Tag Archives: RSC

The Doctor as Hamlet is Making Me Wait!

24 Jan

If this is not your first time to visit my blog, then you’ve been privy with regards my passion for theatre, and how I am slowly getting my way into embracing Shakespeare, ergo, my decision to join the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) as associate member so I can get priority bookings for upcoming productions. Now another recent (quite belated to be more accurate) passion of mine is my newly found appreciation for Doctor Who which began after last year’s X’mas special and mainly due to David Tennant’s spirited performance, but after being blown away by Season 3 Volume 3’s ‘Blink’ which is another brilliant episode and I must say is definitely one of the best I have seen ever written for anything!, and then catching the complete 3rd series of Doctor Who on BBC iPlayer, I am definitely hooked and officially a companion wannabe. (Yeah, me too Captain Jack!)

Now, imagine my utter frustration as I was trying to book tickets for the upcoming Hamlet (which as the whole planet knows by now will have David Tennant playing the lead) only to be told that only restricted view seats are available throughout the entire season! I despair. It’s all my fault really. Had I paid attention to Doctor Who way before last year, I would of noticed Tennant way earlier and would of joined the RSC sooner just in time to get tickets. But all is not lost, as there is another production in repertoire with Hamlet, also from Shakespeare, which is Love’s Labours Lost, ironically featured in a Doctor Who episode, The Shakespeare Code, where Tennant plays Berowne. I am itching to see it as it still has good seats available.

Now, I just have to hope that like what they did with last season’s King Lear and The Seagull which eventually also moved to London, Hamlet will also arrive to my side of town. And if that’s going to be the case, then I just have to wait.

(Very special thanks to my fellow Doctor Who geek and friend Morbius for the very inspired image above).

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Theatre Review: King Lear

27 Dec

Synopsis: Lear (Ian McKellen), King of Britain, decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. When Cordelia (Romola Garai) refuses to make a public declaration of love for her father she is disinherited and married to the King of France without a dowry. The Earl of Kent (Jonathan Hyde) is banished by Lear for daring to defend her. The two elder daughters, Goneril (Frances Barber) and Regan (Monica Dolan), and their husbands inherit the kingdom. Gloucester (William Gaunt), deceived by his bastard son Edmund (Philip Winchester), disinherits his legitimate son, Edgar (Ben Meyjes), who is forced to go into hiding to save his life. Lear, now stripped of his power, quarrels with Goneril and Regan about the conditions of his lodging in their households. In a rage he goes out into the stormy night, accompanied by his Fool (Sylvester McCoy) and by Kent, now disguised as a servant.

They encounter Edgar, disguised as a mad beggar. Gloucester is betrayed by Edmund and captured by Regan and Cornwall, who put out Gloucester’s eyes. King Lear is taken secretly to Dover, where Cordelia has landed with a French army. The blind Gloucester meets, but does not recognise Edgar, who leads him to Dover. Lear and Cordelia are reconciled but in the ensuing battle are captured by the sisters’ forces.

Goneril and Regan are both in love with Edmund, who encourages them both. Discovering this, Goneril’s husband Albany forces Edmund to defend himself against the charge of treachery. A knight appears to challenge Edmund and, after fatally wounding him, reveals himself to be Edgar. News comes that Goneril has poisoned Regan and then committed suicide. Before dying, Edmund reveals that he has ordered the deaths of Lear and Cordelia.

King Lear is the first Shakespeare play I ever saw on stage and I know it may sound lame but I just had to see it because it had Ian McKellen playing Lear and it is produced by the RSC, so how can I lose? Having had a taste of the company’s earlier performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was in full anticipation to see this grand production which was also directed by Trevor Nunn.

McKellen’s Lear was a masterful portrayal of power, descent, and tragedy. Having just finished the Arden’s version of the published novel was already much too overwhelming, and seeing it brought into life by a huge and versatile talent as McKellen was a stroke of genius. Towards the end of the second act I was choking and nearly in tears with his tender and dramatic moment with Cordelia.

The other gentlemen in the ensemble, notably Hyde playing Kent, gave another brilliant performance- Meyjes as Edgar, Winchester as Edmond, Gaunt as Gloucester and McCoy as the King’s Fool were just as commanding. I must say that I was a little disappointed with Garai’s treatment of Cordelia, not that Cordelia is a role to die for, but it seems that she played it the way she did as Nina in The Seagull, not so much with Dolan who although was brilliant playing Masha, was in a totally different character as Regan.

I was totally blown away by this performance and was just pleased that I had the chance to see it. I am really looking forward to see more of RSC’s productions in 2008.

Hamlet, anyone?

King Lear: 4/5

Playing at the New London Theatre until January 12

Theatre Review: The Seagull

13 Dec

Plot: Arkadina (Melanie Jessop), a successful and famous actress, is spending the summer on her brother Sorin’s (Ian McKellen) country estate, accompanied by her younger lover, a successful and famous novelist, Trigorin (Gerald Kyd). Her son, Konstantin (Richard Goulding), himself an aspiring writer, has written a play which is to be performed by Nina (Romola Garai), daughter of a neighbouring landowner, with whom he is rapturously in love. The performance mystifies the spectators and Konstantin is enraged by the frivolous attitude of his mother.

Masha (Monica Dolan), the daughter of the estate steward, Shamrayev (Guy Williams), is secretly in love with Konstantin, but she in turn is loved by Medvedenko (Ben Meyjes), the village schoolteacher. She confesses her feelings to Doctor Dorn (Jonathan Hyde), who himself has secretly been the lover of her mother, Polina (Naomi Capron).

Nina’s feeling for Trigorin changes from admiration to adoration. Konstantin, anguished by the withdrawal of Nina’s feeling for him attempts to commit suicide. Trigorin reciprocates Nina’s passion, and she decides to go to Moscow to become a professional actress. She and Trigori arrange to meet there. The visitors leave.

Two years pass. Everyone is back at the estate. Konstantin has achieved some of his literary ambitions. Masha and Medvedenko are married. Trigorin has resumed his relationship with Arkadina, having ended his affair with Nina, who is now a struggling actress touring the provinces. Nina returns briefly to the neighbourhood, and while the others are at supper, Nina and Konstantin meet again.

My first theater experience was Anton Chekhov‘s The Wedding, a one-act comedy performed by my college repertory in the late 90’s. I was among the few who accepted the free ticket being handed out to all students just happening to pass by and had their free time and as I made my way to the auditorium, I still had no idea who Anton Chekhov was.

Fast forward 17 years later, I am now at the West End, and was about to watch my second Anton Chekhov play, adapted by Trevor Nunn to be performed by the acting ensemble of the world class Royal Shakespeare Company, and I had such a wonderful time. Although my untrained appreciation for the arts was awakened short than a score ago, I am truly amazed and impressed by the talent this company has. It was also a night of understudies as Melanie Jessop took on the role of Arkadina and Naomi Capron as Polina, and can you actually totally tell that these fine performers were just mere understudies? No way, for they were as brilliant as you would hope them to be.

Romola Garai whom I first saw as the adult Briony in the tragic film Atonement was a revelation, she has an awkward sense of fragility and a luminous beauty that was necessary to breathe as Nina. She says with passion, I’m drawn here, like a seagull to the lake, whilst Richard Goulding’s brooding performance as Konstantin was touching and heartrending. Masha’s unrequited love to Konstantin is familiar, and explaining why she wears black all the time may seem sarcastic but ever so felt, ever so real. Ian McKellen as Sorin was not just mere comic relief as well as Jonathan Hyde’s Dr. Dorn who portrayed the epitomé of a Don Juan of the times.

After the performance, RSC’s Assistant Director Gemma Fairlie gave us the opportunity to have a Q&A forum with some of the actors, and what stayed with me was the fact that when they were asked as to which crowd during their world tour proved to be difficult to please, the actors all felt that they had to work much harder to their London audience, and I really don’t know where that came from!

It had been such a great experience and I can’t wait to come back within a fortnight to catch William Shakespeare‘s King Lear.

The Seagull: 4/5

Playing at the New London Theatre until 12 January 08.