Macbeth at the Barbican by Cheek by Jowl directed by Declan Donnellan. Not good at all. Will Keen's Macbeth and Anastasia Hille's Lady Macbeth way off into camp territory, where we embarrassingly are taken by the porter played by a pink-haired tart in a tartan distracted by her transistor radio. And if you're going to do this play without the witches, it can't be just because it's innovative. The whole production stank of unworthy innovation. Even the "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech strained with trendiness. It will be some time before I see a Cheek by Jowl production again.
Measure for Measure at the Almeida directed by Michael Attenborough. Much better than the also updated production of this entirely implausible problem play at the National a few years back. Every time I see this strange tragi-comedy it gets better. Anna Maxwell Martin's Isabella is a wee bit too earnest, Rory Kinnear's Angelo is the right kind of self-righteous slime ball, and Duke Vincentio, played by Ben Miles does crackling justice to one of my favorite of Shakespeare's speeches: Disguised as a monk, the Duke visits Claudio in prison as he awaits the death penalty for having impregnated his girlfriend out of wedlock:
Be absolute for death; either death or life Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life: If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art, Servile to all the skyey influences, That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st, Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death's fool; For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun And yet runn'st toward him still. Thou art not noble; For all the accommodations that thou bear'st Are nursed by baseness. Thou'rt by no means valiant; For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep, And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear'st Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself; For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not; For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get, And what thou hast, forget'st. Thou art not certain; For thy complexion shifts to strange effects, After the moon. If thou art rich, thou'rt poor; For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows, Thou bear's thy heavy riches but a journey, And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none; For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire, The mere effusion of thy proper loins, Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum, For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age, But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep, Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich, Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty, To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this That bears the name of life? Yet in this life Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear, That makes these odds all even.
A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Rose Theatre in Kingston under the artistic direction of Peter Hall with Judy Dench. Dare I say it? Judy Dench simply too old to play Tatiana. She could have been Oberon's grandmother so few sparks flying there. But her scene with the excellent Bottom as an Ass was, indeed, sublime. No luck with Puck.
London Assurance at the National's Olivier Theatre. Simon Russell Beale as Sir Harcourt Courtly and Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker at the top of their comedic game in this 1841 social satire by 21-year-old Dion Boucicault. A very jolly romp through a flamboyant landscape of clever sexual innuendo.
Richard III at Riverside Studios by Love & Madness. Best Richard III--played by Carl Prekoff--I believe I've ever seen, though I do remember the one in the RSC's Histories season not too long ago was very good. At any rate, the play itself is just a stunning portrait of evil and so funny too. Only drawback: Sadie Frost as Lady Anne totally silly.