Hamlet’s Reversed Don Quixote Dream

the-arts-review

In keeping with Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary here are some appropriate reviews of: Hamlet, Don Quixote and Reversed Dream.

Andrew Venning reviews Hamlet, Don Quixote and Reversed Dream.


Hamlet Review

hamlet review

Finally, the time has arrived. The Royal Shakespeare Company gives us their first ever black actor playing Hamlet in Simon Godwin’s powerful and volatile production.

Director Simon Godwin has decided to set the entire play in an unnamed African dictatorship with powerful and pertinent results. Perhaps it’s because the political turmoil in some African countries in recent years, and even now, is still very relevant, but this production brims with powerful politics. One feels that at any moment there could be a coup from any angle. It seems like they may have been a very slyly executed one by Claudius himself, but one also feels that Laertes, Hamlet and even Polonius may be a potential threat to this new Government. Polonius has his comic moments but at times seems to be the man running everything in a George Osborne manner, that makes one feel hat whilst he is a doddery fellow with his quirks and idiosyncrasies he is also the perhaps the bureaucratic power behind the throne. It really puts into focus the idea that Gertrude has re-married simply to save her life!

“This is an absolute winner for me”

For one of the first times in a long while Rosencrantz and Guildernstern truly feel like two strangers in a distant land. They both arrive equipped with British gifts for their uni friend Hamlet’s new ruler. The culture clash and differences are really put in top focus here, and the sad ending for them both feels even more painful, as two friends caught up in the political ramifications of another country.

Paapa Essidue is a fab Hamlet. Finally someone who is a student and seems to be the perfect age. He let’s us in form the very start and certainly gives us a comic and playful and incredibly wound up Hamlet. He comes in covered in paint like the archetypal western abstract arts student. He bristles with energy and will certainly grow over time.

All of the usual moments, the ghost, the players, the fight are given a renewed energy that the setting allows them to have. a new culture and vibrant life. The fight in particular is superbly done and quite possible the best I have seen. It is different, powerful, fast and new.

This has deep heart and a powerful political punch and also managed to give us clear verse speaking, comedy, pain as well as superbly designed colourful montage, both in the costumes and the simple design.

This is an absolute winner for me….. and I am beyond skeptical…..

Hamlet is produced by theRoyal Shakespeare Company Stratford-upon-Avon


Don Quixote review

Don-Quixote-review

As it is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare death, the RSC have remembered the  great writer whose 400th anniversary is this year and whom died on the same day as the bard himself. Miguel De Cervantes the great Spaniard who coined Don Quixote Book one and Two.

Here the book’s are trimmed and put on stage with gusto. It’s a great undertaking to put all of this onto the stage as it is such an incredibly epic story. There are moments that work a dream but at times the narrative seems disjointed, jumping from one place to another, this is ok in the book as it allows you time to digest things as the narrative moves on, but it is quite hard when transposed to the stage  and feels like we are getting just scene after scene like a series of short plays. This is not the fault of cast, director or adapter it is just simply incredibly epic and would always be tough to pull off.

“It just felt like it needed more pace from scene to scene in a couple of places.”

It was an enjoyable show but never really got off the ground in the way I felt it could have. The show is peppered with several songs which seemed to labour things at times and it felt like it needed a little more drive. Saying that, there are some funny moments in the play and it’s certainly an incredibly admirable task to undertake and definitely a mountain to climb. it was great to see the Carrasco story is kept in with great ease in Act II (Book II) and Quixote’s fall is very moving. It just felt like it needed more pace from scene to scene in a couple of places.

Hamlet is produced by theRoyal Shakespeare Company Stratford-upon-Avon


Reversed Dream Review

reversed-dream-review

The Reversed Shakespeare Company have decided to tackle ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and they have switched the all of the roles around men playing women, women playing men etc and it brings interesting results.

For me the most interesting part of the gender reversal lies in Titania and Oberon and how drastically different these roles seem to become. Titania as a man seems for some reason much more aggressive and more in the wrong for some reason !? No doubt we are all wired to a patriarchy and this informs any opinion we may have about this, but I usually find Oberon irrationally and yet when the gender is swapped I then found Titania the irrational one. I still haven’t exactly figure out why?

“I’d certainly be intrigued to see what Reversed choose to do next.”

The gender switch to the four lovers now means that we have a rather different dynamic between the bond between the two boys Hermia and Helena, and ones feels Helena perhaps had a schoolboy crush on Hermia. Great also to see the Ladies taking the front foot in all the arguments and fighting and being the dominant force in their relationship’s. This is probably more representative of the reality today.

These characters mentioned above are more in focus as I guess they involve a relationship with the opposite sex. The mechanicals are still interesting but the gender swapping seems to bring to light some perhaps more interesting nuances in the Lovers and Oberon and Titania. Puck is similar as, to me, Puck is an androgynous role anyway and transcends gender.

It was an interesting choice to gender swap the Pyramus and Thisbe play as well, especially when all the other classical references are kept as the usual gender. It would have been nice to see Flute (as a woman) being really annoyed having to play a woman, but it is still interesting that this Flute doesn’t want to play a man! Putting paid to the assumption that the male parts are always the more interesting parts. I’d certainly be intrigued to see what Reversed choose to do next.

Reversed dream only ran until the 27th March but for more information can be found on the website.


Andrew Venning All reviews by Andrew Venning