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Shakespeare in 2015

Shakespeare in 2015

Andrew Venning By Andrew Venning

I have no qualifications to do this. No right. No experience (well?). No reason (mm). No right to say this view is the correct one, but it is simply an opinion… I nearly typed onion. It is not an onion. Although the writing below may reek as much and may want to make you cry as much as if you were chopping organic echalion shallots.

I was asked to write a piece on the theatre, but as I spend several hours both on stage and across the trenches on the other sides watching various types of theatrical extravaganza’s and theatrical abortions from Circus, Opera, Dance, New Writing et al, I wouldn’t be able to get through an entire year of subjective opinionated waffle both on my own performances and the work of other colleagues that I see. So I have narrowed the subject down to a personal favourite passion of mine, and an area of work that I am most familiar with, have worked in the most and continue to work most frequently in, one in which I have also had the most background and training.

So blah blah, blah, I continue…


In this article I will review Shakespeare in 2015. I will look at personal performances I have been in myself and those in which I have attended, including those of friends (and enemies? #gossip – I hate when people use hashtags like this, it is my bad attempt at being “trendy”). This article will of course miss out on some vital pieces of Shakespeare performance from the UK and is sadly London-centric and lacking parts of the country I wasn’t able to get to this year. Not through lack of funds or transport but mainly due, like all good actors, to being tied (albeit gently) to a part time “normal” job to get by day to day. i.e. have enough money to buy those echalion shallots I mentioned (Waitrose £2.99 per kilo http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=15919 ). So far this article has been 3 paragraphs and not about Shakespeare at all…let’s begin.


The year started at full throttle, as I knew I was to be playing Macbeth in London and Bath from the start of the year until March. I sadly won’t go into this in full as it could take up pages and pages and pages and will probably only really be of interest to the connoisseur of the nuances and ups and downs of acting and text work or anybody incredibly interested in the in-depth analysis and process an actor goes through tackling a late great Shakespearean  text and dealing with the many varied psychological and other issues in Macbeth ranging from infertility, witchcraft, masculinity, war, post-traumatic stress disorder, fraternity, equivocation and much, much, much more to say the least (all of which has been written about eruditely already). Even looking through my extensive notes to page one of my script where I have marked ‘CF King James I book ‘Daemonologie’ is enough to chew over for pages and pages, that book in itself cold warrant a discussion on madness, spiritualism, religion, fear, paranoia, hatred, and so we go on ad infinitum. So I felt this is not the place for a thorough study of the actor’s craft or an exhaustive study of the play/role of Macbeth itself, although brief mention of it shall be made at points. However, for context this is where my mind was at the start of the year. Preparing to tackle this great (though surprisingly short) role of the Scottish Thane/King. People forget how much both external and internal influences have on us when we are passively consuming art of any nature, be it theatre, cinema, or at an art gallery. If we are sick, cold, have had a fight with a loved one or friend, hungry or running late. All of these things meld together to affect how you receive a piece of art whatever its nature or form and to a certain degree those external issues inform the reactions you have to a piece of work. I have tried to give as objective an opinion as I could, bearing in mind my own prejudices and beliefs about the performance of Shakespeare, and opinions of actors in general which are naturally subjective (although as actor’s when working we try to channel viewpoints into something that can be objectively understood by all). I believe the Theatre always seems to split opinion much more than cinema and television. The nature of these Art forms and their varied differences of affect on us if of course not a subject I wish to gloss over and both Plato and Aristotle have written in a far superior manner about this subject (CAVEAT –  I don’t always agree with some of their theories!). I do wish for people to bear these things in mind throughout this piece, which already feels it is going to be as long and complex as Ulysses…

King Lear – Guildford Shakespeare Company

With Brian Blessed. The first piece of Shakespeare I had seen this year. Despite the overblown press hoo-ha about Brian falling ill, on press night his performance was fine. Booming as expected and looking like Genghis-Khan. Memory doesn’t recall much of this, and I had a couple of friends in it, but I do remember a slightly odd choice to make Gloucester an astronomer, yes there is an argument that both Fathers use the stars as a way of explaining their children’s actions and lines like King Lear’s “By all the operation of the orbs / From whom we do exist and cease to be”  Edgar’s question to Edmond  “How long have you been a sectary astronomical?” seem to add the kind of “re-enforcement” directors sometimes like when placing a concept on something. Unfortunately sometimes that can swallow and swamp the truth of the scene and in my opinion that distracted me more from the truth of what is going on here with both of these men and their children and seemed to be a way just to do something slightly different, alas, writing a year later it is the only thing I remember.

Now at the end of Jan and half way through my own Macbeth rehearsals I did something I wouldn’t usually do during the rehearsal of this process, but this was a slightly different take on the play.

Macbeth – “Shakespeare Shuffle” Various, Greenwich Theatre.

Four companies took on the role of doing an Act each of Macbeth. And in the end joined all the actors and styles together for Act V. A superb idea, pulled off with aplomb. The quality was of course varied but there were some great unexpected comic moments at times that still managed to tell the story intensely and chillingly despite being overtly comic, for example Banquo ran onstage and showered himself in a tin of tomato soup to represent his death, comic of course, but the dripping gloop of think terracotta tomato dripping over this chaps face and onto the floor also had a bizarre and disgusting messiness to it (as the murder does proper) and it worked. Eerie as well as comical – Tragedy and comedy do sit side by side as do laughter and tears, Melpomene inverted is Thalia and vice versa. While this doesn’t always strictly work, particularly in an age where “realism” is key to a higher extent than ever before, it still has a kernel of truth behind it, as that moment showed. I had a friend in this one and they thoroughly enjoyed being in it, one of the Acts was dire dire dire dire dire dire dire dire. I shall not say which.


The next few months were spent doing Macbeth in London and Bath, so not much time to go to the Theatre myself. I was also tied up being involved in the William Poel Event at the National Theatre, working with actors and Shakespeare specialists on honing our classical skills with some of the best directors and artists in the country, it was hard to find time to see anything else!

I was soon after engaged to do “Bard Appreciation Day” for a London primary school. I chose to not patronise the children,

as had been done to me when I was at school

, and decided that although primary age, they do still have the ability to grasp more than just A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So I gave them the opening monologue of the Chorus in Henry V. I was doing it with 2 other actors, a colleague I had previously worked with 5 years ago on John Webster’s The White Devil (who was doing a speech from As You Like It – in which she asked me to stand in as Silvius (a great part!) and there was another actress that performed the gallop apace speech from Romeo & Juliet. These children aged 5-8 absolutely loved it! And when they were allowed to ask questions to us and were then also questioned themselves by their teachers about what was going on in each scene (despite people’s reservations at my suggestion of Henry V) the children FULLY and vividly understood what was being said to them and the Chorus’ plea to

“Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times….”

Proving that Shakespeare (despite popular trends) is NOT too hard for children to swallow if taught/presented in the way it is intended, through performance and engaging with your audience and not laborious study (something that will come through passion and time. It is now personally a highlight scanning through folios ad quartos for hidden textual clues again and again in search for even greater meaning). Shakespeare IS accessible be they 5 or 105 and from London or Tokyo. That is the power of Shakespeare’s verse and prose, it cuts through language barriers like a hot knife. Even if you don’t understand or grasp the minutiae and ambiguities of what he is saying, his rhythms are so pleasing to the heart beat and his “tune” is as tasty to an actor as drinking fine wine. His poetry penetrates and warms the soul. It is no coincidence (I think) that the number of characters in a tweet are equal to the number of beats in a Sonnet.


Return to the Forbidden Planet – Wimbledon Theatre

Ok. Not really Shakespeare but a riff on ‘The Tempest’ none the less. A friend in the show and it was good fun, and it’s a show I have to admit I have seen 3 times over the last 20 years and well worth a watch when it comes round on tour next.

I’m next engaged teaching English to Austrian exchange students for a week, a big part of this is using Shakespeare to talk to them about language and my tiny amount of German to try and communicate with them, particularly with Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” –  Sein oder Nicht Sein, das ist die frage” the “correct” way. But in order to make the English iambic pentameter work (which is truer to Shakespeare) you use “Sien order Nicht Sien das ist hier die Frage” a slight change for various linguistic reasons, but thump it out on your chest and the second one has a closer resemblance to the feminine ending intended by Shakespeare in the English. With that final un-resolved beat at the end of the line pricking up your ears to make you listen just that little bit more. Much like “Is this a dagger which I see before me” – this was obviously still fresh in the mind!

A few days later I was engaged to put together (of my own choice) a group of Actors to perform Henry V script in hand, with myself as Henry (not my choice) twice in the day for a St George’s Day festival in Vauxhall. Preparations started for this huge role! It will be a popular one this year due to the Agincourt anniversary!

Prior to the opening of Henry V, I took a jaunt over to Madrid for 3 days to celebrate The Globe’s mid-way point of a World tour of their production of Hamlet, going to every country in the world over a period of 2 years (North Korea are still, at time of writing, due to receive the show, though only a select few in the Government will get to attend – even one defection from North Korea would be a success for Shakespeare and for human kind!). I had actually seen this same production of Hamlet a few years ago at the Globe and its economic ease in the scene changes and the way costume changes and doubling was swiftly dealt with was fab and despite the cast having to shunt around from country to country, and at a ridiculous pace, the energy levels were up and the audience certainly enjoyed it. Again despite language barriers, the emotional punches landed in all the right places. Laughter, fear, sorrow et al. There were some acting choices I disagreed with but nothing offensively enough for me to write about it as it would be purely subjective and I can’t remember much more, the rioja haze afterward has not helped this!

Back to the UK to perform Henry V and despite the Morris dancers, Medieval fighting and everything else going on (including the English weather) we managed to get an engaged audience and once again the children were rapt, despite the fact that we were sans costumes, sans make up and sans weaponry. Shakespeare’s Brechtian Chorus would have been pleased.

Teatros Del Canal, Madrid, Spain

The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare’s Globe

Jonathan Pryce stole the show as Shylock. I was not hugely impressed with his Lear at the Almieda a few years ago as he made some odd choices about his physical feelings toward Cordelia I really didn’t agree with. However, his Shylock was sublime (at time of writing it has just been announced that it will be revived in 2016) The nuances contained in his performance were superb and I think he traversed both the idea of a fiendish Jew and the bullied minority perfectly on a tight rope, never leaning too far toward anti-Semitism or too far toward piety. It’s a tough play for sure and one I change my opinion of regularly. This production by Jonathan Munby was snappy, intelligent and full of little moments of sheer genius and joy. Did Portia move stage right on purpose in order to convince Bassanio to pick the lead casket? Does Antonio have more than purely Platonic feelings for Bassanio? Never pushed, only hinted, the subtleties were superb.

The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare’s Globe


General election – Not even going to go there…

A New discovery!

In May a discovery of a new image of Shakespeare was found by the botanist Mark Griffiths in a 400-year-old book about plants. The engraving (pictured below) is believed to be the only authentic portrait of Shakespeare done during his life time. In the picture he is believed to be around 33. The engraving was by William Rogers and book ground breaking at its time in 1598 was called ‘The Herball Generall Historie of Plantes’ by John Gerard. Griffiths managed to crack the Tudor code (there 4 portrait’s) of heraldic motifs, symbols, rebuses, ciphers and symbolic flowers all of which gave clues to each portraits identity. I won’t explain them all here but is certainly worth looking into…

The Herball Generall Historie of Plantes

King Lear – Northern Broadsides, Rose Kingston

Not my cup of tea, felt far too long. I feel both versions of Lear had been used and cherry picked from. A lot of shouting, no real engagement with the audience, real shame

Hamlet – Ninagawa Company, Barbican

Superb Japanese re-telling of the Hamlet story. I saw the Ninagawa company do Hamlet exactly 11 years ago with the great actor Michael Maloney in the title role which had barbed wire running from floor to ceiling in which actors had to precariously traverse and navigate themselves around. That production was interesting, this one in Japanese instead of English felt like it was more at home in itself, I sadly missed Ninagawa’s Cymbeline in 2012 but this Hamlet and particularly the combat scenes were a treat, and the speed and agility with which the entire denouement was executed really showed the English up!

Hamlet – Ninagawa Company, Barbican


King John – Shakespeare’s Globe

A rare one. Although I saw the Albanian National Theatre do it at the Globe in 2012 and Maria Aberg’s superb RSC version in 2013 blew me away. This one was very slick and thoroughly enjoyable, well cast and very rounded and more importantly kept our attention throughout. I know some people had very big differences of opinion on some of Constance’ choices, but altogether I thought it worked well and although an intelligent version, Aberg’s production still tops it for me.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – New York, (Julie Taymor’s production via cinema screening)

Superb. I know there was some camera trickery and some pre-recorded close ups, but for me despite a bit of questionable acting with the lovers, this version was superb. David Harewood and Tina Benko were magnificent as Titania and Oberon. Kathryn Hunter perfectly cast as Puck. The lighting and design were all magnificent, I have been in this show several times and have seen it many more but this version –  Lovely. Magical and mean, frightening and fun. Bravo

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Garsington Opera, Royal Festival Hall

A slightly different one here as it was a joint venture with the RSC and Garsington combining Mendelsohn’s Dream with the text. I have to say despite some staging restrictions to the actors and a little lack of engagement with the actual orchestra (centre stage), it was well pulled off and didn’t shirk on the story telling. Particularly when the actors had to cope with speaking over the music at times and inside a cavernous voice swallowing concert hall.

Richard III – National Theatre of China (In Mandarin), Shakespeare’s Globe

One that returned from 2012 that I missed the first time around. Why was Gloucester only limping when he was soliloquising and alone? That makes no sense. They seemed to have decided he only limps when he is alone, otherwise in public he acts like he has no deformity. Is this a comment on the blindness of the Chinese Republic? It could very well be(?) I was not sure. There were some nice drapes up stage centre that had blood trickled down each one every time another character was assassinated, but after the first drape we knew all the others were going to be similarly soiled and I lost any interest. A strange performance from Lady Anne and The Duchess too, almost sung.

Volpone – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Not Shakespeare but Ben Jonson, an important contemporary to say the least! Like all of Shakespeare’s other contemporaries they all fed off each other and knew each other and shared ideas, you can see and hear it in other Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, echoes of each other’s works, thoughts and tropes. While we’re on it and before I forget. Yes, Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. That’s, that sorted.

Volpone was a great show. Henry Goodman stole it for me. There were some very questionable performances, in my opinion, from some of the others but the show was well executed. Trevor Nunn has returned briefly to Stratford with a good one.

The Jew of Malta – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Again, I have included a Marlowe production as I believe his works are relevant to Shakespeare as he ripped off this play (slightly) for The Merchant of Venice. I have to say this was one of the best pieces of the year for me. Jasper Britton’s performance as Barabas was spot on, ruthless and exciting. I thought Jasper was great as Henry IV last year, and this production as whole was spot on. Obeying period details but firing energy into the lines in a truthful way. Obeying all the “rules” of verse and therefore enhancing its own modernity through it’s beautiful application of the text by great actors. A winner.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson

The first in the Hogarth Shakespeare series where modern writers tackle Shakespeare plays in a modern prose style. This one was based on The Winters Tale and was very interesting indeed. The homosexuality between Xeno (Polixenes) and Leontes (Leo) fully and convincingly explored. A good read, it stuck very very closely to the narrative of the play which I wasn’t entirely sure if I liked or not, as one kind of knew where it would eventually end up. But the journey was fun and that is the most important thing. We were also given an incredibly meta-theatrical ending.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson


Richard II – Shakespeare’s Globe

I don’t recall much, but very concise and felt like the pace moved along lovely and performances were all spot on. Gold everywhere. Charles Edwards a very interesting Richard.

The Merchant of Venice – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

A rather peculiar production that some liked and I really was not sure about. Great opening! And it’s a tough one “In Sooth I know not why I am so sad”. I still chew this production over in my mind. It was in some ways very clear and in other not so. But my partner disagreed and thoroughly enjoyed it

Othello – RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

With Lucian Msamati as Iago, the first time I have seen a black Iago. I was not entirely sure if this gave us more to look into in this play or not. It seemed to make the play really focus more on its hatred and jealousy (it is not necessarily “about” race). Iago cajoled Roderigo as usual and hated “the Moor” as usual. It puts us to shame perhaps expecting there to be some overtly big difference if played by a black actor and it perhaps shows our own prejudices in that assumption. Cruelty is cruel whatever face you have. There was a great moment where Roderigo seemed to over step the mark with an overtly racist comment and Iago who had been joking with him suddenly shot him a look implying he had over-stepped the mark at that point. I realised that making Iago black as well, the racism of all of the other characters in the play seems heightened. The designs for Venice with real waterways was sumptuous, grand and stunning. The army torture scenes didn’t seem as real as they were supposed to and I think there was some mis-matched casting in places and by the second half some odd choices, but very thought provoking.

Hamlet – Barbican

This is the one. Yep. That one. The one we didn’t stop hearing about because of everything else around it and who was in it. I won’t go there with that and will focus on the show. Cumberbatch is a great actor, I wasn’t sure if Hamlet was the right casting for him in my opinion and when he plays Richard III in the Second Hollow crown series in 2016 I have no doubt he will shine in that role. I liked his performance but it didn’t blow me away like Toby Stephens, Jude Law, or Michael Sheen. Moving the “to be or not to be” speech didn’t bother me hugely, Thomas Ostermeier’s Schaubühne Hamlet in German a couple of years had used the speech about 3 different times throughout the play and it worked wonderfully. But when I went to this Hamlet (the final preview before press) the speech had been moved from its original placing, but didn’t open the show as it had done, I believe, during previews. For me there were too many other bizarre inconsistency’s and staging decisions that FELT had been made at the last minute. The set seemed to hinder the actors (beautiful though it was). When the wind blew open the palace doors at the end of the first half, blowing thousands of autumnal leaves into the room, it really was striking and incredibly cinematic, but otherwise the set was limiting, particularly in the second half when the autumnal debris of gravel, stone and dirt had cluttered the stage floor to such an extent it seemingly became awkward to walk over for both Gertrude and Ophelia. I also felt a tad lost at times as to where we were in the play. The whole thing was enjoyable but felt (probably due to the media) centred purely around the leading man. I know it is of course “Hamlet” but the joy of that story comes from the conflicts, friendships and relationships he has with these other superbly shaped and crafted characters. I felt there had been less work done on them.


Henry V – Middle Temple Hall

This Production was set in France during World War One. A solider has a copy of the play on him whilst French nurses are tending to a wound and a we end up with a scenario where a production is mounted between French and English soldiers recovering in the hospital. Interesting idea, very popular no doubt. The actor playing Henry was a bit too young for my liking. I’m not really against the idea of casting Henry young (he was young in real life – around 28 at Agincourt) but I don’t think the actor in question, seemingly 19 (and I get the point of young men being sent to their deaths in the trenches) had sufficient gravitas to portray this mighty warrior hero / jingoistic war criminal with enough belief. This is not his fault at all, it was just not quite right for me, otherwise it was a warming production. I cannot be entirely objective having worked with the two co-directors on 4 Shakespeare plays myself since 2006

Lady Macbeth of Mtsesnk – ENO

I thought I would put this one in. It is Mark Wigglesworth’s first piece conducted at the ENO. By Shostakovich and based on Leskov’s novella. The sound was phenomenal, the staging not so much. Shostakovich goes way off from Leskov’s book by the end of the Opera but this version seemed to want to hinder itself with some odd staging choices, and some of the 19th century customs when moved to 2015 don’t seem to work so well, I can’t believe the idea of industrial workman being sad about the fact their boss is going away for a few weeks, I understand it’s a heightened reality in Opera, but the modern setting compared to some of these very straight 19th century customs of the serfs waving goodbye to their master doesn’t sit as well for me when up-dated.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsesnk - ENO


Wars of the Roses – Henry VI, Edward IV & Richard III, Rose Kingston

(Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, Henry VI Part 3, Richard III)

A dear friend in this. Press day 11am start for first show. Three shows right through to 11pm. Sir Trevor Nunn directed John Barton and Sir Peter Hall’s great 1963 adaptation of the last 4 plays of the history cycle. A great accomplishment for all involved. I do feel that Henry VI parts 1,2 and 3 don’t have to be conflated (as they were done here). I think audiences have changed since the 60’s and we are quite happy to see the full plays as they stand, despite the fact they are very early “unformed” Shakespeare plays and despite the fact that our attention spans are supposedly getting shorter. My major problem with this show is the adaptation itself, 12,350 lines of Shakespeare were taken out and 1,450 lines made up and added in, as well as name changes to make it “easier” for the audience to follow. I found these versions cumbersome and at times sometimes patronising. They were great at the time and I understand why these changes were made, but I think I’d rather have just had the 12,350 lines of Shakespeare (primitive thought it may have been) back in.

Guardian Live Discussion – Kenneth Branagh, Michael Pennington and more

A very interesting discussion with Kenneth Baranagh and more being interviewed by Mark Lawson on his up and coming season at The Garrick. I wanted more questions on his thoughts about the role of Leontes rather than the acting process (a lot of drama students in!) but that is also my fault for not asking the question!

The Winters Tale – Theatre Royal, bury St Edmunds

Interesting start with a New year’s count down, but not altogether very interesting and I can barely remember much more of it apart from some not incredibly interesting staging. Great performance from Autolycus.

Macbeth – Film

Awful. I cannot begin to say how poorly this was executed. Two fine actors utterly ruined. What was this? Had the play been read at all at any point during the process? There was so much wrong with this film I would have to write another article to properly pinpoint my issues with it. Having played the role earlier this year has no bearing on my opinion of this. The obsession in this film was with Fassbender and NOT the character of Macbeth. The ghosts of their children haunting them, Macbeth killing Lady Macduff and her son publicly himself, Malcolm catching him in the act of murdering Duncan, all was just misjudged. One moment of genius was when Birnam wood at the end was burnt down. The prophecy warns Macbeth that Birnam wood coming to Dunsinane means his end. Now, on stage this is usually taken as soldiers hiding behind chopped down trees from Birnam wood and advancing on the castle. In this film the wood is burnt down and Macbeth plucks ash from the smoke in the air whilst recounting the prophecy a very great touch but the rest offended me too much. For me ‘Throne of Blood’ by Kurosawa and Polanski’s Macbeth are still the greatest versions on film

Henry V –  RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

I loved this. Oliver Ford-Davies playing the Chorus as an old school master. Brilliant. Lot’s of subtle Brechtian moments throughout. Without the didacticism. Great use of playing misunderstandings of the French language in some of the French scenes and the great Englishmen, Irishman, Scotchmen, Welshman scene played perfectly! Utterly hilarious, and even when we reached the final scene, the romance tagged on sometimes oddly to the end of this play worked wonderfully. Creating a brief moment of lightness before the darkness of the Chorus Epilogue about Henry’s death and the ensuing civil war that would be coming.

Measure for measure – Young Vic

I was not a fan of this. Best I say no more. Too modern for me, too mad. One that I believe is very Marmite.

The Wintes Tale – Garrick Theatre

Branagh as Leontes. Lovely Christmassy Victorian setting, I felt it sped along far too fast at the start and I didn’t feel Branagh ploughed the depths of this role in the way I thought he would have. I have a lot of admiration for him and I just felt I wanted more, the homosexual elements of their relationship were heavily pointed and that doesn’t bother me, but if you go too far with it I feel it loses something that is much more powerful if suggested. Dench lovely as Paulina and a great company feel. Later scenes set in Sicilia seemed to drag a little for me.


As You Like It – National Theatre

Beautiful design. Chairs and tables of this horrid office of the first Acts are lifted into the air to represent the forest of Arden and actors are dotted around creating all the noises of the forest using their voices, it was great. Superb stuff form Paul Cahidi as Jacques. But alas I don’t remember much more and it is a shame when that happens. The design was certainly the winner of the show as well as the sound effects. I also don’t believe the office setting made sense really as opening idea. I understand where it was coming from but it didn’t seem to sit as well with the play as I think It would have liked to.

November brought a political edge when Chris Bryant quoted Richard II in the House of Commons: –

“I have a little book here that I will give to the Leader of the House. I will not throw it across the Chamber; he can come to my study later. It is a copy of Shakespeare’s play ‘Richard II’. I am sure hon. Members will remember that wonderful speech

“Thus Royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

Thus earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise”, but do they remember that it ends:

“is now leas’d out…like to a tenement or pelting farm”?

That is what the Tories have done. Shakespeare’s predicted 400 years ago that they would sell off all our national assets.

Chris Bryant quoted Richard II in the House of Commons


Macbeth – Young Vic

A friend in this. More of a dance version really, very Interesting ideas, some things did not work so well at all, a tad confusing and muddled but superb skill in the dance work. I’m not sure how well the dancing and the text sat together, I think it was a great idea and I don’t think the design helped, but it didn’t quite work for me.

The final audition of the year was happily for another Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing. There is lot’s coming on the Shakespeare front in 2016 what with the #ShakespeareLives international celebration of the 400-year anniversary of the death of Shakespeare #Shakespeare400. There will also be some more Hogarth Shakespeare books released including Howard Jacobson on The Merchant of Venice, Anne Tyler on The Taming of the Shrew & Margaret Atwood on The Tempest to name a few. We will also have the second part of the BBC Hollow Crown TV history cycle (conflated, alas). Someone big (who cannot be named in print) will be playing Hamlet at the *&%”£$, and there will be some rarities with 3 productions of Cymbeline, and a Pericles. The Shadow King by The Malthouse Theatre in Northern Australia will be in the UK as well as Toonel Group Amsterdam that will be tackling the early history plays. Katie Mitchell brings us ‘Ophelia’s Zimmer’ from Germany and there will be 100’s of other projects including films of Shakespeare’s plays, aired all along the Thames over the Summer…

“I wish you well and so I take my leave

I pray you know me when we meet again”

The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene i

Thanks for reading


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