best pieces of theatre we have seen in a long time.