Pericles Prince de Tyr, Barbican

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by Laura Kressly

Flawless royal blue walls reminiscent of the sea surround an unresponsive, middle aged man lying in a hospital bed. Nurses and a doctor flit in an out, efficiently checking vitals and holding quick, whispered conversations with waiting family. This is Pericles, physically and mentally buffeted by a life of grief and tragedy, but this is not quite the story of Pericles that Shakespeare and Wilkins co-wrote. Translated into French and then adapted, Cheek by Jowl here present a man in poor physical and mental health trapped inside his head, in a world composed either of memories or the figments of his imagination.

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Words Words Words, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Alex Dowding

Grief is a funny and very human experience, and we all inevitably go through it in one way or another. Writer and performer Lowri Amies here examines her grief around the death of loved ones by diving headfirst into another love – that of Shakespeare.

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Medea Electronica, Ovalhouse

by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Two months in, and already ‘gaslighting’ appears to be the word of the year. Both Trump and Weinstein, who are often cast as toxically masculine villains in the press, have been accused of implementing such misdirection and manipulation toward their female accusers.

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Thebes Land, Arcola Theatre

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A playwright wants to write a play about patricide, but with an actual criminal onstage instead of an actor. Initial research leads him to a young man called Martin Santos, serving consecutive life sentences in Belmarsh for killing his father. As weeks pass and the two men get to know each other, stereotypes and expectations are upended in this moving story of masculinity, violence and theatre.

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The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse

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Within 50 years of Shakespeare’s death, playwriting was changing quickly. Less flowery language and more powerful female characters are prominent in James Shirley’s rarely-staged The Cardinal, written in 1641. The plot is more streamlined, but some of the outdoor playhouse performance conventions linger along with the grandness of the king’s court. The story proudly flaunts influence from earlier revenge tragedies and is no less bloody, but easier to follow than some of those on stage a few decades or so earlier. In Southwark Playhouse’s smaller space with historical costumes, Justin Audibert’s production evokes the intimate atmosphere of indoor playhouses that were beginning to take over towards the end of Shakespeare’s career.

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Romeo and Juliet, Greenwich Theatre

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A self-described modern rep company, Merely Theatre is addressing Shakespeare’s  gender problem with 50/50 casting. Five male/female pairs each learn a set of characters in two plays, then on the night it’s decided who will perform. The result is a focus on clear storytelling rather than unimportant details such as the appearance or gender if individual characters. It’s a great device, and partnered with simple staging and a pace that doesn’t hang about, artistic director Scott Ellis has created a distinctive style of performance honouring the historical aesthetics of travelling players, though there’s a lack of nuance dissatisfying to modern audiences.

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