Muddy’s week with William…
No. Muddy hasn’t been hanging with Will and Kate. Nor with Will-i-am. We’re talking about the nation’s greatest poet. This week, Muddy contributor, Zoe Dudgeon, found herself at three of the hottest Shakespeare productions in the country: the Guildford Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night at the National Theatre in London and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Young Vic in London. Here she gives you the lowdown on all three…
Twelfth Night – The National Theatre, London – until 13 May
I was the opening night, and the audience was full of anticipation. The director, Simon Godwin, himself took to the stage to thank us all for turning up and to explain that not only was this opening night, but also the first full dress rehearsal for the cast (!), which made the performance even the more impressive as I certainly could not tell.
The production is set in modern day, which helps even the most reluctant of Shakespeare enthusiasts get a grip on the action. Godwin has even manipulated the text to bring it up to date and add in some witty 21st century references. Gender play is also a conscious part of the performance as Tamsin Grieg plays Malvolio, adding another layer of complexity to the already scripted gender confusion created by Viola and Sebastian. And Grieg’s performance really does steal the show. Her interpretation of Malvolio as a non-smiling, ninja like servant with zero sense of humour comes into its own. The scene in which Malvolio discovers the fake love note written by her mistress had the audience crying in laughter.
The action is fast-paced and fun, keeping the audience on their toes. Three hours may seem a long time, but it whizzed by. The Olivier Theatre stage was put to excellent use with a high-rise tower of steps on either side, and coupled with the rotating stage helped transform it between different settings effortlessly.
This is well worth a watch to bring your GCSE level Shakespeare back to life!
Tickets from £15, playing till 13 May at the National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX. nationaltheatre.org.uk
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Young Vic Theatre, London – until 1 April
My highlight of the show may have occurred before I even set foot in the theatre. It was 7.25pm, the show was a about to begin, I was frantically WhatsApping my boyfriend who was pacing it from Waterloo station, and I looked up to see the director Joe Hill-Gibbins. I have been obsessed with his production of The Changling at the Young Vic since I saw it in 2012 – and I completely bottled saying hello. EPIC FAIL.
This production was captivating as soon as the lights came up. The stage was made entirely of mud and an almost full-length mirror dominated the centre, meaning there was a double effect: the audience could both see themselves and be seen by the actors. The setting, though surreal, was brought bang up to date. The four lovers had the air of cavalier millennials playing an array of mind games on the ‘dank and dirty ground’ in the Athenian forest. The dynamic between Helena and Demetrius was particularly heart-wrenching as he threw her on the ground and berated her for following him; she tumbled after him smeared in mud. Hill-Gibbins has also directed the interplay between Titania and Bottom in a way that is at once comical and dark – with Bottom parading around the stage serenading Titania the latest pop songs.
The play is brought to a climax when the actors being to paint over the mirror in black, signifying that we are leaving the dream world of the Athenian forest and stepping back into reality. It’s definitely a piece of the theatre that will provoke you to question the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Dare to enter the dream world.
Tickets from £10, playing till 1 April at The Young Vic Theatre, 66 The Cut, Lambeth, London SE1 8LZ youngvic.org
Guildford Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar – Holy Trinity Church, Guildford – until Sat 25 Feb
This GSC production has come at exactly the right time in the tumultuous political world of Trump and Brexit: “Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny” for all. The church was turned into a political arena; the audience are rallied up into a frenzy to welcome the vivacious Caesar back to Rome. Noel White as Caesar had the perfect, polished, political personae: at once charming and disarming. Jessica Guise as his wife Calphurnia may be likened to Melania Trump. The initial scenes were set to the background music of the Top 40 chart hits, making the context relevant for our audience, and there was eerie recorded video imagery of Caesar giving interviews playing on a loop in the background even when he was not on stage – driving home the power and presence of social media and TV in our era.
The brutal murder of Caesar was very convincingly executed; I was shocked as an audience member, even though I knew what was coming. When we returned after the interval the whole stage has been transformed into a war zone. The actors were dressed head to toe in camouflage gear and invited us to walk through the back of the church to see the war zone that had been created by Brutus’ army. The second half was extremely fast paced and punchy, using lots of amazing physical theatre to create the battle scenes, and the bloody murders of Brutus’ followers.
It’s difficult to bring a historical Shakespeare play to life in a way that is so bang on relevant to our time, but GSC really surpassed expectations. Hurry and see this production before it ends!
Tickets from £25, playing till 25 Feb at the Holy Trinity Church, High St, Guildford GU1 3RR guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk