Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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Shakespeare’s Richard III: @RWCMD Cardiff

September 25, 2017

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama consistently provide thought-provoking and engaging stagings of Shakespeare’s plays – well worth going to check this out:

Thursday 19 October – Saturday 28 October 7.15pm
Matinee Wednesday 25 October 2.30pm
No performances Sun & Mon
BSL interpreted performance on Saturday 28 October. Interpreted by Julie Doyle.

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Joe Murphy

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain. 

Named the most fascinating historical figure in a poll last year of British historians and the public, Richard III continues to provoke debate. Shakespeare’s brutal play portrays him as a ruthless, power hungry villain, who will stop at nothing to gain the throne occupied by his brother.

Venue: Richard Burton Theatre

Tickets: £13, £11 concessions, Under 25s £6

Find out more

 

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‘Do Not Go Gentle’: Everyman Theatre and The Drill Hall. Friday 8th September at Chapter Arts Centre.

September 16, 2017

DARREN FREEBURY-JONES

 

Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius’s award-winning ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ depicts five elderly people nearing the end of the journey that is their lives. The characters embody different aspects of Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle, from which the play’s title derives: wise men, good men, wild men, and grave men. Moreover, the characters’ journey, which takes place in a nursing home, interweaves original dialogue with Robert Scott’s diary accounts of his ill-fated Antarctic expedition. Each role is rich in characterisation, and Cornelius gives us an insight into pasts that they can only vaguely recall, such as problematic marriages, loving husbands no longer recognised by their wives, and the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder induced by the Vietnam War, whilst simultaneously exploring the effects of dementia and the politics of care. The script is heart-warming, shocking, thought-provoking, and hilarious, seemingly discordant ingredients that result in a very fine play, if cast and directed right.

Fortunately, this production was indeed very well cast and directed. Ray Thomas and his actors and crew have embarked on one of the most ambitious undertakings in Everyman Theatre Company’s rich history, involving members from Wales and Australia. The joint cast – Cate Feldmann, Susan Gallagher, Owen Trevor-Jones, Max Donati, and Greg Aitken from The Drill Hall in Mullumbimby, and Geraint Dixon, Rosy Greenwood, Peter Harding-Roberts, and Arnold Phillips, from Everyman, Cardiff – worked perfectly, with not a weak link to be found. The on-stage relationships between them were eminently believable, and the actors tickled funny bones and pulled at heartstrings in almost equal measure.

Geraint Dixon played Scott, who narrated the expedition throughout with dulcet Welsh tones, while offering audience members the odd glimpse of a man behind the historical figure, nearing his end and lamenting his failures. Peter Harding-Roberts was hilarious as the bombastic Evans, very much representing a wild man who, for much of the play, raged against the dying light, which made his ending all the more poignant. Rosy Greenwood played the occasionally scandalous role of Wilson; she was engaging and warm throughout, and stole hearts with ease. Cate Feldman’s performance as Bowers was particularly touching, for she refused to acknowledge that she had lost her way and could no longer recognise her husband, played by Arnold Phillips, who also gave a beautifully understated performance. No less poignant were the interpretations of Owen Trevor-Jones as Oates and Max Donati as his son, Peter, victims of war and suicide. The confrontation between these two was especially effective.

Moreover, director Thomas and professional designer Ruth Stringer made great use of the depth and breadth of the Chapter Arts Centre stage, with white drapes, resembling all at once bedclothes, icy crevices, and the Terra Nova sails, helping to convey at various points a hostile landscape and a laundry room. Additionally, the judicious use of lighting, primarily white, with hints of blue, reflected both the metaphorical Antarctic expedition and the nursing home interior. The stage also resembled a raised ice-field platform, with suggestions of white tiled flooring and other features added to it, such as ski tracks. The actors remained in character throughout proceedings, often sitting stage right, drinking cups of tea, or preparing for the next leg of their journey.

The play’s conclusion felt tragic in many respects, as Wilson’s husband (played by Greg Aitken) turned up and we realised that the relationship between her and Scott was not as it seemed. With only Scott left on stage, he was given a choice of walking into a palely shining light and exiting stage left, or raging against that dying light. Needless to say, he exited stage right, and thus concluded a wonderful piece of ambitious theatre. The production’s Cardiff journey is now over, but it will resume at the Memo Arts Centre, Barry, on 16th September, and The Savoy, Tonyrefail, 29th September.

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‘Nature’s Fragile Vessel’: Journal article by @DrJ_Gregory

August 4, 2017

My journal article on ‘”Nature’s Fragile Vessel”: Rethinking approaches to material culture in literature’ has been published this week ‘Online First’ and will be in the next issue of Cahiers Élisabéthains: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies.

Abstract

The notion of fragility is a pervasive one in Western culture. Considering its appearance in early modern texts can help us to understand the history of fragility, as an idea, metaphor and feeling. The relationship between humans and breakable things is used as a metaphor that recognizes human limitations in body or mind. This essay begins with one peculiar instance of fragility from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens before analysing other examples in early modern culture. It ends by making a few tentative propositions regarding the relationships between literature, material culture and the representations of human fragility.

Read the article (open access)

As well as reading the one instance in Shakespeare’s work where the word ‘fragile’ is used, the essay considers other early modern writing and paintings. I’m especially interested in the way that people are described in literature as being fragile like an object, whether that object is a ship at sea, or a fragile vase on the edge of a table.

The essay is partly me working out my next steps in this area for a larger project, as well as being an attempt to negotiate the scholarly field as it relates to material culture and object-studies, the idea of the human, and the (now, not so recent) turn to the study of literature and the emotions. It seems to me that these three areas are highly contested and fraught with different priorities, perspectives, and concerns; but these three interdisciplinary research foci still have huge potential in terms of developing new research methodologies, research impact (outside of academia), and, of course, thinking about our engagement with literature.

I’d welcome any comments. My contact details are on my profile page.

Four Ages of Man (national gallery)

The Four Ages of Man (Valentin de Boulogne)

Join the Cardiff Shakespeare Facebook group.

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Early Modern English Domestic Tragedy, Special Issue of Early Modern Literary Studies

August 2, 2017

Exciting journal special issue call for papers

Early English Drama & Performance

Early Modern English Domestic Tragedy, A special issue of Early Modern Literary Studies
Deadline for submissions: September 1, 2017
Contact:L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk

Essays of c. 7000 words are invited for a special issue of Early Modern Literary Studieson domestic tragedy.  Possible topics might include individual plays (e.g. Arden of FavershamA Warning for Fair WomenThe English TravellerA Woman Killed with KindnessThe Miseries of Enforced MarriageTwo Lamentable Tragedies); lost domestic tragedies (e.g. Keep the Widow Waking); the genre as a whole; domestic tragedy and print culture; domestic tragedy and material culture –(props, clothing, trade and domestic objects); editing or teaching domestic tragedies; domestic tragedy in performance; domestic tragedy and tragic subjectivity; domestic tragedy and power, gender, and/or local and national identities;  and the relationship between domestic tragedy and classical conceptions of tragedy (does Othello, for instance, have a claim…

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‘Good things of day’: A Review of Everyman Theatre’s Macbeth 20th–29th July 2017.

July 22, 2017

DARREN FREEBURY-JONES

 

Macbeth is a mystery. Despite being one of Shakespeare’s most revered tragedies, the sole extant text found in the 1623 Folio appears to derive from a performance version that heavily cuts Shakespeare’s lost manuscript and incorporates stage cues for songs from Thomas Middleton’s The Witch, who may or may not have been the reviser of the play. The conjectured cuts (perhaps as much as a quarter of Shakespeare’s original) and perceived lacunae lend the play considerable interpretative flexibility in terms of both criticism and performance. Such flexibility is apt for a play that revolves around the eponymous character’s interpretation of a tenebrous prophecy. One question we might ask ourselves, for instance, is how many children do the Macbeths have, and where are they now?

This unanswerable question was touched upon in the opening of Everyman Theatre’s production of Macbeth, when the three witches clutched dolls in their hands, although the use of props could equally be regarded as alluding to the play’s obsession with infanticide. The witches dashed these dolls’ brains in during the play’s opening, which anticipated Macbeth’s (played by Steve Smith) gruesome execution at the hands of Macduff (David O’rourke) a couple of hours later. The witches, from the play’s opening to this production’s cyclical ending, were stunning. Sexy and yet terrifying. Childishly mischievous and yet terribly destructive. The audience were mesmerised by the performances of Lorna Prichard, Victoria Walters and Rebecca Baines, who were far steeped in spellbinding characterisation. One must commend the movement work of Emma-Jayne Parker. The moment in which Macbeth visits the sisters was perhaps the highlight of the play, with the supernatural potency of a scene from the great horror flick, The Exorcist, emphasised by some neat lighting and auditory tricks. These witches were present throughout the performance, casting evil eyes over unfolding events and helping with scene transitions (their method of resurrecting corpses was entrancing and, in terms of exits, very useful!). From a scholarly perspective, I was delighted that director Simon H. West retained the Hecate scenes, which are almost always cut, and which add little to the plot, while seeming metrically anomalous in terms of their incorporation of rhyming trochaic octosyllabics. The scene totally worked: it satiated the audience’s desire for as much Weyard Sister action as possible, while showcasing the talents of Sarah Green as the ominous deity; Green also provided the most entertaining interpretation of Lady Macduff I have seen in performance.

Indeed, the supporting cast were all excellent, from Shaun Bryan as the darkly humorous Seyton (a role I once played myself for Everyman), as well as the Porter; to Elin Haf Edwards as Lennox; to Helen Randall, who made an easy transition from the heartwarming Juliet of last year’s Shakespeare production to steely Ross here. As a whole, the leading actors were also solid. James Pritchard made for an eminently likeable Banquo, while Beshlie Thorp was racy, charismatic and manipulative, but also evinced considerable acting chops as the guilt-stricken Lady Macbeth in later scenes. The weather was gruesome, and the actors did marvellously well to adapt their performances to the lashing rain (as well as the chorus of drunken voices in Sophia Gardens), which led to a wonderful moment of comic timing in the line preceding Banquo’s assassination: ‘It will rain tonight’. The rain might have had something to do with one of just two criticisms I have of this production (the other being that some difficulties with diction led to a few of the play’s most famous lines being garbled, though one can understand that having to memorise so many lines can present difficulties in the early stages of a show’s run), in that the concluding fight scenes could do with being tightened up, as some demonstrably air-trenching punches dispelled the theatrical illusion somewhat. I hope the cast and crew won’t begrudge me these relatively minor quibbles.

Thus, the rain seemed to cause problems, while, paradoxically, contributing to the tragic ambience. The set itself was ideal, allowing the actors to circumnavigate on several levels, whilst making the audience wonder what lay beyond the main entrance and its bloody handprints. A sign reading ‘Blood will have blood’ immediately caught the eye, and this production did not shirk away from the macabre, with highlights of morose delectation including the burning of Lady Macduff and her young children, and Thomas Easton chain sawing his way through enemies in the role of Caithness. One could be forgiven for considering the annual open air performances to be family friendly. This Macbeth was anything but; the bashing and dashing of children’s dolls in the opening moments said it all. The director and his cast took risks, and they paid off. It was an engrossing, thoroughly enjoyable performance of high-quality, and I have come to expect nothing less from this company. Now that Everyman Theatre has flirted with the macabre, I wonder if they might take a further risk next year and put on a performance of Shakespeare and George Peele’s Titus Andronicus? Critically derided for centuries, that play has experienced a resurgence, and I can think of few better venues to experience the shocking mutilation of Shakespeare’s heroine (and the subsequent acts of direful revenge), screened by the trees of a darksome forest just beyond the city’s centre. After all: ‘Blood will have blood’, they say.

 

 

 

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Shakespeare performances in Cardiff and nearby this summer

June 30, 2017

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There seems to be so much Shakespeare lined up for the summer it’s difficult to keep track. However, I’m going to have a quick look about and see what I can collect together here. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything and I can add it.

We don’t have anyone lined up to review these, so if you are interested please get in touch with me.

Some of the productions detailed below are playing elsewhere and fairly nearby too. Just follow the links on the play titles to find out more.

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Wednesday 5 July A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Ballet Cymru at Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl

Wednesday 5 July The Tempest
Taking Flight Theatre Production in Newport (2pm and 7pm)

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Thursday & Friday, 6-7 July The Comedy of Errors
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men at Cardiff Castle (Gates open 6.30pm)

Friday 7 July The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Festival Players at Caerleon Amphitheater, near Newport (7.30pm)

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Thursday & Friday 13-14 July Richard III
Showcase Performing Arts at Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil (7pm)

Friday 14 July The Taming of the Shrew
Heartbreak Productions at Chepstow Castle (7.30pm)

Saturday 15 July A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Fringe Theatre Festival, YMCA, Cardiff (2-3pm)

Sunday 23 July Twelfth Night
Everyman Youth production in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff (7.30pm)

20-29 July Macbeth
Everyman production in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff (Saturday at 3pm, and otherwise 8pm; no Sundays)

Saturday 29 July The Tempest
Taking Flight Theatre Production in Cardiff (Noon)

Sunday 30 July The Tempest
Taking Flight Theatre Production in Penarth (4pm)

 

Illyria TheatreSaturday 5 August The Comedy of Errors
Illyria production in Abergavenny (7pm)

Join our Cardiff Shakespeare Facebook group here.

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Taking Flight Theatre @takingflightco : The Tempest

June 8, 2017

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Taking Flight Theatre return, this time with their unique take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Join the Magic Staff Liner Corporation and indulge yourself with a jaunt on the newest addition to their fleet- their number one luxury ocean liner, The Remembrance.  Let their crew take care of your every worry, your every woe on their 10 year anniversary cruise to the Island that Time Forgot.

Expect lots of laughs, physical comedy, live original music and most of all expect the unexpected.

This performance has live integrated BSL interpretation and audio description. Touch tours and BSL introductions are available by arrangement- please contact beth@takingflighttheatre.co.uk or on 07785 947823 to discuss this, or any other access requirement.

This is an outdoor performance so please wrap up warm and bring your brolly/sun cream/blanket/travel chair!

Performance dates: 

Thursday 8th, Friday 9th, Saturday 10th performances in Thompson’s Park. Audience to meet at the Romilly Road entrance.

Sunday 18th performance in Roath Park. Audience to meet at the conservatory entrance.

Read our review of last year’s Shakespeare production.

Visit the Taking Flight website, book tickets, and find out about their performances outside of Cardiff too.

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