OFFSTAGE BUT NOT OFFLINE
Darlington Hippodrome to offer free online dance classes for children and young people
Darlington Hippodrome, in association with the D Project, will run three free interactive online dance classes each week for the next three weeks, prior to the beginning of the summer term when the venue’s regular programme of Youth Theatre and Youth Dance classes will move online.
The first sessions will take place on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 April. The session at 10am on Thursday will be a Contemporary class – a mix of contemporary centre exercises (including floor work). You will learn phrases with restricted space in mind and also get creative with choreographic tasks.
On Friday 3 April there will be two sessions, At 10am, young people of all ages can join a Dance Fitness class – exercise to music with fun movement , that will keep spirits up and maintain stamina, strength and flexibility. At 2pm Debbie will teach the Mass Dance routine due to be performed at this year’s Darlington Dance Festival.
As well as being aimed at existing members of the Hippodrome’s Youth Dance, April’s free online classes are also open to new participants! If your child would like to give it a go, simply email Hippodrome.BoxOffice@darlington.gov.uk up to an hour before the start of each class and you’ll be sent a link to join the session on Zoom.
Newcastle Theatre Royal Delay Search For New Chief Executive
Newcastle Theatre Royal Chief Executive Philip Bernays has today announced that he is to postpone his planned retirement.
|Newcastle Theatre Royal Chief Executive Philip Bernays|
In light of the unprecedented challenges the Theatre Royal is facing, in common with all other theatres, the Board of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust has taken the decision to postpone the recruitment of their new Chief Executive while they focus on managing this crisis. The current Chief Executive, Philip Bernays, has kindly agreed to stay on to lead the organisation through this difficult time.
Whilst it remains their intention to hire a new Chief Executive in due course, the Board recognises that many potential candidates will also be fully engaged on working through these issues with their own organisations for the foreseeable future.
Philip Bernays said: “These are extraordinary times and we face extraordinary challenges. I care deeply about the Theatre Royal and couldn’t not continue to support it and the incredible team of people who make it happen. We will come through this crisis; we look forward to bringing entertainment to many generations of theatregoers to come.”
Newcastle Theatre Royal closed its doors on Mon 16 Mar 2020 and has cancelled a number of upcoming performances as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Affected customers are being contacted directly and as a registered charity that receives no funding and relies on ticket sales for the majority of its income, it has launched a donations campaign to help support the venue – further information can be found at https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/support/donate-now.
Tickets Now On Sale For The Fairy Godmother Of All Pantomimes, Darlington’s Cinderella
Tickets for Cinderella, this year’s spectacular festive family pantomime at Darlington Hippodrome, are on sale now!
|Scene from the 2019 Panto|
You shall go to the ball this Christmas with the spectacular family pantomime Cinderella at Darlington Hippodrome. Packed with all of the traditional pantomime ingredients audiences expect, Cinderella features laugh out loud comedy, stunning scenery, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses.
|Scene from the 2019 Panto|
Join Cinders as she goes from rags to riches, outwits her ugly sisters with help from her best friend Buttons and meets her dashing Prince. This Christmas bring your family to the most magical of all pantomimes where you can make festive memories as precious as a glass slipper.
Cinderella will be produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and the team behind Darlington’s annual pantomime, who guarantee another must-see production packed with audience participation, sensational music and dancing, jaw-dropping special effects and fantastic festive entertainment suitable for all ages.
Star casting to be announced soon!
Cinderella runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Saturday 5 December 2020 to Sunday 3 January 2021. For full details and to book visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk or call 01325 405405.
Theatre Hosts Online Quiz
Darlington Hippodrome will be engaging with the community with an arts and entertainment online quiz on Friday 27 March at 7.30pm to help celebrate World Theatre Day.
With the entire country adopting social distancing measures people have looked to the internet to keep engaged with family, to keep fit, to remain mentally active or just to learn new skills.
Through the power of Zoom – an online meetings app – Darlington Hippodrome will be engaging with theatre lovers with an online arts and entertainment online quiz which will take place on Friday 27 March at 7.30pm. There will be rounds on music, art, literature, films and more. Homes can take part as a small team or you can take part as an individual – there will be no ‘winning’ prize – just the fun of joining in a large social online event to help pass the time.
Rebecca Howarth from Darlington Hippodrome told us “This way of engaging with the community is all very new to us and it may be a little rough around the edges, but the theatre is looking at new and exciting ways we can engage with the community to keep spirits up, have some fun and allow people some social interaction in these difficult times.”
Rebecca continued “Over the last couple of weeks Zoom has become the go-to app to allow large groups of people to engage in activities such as keep fit classes, singing classes, drama classes and even learning how to knit. It’s a great way to meet friends and make new ones as well.”
If you are interested in taking part in the online quiz simply go to the Darlington Hippodrome Facebookpage and ‘attend’ the Virtual Quiz Night event. Further details will be posted in the event on Friday evening. All you need to take part is internet access, a phone or laptop with a camera, pen and paper for your answers, an open mind and a sense of humour.
The quiz will be open to the first 100 participants who access the Zoom event on the night, but don’t be disappointed if you miss out on this occasion as there will be future theatre events to get involved in.
Chris Cross Adds Magic To Self-Isolation!
Free Online Magic Broadcast
Locally renowned Magician Extraordinaire, Chris Cross, is bringing his magic tricks to the comfort of homes around the World, this Wednesday Evening. Chris will be broadcasting live from his home in High Spen on Wednesday, where he will perform a few magic tricks and also teach everyone watching how to do some cool card tricks from his published book - The Geordie Book of Magic!
Chris says: ''This will be a fun online event for all ages to attend - all you need is a pack of cards! It's times like this, entertainment is needed more than ever and I'm pleased to be doing my bit for the local community and beyond to spread as much magical morale as possible. So come and forget about your troubles and cure your boredom for an hour and join me for some fun! After this virus has swept over and has gone, you'll have some great tricks to show your mates in the pub (once they re-open!) and the kids can impress their friends at school with their new Harry Potter skills! Most importantly, this broadcast will encourage people to stay in the house for its duration and not go wandering around! everyone needs to stay safe at the moment, to protect themselves and others. Unfortunately, not even I can make this thing disappear! ''
Newcastle native, Chris Cross has performed his multi-award winning sleight of hand all across the globe and has entertained at Mike Tyson's Sportsman's Dinner, Prince Charles's State Visit, Boy George's 50th Birthday Party, Alice Cooper's Press Conference and at many other Celebrity gatherings and events. Locally, he performs for lots of weddings and corporate events and hosts his annual 'Greatest Show on the Tyne' too. He made front page news in 2016, when he suspended himself upside-down from the roof of Newcastle's Castle Keep in a Straitjacket Escape Stunt, to provide a free public entertainment piece for everyone in the North-East who looked up at him that day.
'Chris Cross Shows YOU How!' will be a free online magic broadcast. If you want to virtually attend this one-off event online via Chris's Official Facebook Page, more info can be found about the event and you can tune in at 6pm until 7pm this Wednesday 25th March, here: www.facebook.com/TheChrisCross.
Key Change: award-winning New York Times’ Critics Pick to be streamed online for free
As theatres around the world are forced to close their doors, Open Clasp Theatre Company’s award-winning prison drama Key Change will be made available to watch online for free.
“Exquisite” ★★★★ The Guardian
“A touching, empowering work” ★★★★★ The Stage
“A remarkable production” ★★★★ The Observer
“A moving, intimate and superbly acted drama” New York Times Critics’ Pick
|Jessica Johnson as Angie & Christina Berriman Dawson as Kelly|
Open Clasp has a unique approach and practice, developed over 20 years collaborating with women on the margins of society to create exciting theatre for personal, social and political change. Key Change was created with women serving at HMP Low Newton in County Durham. It originally toured to male prisons, before opening at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Northern Stage at Summerhall programme. After winning the prestigious Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh award it opened in New York to critical acclaim, and the company also presented the show in women’s high-security prisons in both Edinburgh and New York State. A sell out national tour followed back in the UK, including a performance in the Houses of Parliament in partnership with the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice, CLiNKS and the Prison Reform Trust.
In 2017 Open Clasp teamed up with The Space to capture the play on film, and Key Change was streamed globally as part of the UN campaign to end violence against women and girls. Writer and Artistic Director Catrina McHugh, who was awarded an MBE for outstanding services to disadvantaged women through theatre, explains why the company has now decided to make it available online for free: “In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for us to find ways to connect - with our audiences, partners and the women we’ve worked with for more than 20 years. We’ve seen first-hand the power of theatre to bring people together and make change happen, so it's more important than ever that we continue to reach out to those who need our support most in these unsettling times, even if it's digitally rather than physically. If we as a society can learn anything from this crisis it's the need for investment in the NHS, the provision of free childcare, workers’ rights and access to the arts, to stay connected and stand together. During these uncertain times we are not pulling up bridges, we are looking for new ways to walk over troubled water. Our aim is to change the world one play at a time, but for now we just want to reach out, make people laugh, feel, care and look to a new horizon.”
|Judi Earl, Cheryl Dixon, Jessica Johnson & Christina Berriman Dawson (l-r)|
Open Clasp have already reached over 45,500 people with their critically acclaimed productions, Key Change and Rattle Snake using theatre captured live on film. Their new production, Sugar is the first to be created specifically for the screen and is due for release in June 2020. Director Laura Lindow explains, “Creating Sugar as a piece of theatre for film has offered us remarkable opportunities to tell these stories in new and different ways. The viewpoint of the camera is powerfully intimate as the characters take us into their confidence. The stark but beautiful theatrical setting sets up different terms for us to encounter them as we step into their worlds. I really hope that the audience will be left sharing the sense of outrage and also inspiration that we as makers have felt.”
Key Change will be available to watch online from 1pm GMT on 20 March at www.openclasp.org.uk
Cast & Creative Team
Writer: Catrina McHugh MBE
Director: Laura Lindow
Choreographer: Holly Irving
Lighting Designer: Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn
Composer: Roma Yagnik
Cast: Cheryl Dixon, Christina Berriman Dawson, Jess Johnson, Judi Earl, Kate McCheyne & Victoria Copeland
Photos: Keith Pattinson
Featuring 24 Of The Greatest Rock’n’roll Hits Of All Time
The Story Of How Four Stars Made Rock’n’roll History Starring Peter Duncan
Million Dollar Quartet
Wednesday 25 - Saturday 28 March 2020
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/MillionDollarTickets #Ad
This worldwide smash hit musical, inspired by the famous recording session that brought together rock‘n’roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time, will embark appear later this month on an extensive tour of the UK.
Re-joining the production as the ‘Father of Rock’n’Roll’ Sam Phillips, is national treasure Peter Duncan. Following rave reviews for his performance in the musical’s 2017 UK tour, the Olivier Award nominee and former Blue Peter presenter returns to the stage in 2020.
On December 4, 1956, history was made when these four star musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis, the studios of legendary record producer Sam Phillips, for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions of all time.
Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life, with its extraordinary story of broken promises, secrets, and the once-in-a-lifetime celebration of four acclaimed recording artists. This poignant musical features a score of more than 24 legendary rock hits including Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, That’s All Right, Sixteen Tones, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Who Do You Love?, Matchbox, Folsom Prison Blues and Hound Dog.
The stage production is written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, directed by Olivier nominated Ian Talbot OBE, and includes designs by David Farley, lighting by David Howe and sound by Ben Harrison. The UK tour is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers.
The actor, adventurer and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan tells Matthew Amer about starring in the rock ‘n’ roll musical and his own pop star ambitions.
Well, on 4 December 1956, Sam Phillips, who ran Sun Records, got Elvis, who was by then a big superstar, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and a very young Jerry Lee Lewis together for a day. He recorded a session with them. His real motivation behind it was to try and get Johnny Cash to sign a new contract because, like with football, people get tempted elsewhere, especially when they get successful. The music business is still notorious for that kind of behaviour.
It’s the most famous recording session in history! At the end of the show there’s a picture of them sitting round the piano that pops up; it’s absolutely iconic.
That is the story that runs alongside what most people think they’re coming for, which is a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll romp. What they get is much more, and they go away having learned something new.
You previously played producer Sam Phillips in 2017. What made you want to return to the role and how much research did you do into him?
I was delighted to be asked! It’s a brilliant show and a number one tour. I also think Sam is a rather great part to play, because I’m so into music. Some fantastic performers have played the role too – Jason Donovan, Bill Ward, Martin Kemp.
I did a lot of research. Sam fascinated me. He was originally a DJ, but he knew all about the wiring side of things and that’s how he found a way to create his sound with the technology as it existed.
That was one of his talents. He was a clever man, a very clever man, but he also did the job of the plugger. He’d drive round from radio station to radio station hawking his records. When he got air play, that’s how his artists got heard. He was a true grafter. That’s what makes him so cross when somebody leaves.
The music in the show is timeless, with songs including Hound Dog, I Walk The Line and Great Balls of Fire, but is the story of rock ‘n’ roll still as relevant?
I know years and years have passed, but life’s really very similar; it’s often the music that responds to, and makes people respond to, society. If there’s an equivalent, it’s a bit like grime with Stormzy now. If you listen to Stormzy, what you’ll hear is real political commentary, rudeness, anti-establishment sentiment. Really that’s what rock ‘n’ roll was doing then.
I’ve always been musical. I’ve always written songs, mainly for things like kids shows and pantomimes, but I’ve always composed. But I suppose my one single, Cold As Ice, in 1982 doesn’t really count as being a pop star, although I did sing it live to Elton John on Blue Peter. That’s my “I could have been a pop star” moment. I’m obviously a method actor, as I’m building my own sound studio in the garden! I’ve got three daughters and all of them are making a career out of being singers, so it will give everyone somewhere to rehearse.
Aside from your acting, it’s Blue Peter you’re probably best known for. How was it being part of that show?
It was obviously a really exciting thing to do. At that point in my career, after 10 years as an actor, I felt like looking outward a bit, rather than inward. Obviously doing something like Blue Peter, you know your career is going to go in a different direction, but now I do wish I’d done a bit more Shakespeare and a bit more classical stuff.
I was only 26 when I got that job and it was quite hard. I had a fragmentary education; a gypsy theatrical child going from pillar to post. I never took any exams of any kind. Suddenly you’re surrounded by people with firsts from Oxford or Cambridge who are desperate to get up the BBC ladder. You slowly start to realise you’re not as clever as you think you are. And because of my strange childhood I’ve never been good with organisations, bureaucracy and hierarchy. I’m very much a get out there and do it yourself kind of person.
I suppose I do always try and keep life interesting! If I’m absolutely honest, I’m a frustrated sculptor.
Are you excited about being out on tour?
I am, although I was also excited to see there were two London dates and a few commutable ones too! My Mrs promised to visit me on some others so we could go walking during the day too! It helps that I’m a great traveller and I’ve got my own holiday company, The Natural Adventure Company. That all grew from making travel documentaries when I took the kids around the world.
They’ll have a great night because of the fantastic music at the heart of it – there’s not a night I’ve done where people aren’t up on their feet having a great time as the songs and the artists are iconic - but they get a whole lot more than a rock ‘n’ roll concert, they get a brilliant story too.
Are you looking forward to appearing in Sunderland?
My father came from Redcar and used to run beach shows, so I’ve got a lot of relations and history up there. I’m really looking forward to going up to Sunderland and touring the North East.
Don't miss your chance to be a fly on the wall of fame and history, and join in the celebration of this red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night!
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/MillionDollarTickets #Ad
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Smash Hit West End & Broadway Musical School Of Rock Is Coming To Newcastle!
School of Rock
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Monday 24 - Saturday 29 April 2021
School of Rock - The Musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit, award-winning West End show is set to rock out Newcastle Theatre Royal during May 2021 with tickets going on sale next week.
Based on the hilarious hit movie, this new musical follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band – sensationally performed live by the production’s young actors every night with roof-raising energy!
While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.
Featuring 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and all the original songs from the movie, this high-octane smash delivers face-melting guitar riffs and touching romance in equally awesome doses.
Friends of the Theatre Royal can book from Mon 16 Mar with general on sale at 10am on Fri 20 Mar 2020.
School of Rock - The Musical features new music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, Sister Act) and a book by Julian Fellowes. It is directed by Laurence Connor (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, London Palladium 2019) with choreography by JoAnn M.Hunter, set and costume designs by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Mick-Potter, music supervision by John Rigby with Matt Smith as musical director.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer of some of the world’s best known musicals including Cats, Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera (which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary) and Sunset Boulevard. In New York, School of Rock – The Musical, a stage version of the movie, is currently running alongside Cats and Phantom of the Opera, equalling Lloyd Webber’s previous record of three shows running simultaneously on Broadway.
His awards, both as composer and producer, include seven Tonys, seven Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, the Praemium Imperiale, the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre, a BASCA Fellowship, the Kennedy Center Honor and a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Requiem, his setting of the Latin Requiem mass which contains one of his best known compositions, Pie Jesu. He owns seven London theatres including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the New London Theatre and the London Palladium. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1992 and created an honorary member of the House of Lords in 1997. He is passionate about the importance of music in education and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has become one of Britain’s leading charities supporting the arts and music.
School of Rock has a book by Julian Fellowes, for which he received a Tony nomination. Julian the creator, writer and executive producer of the worldwide hit TV series Downton Abbey, which has received 69 Emmy Award nominations, winning 15, including two awards for Fellowes.
Casting for the UK Touring production is to be announced.
The UK & Ireland Tour of School of Rock – The Musical is produced by David Ian Productions.
School of Rock is at Newcastle Theatre Royal Monday 24 - Saturday 29 April 2021 playing evenings at 7.30pm and matinees on Thursday at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets from £20.00 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.
Sian Reeves Takes A Break From Corrie To Join Cast Of Helen Forrester’s By The Waters Of Liverpool
By The Waters Of Liverpool
Thursday 9 - Saturday 11 April 2020
Sian Reeves has kept Coronation Street viewers on the edge of their seats since rolling up as Charlie Wood, the deluded wife Tim Metcalfe didn’t know he had. But viewers will have to wait to see how it all pans out for Tim, Sally and Charlie as she takes a break from the cobbles of Weatherfield to star in the brand new stage play adaptation of Helen Forrester’s, By The Waters Of Liverpool which is coming to Darlington Hippodrome Theatre on 9 April for a short run.
From ex-con, Hannah Temple in Hope Springs, to the psychotic Sally Spode in Emmerdale - and now Charlie Wood in Corrie, Sian seems right at home playing the vulnerable woman with issues. And her new role in By The Waters Of Liverpool is no exception.
Sian said: “I’ll be playing ‘Mother’, Celia Forrester, who is a wonderfully complex person. From money, status and class, before the great depression of the 1930’s, to then losing everything and being dumped in a damp bug infested house with one cold tap, one toilet –and seven children to look after. I think she absolutely cannot shake herself out of the nightmare that is now her new life. She is stunned that her husband, who once held a senior position in the financial world, cannot find work and they have to grovel for handouts from the local parish. And to escape the confines of this smelly, claustrophobic house she leaves the day to day running of the family to her 11 year old daughter, Helen, which manifests itself as a very strict and uncaring woman. Helen actually said of her mother,‘ her bouts of temper bordered on insanity’. But really she is exhausted and so dreadfully depressed. It’s a great role to play”.
Sian continued: “I have read about five of Helen’s books and I feel very honoured to have been asked to unveil Helen’s blue plaque with the lovely Mark Moraghan. Helen was a magnificently, clever woman and it will be lovely to meet some of her family at this very special occasion”.
By The Waters Of Liverpool is set in the 1930s after Helen’s father went bankrupt during the Depression. Her family were forced to leave behind the nannies, servants and comfortable middle-class life in the South West of England. The Forresters chose Liverpool to rebuild their shattered lives, but they were in for a terrible shock. Taken out of school to look after her young siblings, Helen is treated as an unpaid slave. So begins a bitter fight with her parents for the right to go out to work and make her own way in life.But by 1939 and with Britain on the verge of war, Helen now aged 20, has still never been kissed by a man. But things start looking up for her when she meets a tall strong seaman and falls in love.
The touring cast also features Parry Glasspool, Lucy Dixon, Eric Potts, Lynn Francis, Danny O’Brien, Roy Carruthers, and Chloe McDonald.
West Bromwich born Sian Reeves is an original cast member of the 1985 stage production of Les Misérables. She also later appeared in the 25th anniversary performance at London’s O2. Sian has already shared a stage with fellow cast member Mark Moraghan in celebrity TV singing contest, Just The Two Of Us – when Sian and opera singer Russell Watson won the competition. Sian’s television credits also include Casualty, Cutting It, Holby City and, more recently Coronation Street. Theatre credits include West Side Story, Love Me Tender, The Merchant Of Venice, and The Little Match Girl.
By The Waters Of Liverpool has sold more than a million books. Now this is your chance to see it come to life in this brand new stage play adaptation. The play runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Thursday 9 to Saturday 11 April, 2020. Tickets are on sale now. For more information or to book call 01325 405405 or visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk.
Halloween Adult Panto - The Little Mermaid
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Tickets go on sale Monday 16th March 10am.: https://tinyurl.com/TyneAdultPantoTickets #Ad
Following the success of Sinderella; Adult Pantomime swims back into Newcastle in October for a special Halloween edition in the swashbuckling camp, filthy and naughty tail of ‘The Little Mermaid.’
Tickets go on sale Monday 16th March 10am.: https://tinyurl.com/TyneAdultPantoTickets #Ad
All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
Royal Shakespeare Company: As You Like It
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Thursday 19th March 2020
The arrival of the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Newcastle Theatre Royal is still something special even after all of these years. There is a buzz in the auditorium. How will this particular production of one of Shakespeare’s often performed plays compare? Very well, as it happens.
It is refreshing to see something other than the regular GCSE English Lit fodder (Romeo, Macbeth). At the interval I did ponder whether the exam boards are missing a trick if they want to get the next generation to appreciate the bard’s work. This play is fun. A light comedy with accessible themes makes it a good place to start an adventure with the playwright. It has to be said, you don’t need to have studied it in minute detail in order to understand what is going on.
This production does a bit more as the talented ensemble are happy to break the fourth wall, invite members of the audience on stage for some participation. In doing so they acknowledge that they are putting a play on in Newcastle Upon Tyne and everyone has hand sanitizer. Yes. William would approve.
Now past Shakespeare reviews have split the readers into two camps. Some want to see the plays done in a straight way which is as close to the way the audience imagine it was originally produced. Others acknowledge that Shakespeare was trying to be a popular storyteller of his time and, if he were still with us today, he would have tinkered with the formula himself. Regular readers will know that we are happy to see something different. Shakespeare can be done in a modern fashion without losing the core values. His script still shines through.
The set in this production as you enter the auditorium is deceptively simple. A swing hangs from above the arch over a large circle of grass carpet. There is also a balcony which has a group of live musicians – under MD Lindsay Miller. Orlando (David Ajao) walks over and sits on the swing. The house lights are still on though his appearance makes a hush descend over the Theatre Royal crowd in anticipation. The handful of mobile phones are tucked away quickly more rapidly than an usher with a sign. An entrance has indeed been made.
Duke Senior (Anthony Byrne) has been usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick (also Anthony Byrne) and is in exile in the Forest of Arden. His daughter, Rosalind (Lucy Phelps) is only allowed to stay in the kingdom as she is Frederick’s daughter’s cousin and best friend. Their friendship, however leads to Celia (Sophie Khan Levy) and Rosalind assuming new identities and heading off to the forest too. Orlando, who had fallen in love with Rosalind also leaves the court after a dispute with his brother Oliver (Leo Wan). Thus after themes of family feuds, the tale goes into a comedy about the complications of love.
The court fool Touchstone (Sandy Grierson) accompanies the young women on their adventure and he is the source of a number of laughs. Sandy Grierson, David Ajao, Lucy Phelps and Sophie Khan Levy stand out amongst a very engaging cast. The whole ensemble regularly draw the audience in through their delivery.
Director Kimberley Sykes has made good use, not just of Stephen Brimson Lewis’s set but of the wider space around the stage. This breaking down of the traditional barrier between cast and audience was effective in making this a really entertaining trip to the theatre. The action flows well too. The dead moments between scenes are reduced by a allowing the action to flow on and off the stage.
A nice touch is the live music and singing which enhances the atmosphere. It would have been nice to have a better view of the musicians but that is just my opinion.
As already mentioned, spicing up Shakespeare splits audiences. We continue to enjoy productions in which the question is posed "what would Shakespeare do in 2020?" His plays, on the whole still work and are robust enough for a bit of reworking. They are strong enough stories for some interpretation. Having said that this show doesn't deviate that much but the feel is modern and yet the Shakespearean spirit remains. I remember seeing a different interpretation a number of years ago and, do you know what, I preferred this one.
Review by Stephen Oliver.
Photos: Kimberley Sykes
Tickets & Show Details:
The Royal Shakespeare Company is at Newcastle Theatre Royal Wednesday 11 – Saturday 21 March 2020. Measure for Measure plays Wednesday 11, Saturday 14, Friday 20 & Saturday 21 March; As You Like It plays Thursday 12, Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Thursday 19 March; The Taming of the Shrew plays Tuesday 17, Wednesday 18, Thursday 19 & Saturday 21 March 2020 – see website for full details and performance times.
Tickets from £16.00 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.