Review: ‘The Rape of Lucretia’

On staging The Rape of Lucretia.

The Oxford Culture Review

Seventy years after its première at Glyndebourne, Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia is still deeply unsettling. Its small cast of eight singers and thirteen musicians places very little distance between the audience and the unfolding of Lucretia’s rape and subsequent suicide onstage. And unlike operas such as Das Rheingold where the idea of rape functions symbolically, the actuality of sexual assault tempered in some way by using it as a metaphor for the violation of nature and plundering of gold, in Lucretia the rape itself is unavoidable. The act of sexual assault is written into Ronald Duncan’s libretto, with the physical and musical drama entirely revolving around the central scene between Tarquinius and Lucretia.

Added to this, Britten’s music and Duncan’s libretto are deeply problematic. There are no clear-cut villains or heroes in their setting, and the women themselves are given very little agency in comparison to…

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Review: ‘Macbeth’

How do you stage Macbeth with only two actors? Review of a great performance from Out of Chaos at the Old Fire Station in Oxford.

The Oxford Culture Review

Staging a well-known Shakespeare drama in his anniversary year is beginning to seem something of a madness —and it’s only March. Having been given Hollywood treatment last year by Justin Kurzel, Macbeth is being, or has been, staged at the Young Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, London Globe…the list continues. With this amount of coverage, how do you bring something new to a play as famous as Macbeth?

Out of Chaos’s answer to this, rising admirably to the challenge, is to cut the running time by half, and the number of actors to just two. For a play as full of people (and corpses) as Macbeth, this is no mean feat. By necessity, such a pared back version of the text has to be extremely innovative to stop it falling apart at the seams. And with slightly less charismatic actors than Troels Hagen…

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Review: ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

Review of a stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.

The Oxford Culture Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray has hardly been short of adaptations. Oscar Wilde’s only novel, first published in 1890 with significant deletions on account of being considered “indecent”, has since been transformed into films, musicals, plays, audio books, and provided the inspiration for various other forms of fiction, including graphic novels and erotica. St Hilda’s College Drama Society is the latest company to put Dorian on to the stage, in a production currently running at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building. The immediate problem for dramatic adaptations of this book is that so much of the novel’s brilliance is in the style of its prose, not just in its characters and plot. In this respect, their new script fared relatively well, using original dialogue from the novel to capture much of Wilde’s wit and lightness of touch. The rest of the production, however, did not make the most of the…

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Review: ‘King Charles III’

Review of ‘King Charles III’ by Mike Bartlett.

The Oxford Culture Review

As the programme notes proclaim, King Charles III has been one of the most lauded plays of recent years. It won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Play, received multiple adoring reviews, and made it into Michael Billington’s 101 Greatest Plays. And at a personal level, it came recommended to me by various friends and colleagues, all of whom espoused its brilliance with great aplomb. I’m always nervous about going to see new plays whose reputation precedes them in such a noticeable fashion, but King Charles III is one of those rare dramas that manages to achieve the virtually impossible, in that it largely makes good on all the claims made of it. There were certainly a few clumsy moments, but for the most part this was some of the best writing and acting that I’ve seen in years, to say nothing of the accompanying production.

Currently running at…

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Best Coffee in Stockholm?

It seemed like a good idea to put my love of coffee to good use, so I've compiled a guide to fika in the capital. Having coffee is less a routine and more a lifestyle in Stockholm so I was spoiled for choice when picking a coffee route. The article is available below on Slow... Continue Reading →

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