Having had my passion for Shakespeare reignited over the past year by one of my university lecturers, I have requested that my family and I actively go to see more of the Bard’s work. Over these past couple of weeks I have attended Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, Richard III and Two Gentlemen of Verona, and also a trip to London to see James McAvoy as Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios! Very fortunate to have seen three fantastic pieces of Shakespeare.
Macbeth was actually completely new to me, I knew little of the Scottish play and Jamie Lloyd’s production was a brilliant introduction! McAvoy was stunning in such a physical and mentally demanding performance, the dystopian context very much complimented the darkness of the tragedy and witchcraft. Meeting him afterwards at Stage Door was a bonus.
Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. What an extraordinary company! Richard III I had heard was a powerful history, but another unknown to me, and the little of the story that I was aware of was merely due to having seen the film Anonymous. The Tobacco Factory Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue, seated in the round with entrances and exits in the four corners of the room. From the moment he entered the space, John MacKay enthralled me from beginning to end with truly one of the most inspirational and outstanding theatrical performances I have ever witnessed. I aspire to someday perform that same role, King Richard III now my dream Shakespeare part, with even half as much charisma as MacKay brought to the stage.
Two Gentlemen of Verona is the second in this season’s Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, with mostly the same cast as RIII. Having attended the near end of the run for RIII last week, I was now audience for the opening night of Two Gents, and very lucky to see another superb production under Andrew Hilton’s direction. Like RIII, he had not missed a trick, utilising Shakespeare’s lyrical language with perfect interpretation.
Following both RIII and Two Gents I hung out in the bar to share my appreciation and congratulate the cast, although only managing to speak with a few of them, I managed to thank and talk briefly with Piers Wehner and Dorothea Myer-Bennett. Chris Donnelly and his dog, Lollio (Crab in the production; show-stealer), came to speak with my family and me before we left as well. A lovely chap with some wonderful things to say about his experiences and his appreciation for audience members like ourselves.
I connected with Paul Currier on Twitter too, who said some heartening things in response to my saying that the accessibility and warmth of the actors enhances the whole experience, particularly for an actor-in-training like myself.
One of the great things about Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory is the proximity of the audience – not just on stage – like an extended part of the company, and as we rely so much on our box office for funding, we perhaps appreciate our audience all the more. Theatre should be like that. It’s symbiosis: The audience a crucial part of the show; the reward for actor and spectator are mutual.
Privileged to have seen such amazing theatre over these past couple of weeks, and that is without having even mentioned the masterful storytelling of Vamos Theatre’s Finding Joy at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, my favourite of their shows to date; wondrous, emotive and imaginative. Also Cider With Rosie at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre was delightful and enchanting. A Chorus Line too, at the London Palladium, containing an abundance of energy and talent; quite a unique musical production.
This Easter break has been magical. Now back to the real world and finishing my dissertation. TM