In yesterday’s post I explained how I was planning on spending my day in Stratford. The shopping was decent, though my role in it was purely one of encouragement with a bit of window shopping as we went (I’m so ready to find someone willing to employ me in a full time role so I have money for nice things).
The Mop Fair it turns out is simply a large funfair that takes over a number of the town centre streets. It is incredibly noisy, blocks the view from the street so it’s hard to spot where the shop you’re looking for is, and seemed to be causing lots of disruption for little gain – with the exception of a few children’s rides and the dodgems we didn’t really see anyone taking advantage of the rides on offer.
The whole reason for going to Stratford was to see Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Last night was the last of three preview nights and it was an almost entirely packed out theatre. We sat in the circle for the first time, having previously watched a few productions from the stalls. It was also the first time we’d sat on the side, we were actually in the seats closest to the stage – for some sequences they used a gantry that ran from the side of us across the stage to the other side of the audience giving us one of the best views in the house.
The cast was, in general, strong with new and experienced company members alike. Sadly the actor playing the somewhat pivotal role of Bolingbroke was not as strong as the rest of the cast, this proved quite a disappointment. David Tennant in the role of Richard II did however completely satisfy, having previously seen him as Hamlet and Benedick we had been looking forward to seeing him in another Shakespearean role. His take was entirely convincing and provided a really nice contrast to Ben Whishaw’s BAFTA winning performance in last year’s The Hollow Crown season.
The whole day was lovely, and punctuated by regular stops for delicious food. A very nice way to spend a Saturday.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Stratford to see the RSC Ensemble’s current production of Romeo and Juliet. Like most people my first experience of Shakespeare was Romeo and Juliet, as well as covering it in school 3 or 4 times I’ve seen the film versions by Franco Zeffirelli (didn’t enjoy it much) and Baz Luhrmann (loved it) and an AmDram youth production of it (absolutely dreadful). I was really excited to go to Stratford and see it done by the experts, and the reviews I’d been reading only added to the anticipation.
Directed by Rupert Goold, the leads were played by Sam Troughton (Much in Robin Hood) and Mariah Gale (Ophelia in the RSC’s Hamlet). Reading through the programme it seemed that many of the actors in the ensemble had a wealth of experience, including Noma Dumezweni (Captain Magambo in Doctor Who) as the Nurse. With the exception of one actor who appeared to be bored every time he was on stage the ensemble were as good as I had been hoping. It would be hard to single out individuals as they all excelled, but I did find myself thinking that it just showed how poor a lot of the Robin Hood material had been – Sam Troughton is a far better actor than I’d ever imagined.
The staging was also excellent, the use of pyrotechnics and smoke jets (I’m sure there’s a technical term but I don’t know it) made me jump on more than one occasion and helped to create the uneasy backdrop for the play. The costuming was very interesting, Romeo and Juliet themselves were dressed in contemporary clothing whilst everyone else wore period dress. The Stage’s review suggests that this “exposes the vulnerability of the pair and the timelessness of their situation” which makes sense to me, but I also felt it separated their world from the world in which the play is set.
I imagine one topic that most people discussed on their way home was the direction, particularly of Mercutio. Whilst the character always pushes boundaries Goold’s direction took it to a whole different level, something I’m sure some of the more traditional, conservative Shakespeare fans may not have appreciated entirely. I absolutely loved it, but must look back at the original text to see if I can work out what Goold’s thought process might have been.
This was the third play I had seen by the RSC at The Courtyard. The quality of all three has been incredible, my next trip is in a couple of weeks to see Gregory Doran’s version of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. My expectations couldn’t be higher!