Big This Week

Recent Posts

Saturday, 15 April 2023

REVIEW: The RSC's Hamnet at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

The story of Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son is a powerful one of grief and separation guilt although Maggie Farrell who wrote the book on which the play is based had very little documentary evidence to guide the story, so she had to effectively join the dots and imagined the scenes between Shakespeare’s known marriage to Agnes (pronounced here ann-nez) Hathaway and his subsequent success over a decade later as a playwright in London. Both stories take their time in setting up the large number of characters connected to their stories which makes the first Acts rather linear and narrative based but both explode when the tragedies strike and the human impact is laid before us in a way that it is impossible not to be moved by.

At the heart of the play is the relationship between Agnes, played so beautifully by Madeline Mantock and Will, played by Tom Varey. She wonderfully portrays her seduction & love for Will, then the challenges of 16th-century childbirth (with the recollection of her own mother’s death in childbirth), the loving care for a seriously ill child and the horror, grief and guilt over her child’s death. It is an intensely powerful and simply staged scene in which Hamnet dies and is buried which creates an image that stays with you long after you live the Theatre. The three children are very well acted creating distinctive stage presences, Harmony Rose-Bremner is the older sister Susanna, a serious irritated child in contrast with the younger sister Judith, played by Alex Jarrett and her twin brother Hamnet, Ajani Cabey who are playful and caring eleven-year-olds. If anything, we deserved and wanted to see more of Hamnet and his relationship with his family and his appearances, like his life were too short.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

REVIEW: The Magician’s Elephant at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon

The RSC return to their indoor home at Stratford upon Avon with another Children’s show (6+) for the Christmas period hoping to catch the family market as an alternative to Pantomime and produce the next Matilda. You can see the money lavished on this world premiere of a new musical turning Kate Di Camillo’s book into a full-blown production but at two and half hours running time it needs to be good to hold our attention and in reality, would benefit from a heavy pruning of music and business to come in under two hours.

The story seems to borrow from other Children’s stories to create a tale of an orphaned boy and orphaned girl brought together by an Elephant. Peter, we meet above a staircase with his guardian, Vilna (with echoes of Harry Potter under the stairs with the Dursley’s) until he is inspired to search for the truth about himself. Adele, we meet in an orphanage with the Sister until she too sets out in search of dreams (shades of Annie and Miss Hannigan). Their efforts are thwarted by the Countess Quintet (with heavy Cruella De Ville overtones with hatred of children replacing dalmatians) who want to control access to the Elephant that has mysteriously arrived in Baltese (you can’t help but compare that to Joey in War Horse). To cover up the thin elongated plot plenty of comic business is introduced with a Keystone Cop Chief (overplaying the part like Ernie Wise in a play what he wrote) and a playfully downtrodden Count “who does not count”.
Blog Design by pipdig