I've just had a short film released by the BBC! I am incomparably excited about this. It's available from BBC Arts - I'm talking about why we should listen to history as well as look at it, exploring Max Reinhardt's 1933 production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
I’ve just come back from the Sage Gateshead, where I was at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival for my last official outing as a New Generation Thinker. It was a little different to the essays and discussion shows I’d done so far: we all had to come up with a “controversial idea” for an academic... Continue Reading →
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.
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 of Creation Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.
2016 is proving to be the Year of Lear. Shakespeare’s most troubled tragedy seems to be dominating his anniversary year — it’s hitting stages with Anthony Sher and Glenda Jackson in the titular role, and has been the subject of both historical and performance-centered scholarship. It’s also Creation Theatre’s Spring production, currently running at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, as part of Oxford’s Shakespeare festival.
Creation Theatre set out to find ‘unusual spaces’ to stage their plays, and the Norrington Room has proved to be a pretty perfect space for King Lear. With audience members nestled among the alcoves holding volumes on philosophy, religion, and psychology, there seems to be no more fitting setting for Lear’s descent into madness. The written word is pivotal in Lear — miscommunication and manipulation largely occur via letter, when there is no physical presence to confirm or refute their meaning. So holding the…
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Just had a guest post for the Shakespeare anniversary published on the music site Corymbus. What made Shakespeare so appealing for the C20th Nordic stage, and how was he interpreted? The article looks at early twentieth century music for Scandinavian Shakespeare productions, including pieces by Jean Sibelius, Ture Rangström, and Gösta Nystroem. The full article can... Continue Reading →
My review of Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, currently playing at the Barbican theatre
Benedict Cumberbatch’s appearance as Hamlet has reached unbelievable levels of hype. It has become the fastest selling play in British history, and fans have flown from overseas and queued for days outside the Barbican on the off chance of securing tickets. Critics have responded with no less hysteria than audiences, with Hamlet remaining front-page news in recent weeks. Both denounced as ‘Shakespeare for kids’ and hailed as ‘surprisingly challenging’, it seemed that this production was doomed to be subsumed by the furore that surrounded it. How could it possibly live up to the expectations placed upon it?
I needn’t have worried. The entire cast and production team rose to the challenge, delivering a Hamlet of such surprising depth and subtlety that I was too lost in the performance to consider anybody else’s opinion of it. Director Lyndsey Turner has navigated deftly through one of the most…
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My latest publication is now available in the July edition of Sibelius One, entitled '"This Music Crept By Me": Sibelius's Incidental Music'. The article argues that Sibelius's incidental music forms an integral part of his compositional output, and is crucial to understanding his artistic allegiances and aesthetic sympathies. I look briefly at his music for the... Continue Reading →
Review of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.
“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this stage of fools”, laments King Lear as he lies on the brink of insanity, driven to madness by the scheming of his daughters. One of Shakespeare’s most desolate tragedies (to the extent that until 1838 the majority of performances offered an alternative happy ending), King Lear is concerned with betrayal, vanity, authority, and justice. All societal norms are upended in this play – a king becomes a madman, the blinded are those with the greatest sight, and the fool is the wisest character on the stage. Oxford University Drama Society’s production, currently running at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre, accentuates these inversions in a post-apocalyptic industrial setting, using multimedia to confuse the boundary between sanity and lunacy.
In an attempt to capture the horrific, hallucinatory world that Lear inhabits, the production aimed to ‘focus on sensory perception and…
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Review of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’.
Luke Rollason’s production of Henry V is the most entertaining theatrical experience that money can currently buy in Oxford. Quite different to the usual garden play that serenely takes place by the Worcester College lake every summer, this winter production transports its audience from the English courts to the muddy battle fields of Agincourt and back again, travelling through the college and its gardens. This is not a production for the faint-hearted (or those with an aversion to leeks), but if you like your theatre full-blooded, interactive, and engaging, then this is the play for you.
Henry V is the Shakespeare play that perhaps best lends itself to this kind of staging (indeed, Creation Theatre attempted a similar production last year). Traditionally, it is left to the Chorus to conjure up the images required by the multiple scene changes and chaotic battle scenes. When you have the entirety of…
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