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Wednesday, 26 June 2019

REVIEW: Hamlet at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden

Hamlet is in many people's view one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and is oft produced. The temptation of companies and directors is to find some new take on the story to freshen its appeal and differentiate itself from other versions. Last week I saw Sh*t faced Shakespeare's take on the show with a Hamlet drunk on two thirds of a bottle of Tequila in Leicester Square. A few days later in the glorious setting of the actors church in Covent Garden we are presented with Iris Theatre's version. It is an open air show in the heart of the West End and the actors compete with the noise and crowds of the Covent Garden street performers in front of the church as well as the occasional screech of seagulls. It is a massive distraction in the opening scenes as we strain to hear the unamplified actors early lines.

The Director, Daniel Winder, then layers on an excess of video images on multiple screens dotted around the acting spaces as if surveillance cameras are in operation all around the dystopian future world in which he sets the production. Sometime the footage seems relevant like the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius or secret meetings behind closed doors but at other times it is bizarre and unfathomable and completely distracts from the poor actors struggling to put across the lengthy speeches. Even the BBC seems to be exist in this world as news comes from Broadcasting house. 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

REVIEW: The Three Musketeers at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

On a warm pleasant night in central London what better way is there than to spend the evening in the grounds of the Actors Church tucked away behind Covent Garden street performers being transported by Iris theatre to La Rochelle in France in the 1620's. It is an action packed fun filled promenade performance that clearly appeals to all ages as the children in this audience are drawn into the action from the very first scene. We meet the musketeers in the middle of the siege of the La Rochelle as the Protestant Huguenots supported by the English are attacked by Catholics under Cardinal Richelieu. Two small girls are drafted in with red capes to take on Aramis in a duel. It sets the tone for the evening.

This is a classic retelling of Dumas famous novels of D'Artagnan's desire to join the musketeers, of Athos's secret past life and of the Queen of France's infidelity. But here artistic director and writer Daniel Winder gives it a twist by making D'Artangnan a female in disguise and the duplicitous spy Miliady the narrator. This elevates the female roles to central protagonists of the story , challenging the Cardinal's belief that "all men require from women is unthinking obedience" and breaking free from "scheming male politicians trying to control all women".
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