Thursday, 6 March 2014

A short month not short of activity: Romeo and Juliet, Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies and Versailles

February may be the shortest month but it has definitely not been short of activity!

It got underway with the production of Romeo and Juliet that I described as 'joyously irreverent' in my last post! After a slightly nervy first night where neither the cast nor the audience were entirely sure of what to expect, we relaxed into the show and it proved a great success! Having an audience laughing continually throughout a production of Romeo and Juliet isn't something one would normally aim for but this was exactly what we had hoped for and it was an absolutely pleasure to perform. My Friar Laurance, with questionable morals, even more questionable substance (ab)use and copious amounts of plastic bags, was without doubt one of the most enjoyable parts I've ever played. Everyone involved with the production was an absolute delight and I was very sorry to see the end of it.

Alongside being in Cardiff for a fantastic Welsh victory over the French - I challenge any sporting arena to beat the atmosphere in the Millennium Stadium on a Friday evening with the roof closed - and my continuing work in schools, I have also seen some truly brilliant theatre this month. It is all too rare that you feel privileged to have witnessed a piece of theatre but this month I have felt just that and on three separate occasions.

The first two were at the exquisitely performed RSC adaptations of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. When I first heard that these were being adapted for the stage I was highly sceptical - it screamed of a shameless money-making bums-on-seats ploy. But after reading the books I started to believe and with the masterful Jeremy Herrin at the reigns these are two productions that are an absolute joy to behold. The atmosphere and flavour of the novels are captured perfectly, whilst the performance of Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell is not only captivating but a phenomenal demonstration of endurance (on stage almost throughout each play's 3 hour plus running time). Herrin's direction is simply faultless. The play flows with unstoppable energy, trusting the audiences' imagination to transport the actors from scene to scene. I loved every minute of it and could easily have sat through another three hours - unfortunately we'll have to wait until Mantel has finished writing the final part of the trilogy before that can happen!

The third play was Peter Gill's Versailles at the Donmar Warehouse. This is quite simply a play that everyone should see. Not just because of the remarkable performances from the whole cast or because of the exquisite writing and design but because Peter Gill has created a piece of theatre that ingeniously uses the politics of 1919 to shed light on our own contemporary world. This is a play that is not only riveting but also makes you think. There's a beautiful sense of dramatic irony throughout the play since the audience knows the eventual repercussions of the Treaty of Versailles (most notably Nazi Germany and the complete mess that is the Middle East) whilst the characters can only guess (some in a more educated fashion than others). The stunning performances from a host of young actors (Gwilym Lee, Josh O'Connor, Tom Hughes, Edward Killingback, Tamla Kari and Helen Bradbury) shows that the future of British theatre is in safe hands on the acting front.

As well as going to the theatre, I am now back to directing for the theatre. March will see me directing a short piece for a new writing evening in Bristol, running from the 11th-15th March at the Little Black Box Theatre. I held auditions last Sunday, am delighted with the cast and cannot wait to get rehearsing this weekend. There are also plans afoot for me to direct my first short film in early April.

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