Part of the challenge in enjoying Shakespeare, is actually getting to see a good production. Theater critics therefore act as important gatekeepers for audiences, since with their practiced eyes (and professional obligation) they can not only steer audiences to better performances, but also provide valuable historical perspective to any modern production. But of course, critics differ (everyone's a critic, right?) so in this post we provide links to two reviews — one favorable, one less so — of the RSC and Christopher Ecclestone's current production of Macbeth. Seeing two contrasting reviews helps us further understand both the play, and audiences who consume those plays. In the unfavorable camp: The Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish review. The favorable camps is represented by The Guardian's Michael Billington. Here is his review.
The Uncertain Bugle
Henry V seems to get staged much more in England, no doubt as a result of its note of defiance against great odds that came in useful not just at Agincourt, but during the early stages of World War II. This lukewarm review of The Public's production (by their Mobile Unit) praises the casting, but criticizes the staging. Still, good to see Henry V performed in the US.
Two Macbeths, No Praise
Hard on the heels of a favorable review of the latest RSC version of Macbeth, an altogether less kind review, which suggests that success in staging Macbeth is comparatively hard, as opposed to -- say -- Hamlet. An interesting comparison, and a thought provoking review. Two Macbeths currently in production — one at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the other at The National Theatre — get reviewed, and neither fares well
Play into Film into Play: Shakespeare in Love, Reborn
It's always interesting — and sometimes instructive — to see how a story changes when it makes the jump from one medium to another. In this case, The Austin Playhouse is putting on an adaptation for stage of the movie Shakespeare in Love (most recently tainted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal). The review is brief, and gives the adaptation and the performers a solid thumbs up, but acknowledges that it breaks no new ground. A safe, and probably enjoyable evening of theater — just as Shakespeare would have wanted it!
A-Hoyden, Me Maties!
The first reviews are coming out for Theater for a New Audience's The Winter's Tale, and this one from The New York Times is strongly favorable. Beyond its careful parsing of the production and performance, New York Times writer Jesse Green picks out some Shakespeare linguistic gems (the neologism bed-swerver for unfaithful wife) and also casually uses the word Hoyden — which apparently means a boisterous girl.
A Lost Child, A Lost Kingdom
A mixed but mostly positive review of the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest offering of Macbeth, with noted Dr. Who actor Christopher Eccleston, ably accompanied by Niamh Cusack as Lady M. As with Michael Fassbender's 2015 movie version, the loss of their child underpins many of the conceits of this production, working sometimes, but not always, in particular in the second half of the production. See the review here.
What's in a Production?
Between 1961 and 2010, The RSC put on sixteen different productions of Romeo and Juliet (including a 1973 production directed by Terry Hands, with Timothy Dalton as Romeo.) (Do they call him Montague…Romeo Montague?) The interactive timeline provides a great teaching resource, allowing teachers to compare and contrast different approaches to the same classic play.
Fans of Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder series should know about Upstart Crow. With the same writer (Ben Elton) and yes, the same slightly lowbrow (but gentle) sensibility, Upstart Crow stars English comic actor David Mitchell. With two seasons under its belt, and a third on its way, it offers an enjoyable peep inside Shakespeare's life. Sort of!
A harsh (and to some extent amusing) editorial piece on a 1928 production of Macbeth. The chief complaint is that the performance is set in modern (that is, circa 1928) dress, and that this impedes the understanding and enjoyment of the play. Shakespeare has come a long way in the last 90 years…
The Two Noble Kinsman
Shakespeare contests abound, and we love to see them pop up here in the US and abroad. This one caught our eye because of the winning passage, which came not from Hamlet, Othello, Henry V — but from The Two Boble Kinsman, certainly one of Shakespeare's least well-known and performed plays. So bravo to Jenna Burns for not only using a passage from that play…but winning with it as well!
Hail Caesar! (Part II)
Another very favorable review by Rebecca Mead at The New Yorker of Nicholas Hytner's production in London of Julius Caesar, and an interesting discussion about staging — in particular the use of audience members as part of the crowd
Another production of Julius Caesar, reflecting our growing preoccupation with demagoguery and the virtues and perils of republics and democracies gone awry. Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder, and David Morrisey all put in excellent performances, according to Guardian critic Michael Billington. The play is at the Bridge Theatre, an the set design has audience members be part of the mob.
Permission to Speak
Michael Axel, right, as Shagspeare, performs alongside Emilty Cady, as Judith, in "Equivocation," a play that imagines a
scenario in which Shakespeare has been commissioned as a government propagandist.
Bend, Oregon's 2nd Street Theater put on an original production, "Equivocation", examining whether playwrights should write about contemporary events, whether in polemical opposition, or as propagandists. An interesting fact that emerges from this review: Shakespeare and his contemporaries were forbidden from writing about current events in their works.
Hamlet Around the Globe
Stephen Greenblatt reviews Dominic Dromgool's new book describing taking Hamlet to every country in the world - Hamlet Globe to Globe.
A Hofstra Hamlet that "Would Make Shakespeare Proud"
Hofstra launches its 68th Annual Shakespeare Festival with a well received Hamlet. More.
A seasoned (and quite amusing) Pittsburgh theater critic, Ted Hoover, cannot abide Shakespeare and his works. Among his pithier quotes on Studio 360: “If you had a lick of intelligence in your head , this play [Romeo and Juliet] wouldn’t happen. It only happens if you’re stupid.” Possibly... More. Oh, and NPR's Ira Glass also dislikes the bard…
The Limits of Technology
A production photo of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collaboration with Intel on “The Tempest.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOPHER MCGRILLIS / R.S.C.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner reviews the RSC's production of the Tempest, and examines the limits of real-time computer effects blended with a live performance.
The Stage Design Was Quite Laconic...
We can't say we fully (or even partially) understand this review of Taming of the Shrew by the Russian Kachalov Theatre, but in the spirit of acknowledging Shakespeare's global reach, we put it forward here. Opaque though the commentary may be, it certainly seems like a visually arresting production. More.
Calling Dr. Spooner...
We here at The New Book Press can't resist the occasional Spoonerism. So, here 'tis! More.
Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet At 20
Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet
The Guardian re-reviews Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet on its 20th anniversary. More.