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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tips for Entering Our Photography Competition by Drew Forsyth

Hello there, and welcome to the guide to entering the RSC’s photography competition. I’ll try to help you out by showing you how to enter, as well as some tips and tricks to helping your photography skills – and don’t worry if you don’t have an expensive camera. For this exercise, I’m going to be using my mobile phone – a Samsung Galaxy S, with a five megapixel camera.

If you don’t have an expensive phone, any phone will do, as long as it has a camera. Seriously.
Now, you need to chose your quote.  There’s five available, and so I’ve chosen ‘Did my heart love 'til now?’ from Romeo & Juliet.

So I’ve got my camera, and I’ve got my quote, what next?

Well, now you need to work out what you think best symbolizes the quote. I had a long think about what I wanted, and in the end I decided that I wanted to show someone alone, but with the implication that someone else had been there – something along those lines.
I find the best way to work out what I want, is to write down a list of ideas that you think might work, then settle on one or two in particular…

So, for me, the quote invoked this idea of love, but at the same time loneliness. So, I chose the ‘sitting alone’ idea. Now, the next thing I wanted to check out was what shot I wanted – what did that picture look like in my head?
Again, the best way to work this out for me, is to draw out what ideas I have in my head (it doesn’t matter if the pictures are rubbish – it’s just a rough guide for you!)

The next thing I had to do was work out where I wanted to take the pictures, and with whom. Now, I knew there was park bench near my house, so I thought I would start there. I called up a friend of mine (who had never done modeling before!) and together we walked down to the park and sat on the bench.

Now, the best time of day to take your photographs (if you’re shooting outside), is either early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. We decided that we wanted lie-ins, and chose the later option.
The sun was just going down when we arrived, and so we only had around fifteen minutes to take the photos we wanted. I started by just taking a few pictures of the bench in its own, to see what it looked like…

I liked it, and so I asked my friend to sit down and I snapped a few shots

I was quite happy with the ones I had taken, and so I thanked my friend, and headed home.
When I got in, I had a look on my phone at the ones I had taken, and I was pretty pleased, but I wanted to make them stand out a bit more. Now, don’t worry if you have never edited a photo before – it’s very straightforward!

If you are lucky enough to have a smart phone, there are a whole host of free apps available to download on both Android and from the App Store on the iPhone. The best one I could find was Adobe Photoshop Express, which can be found here: The app has a very simple to understand interface, and makes editing your shots easy! With just a little bit of contrast and saturation, I got the results I wanted:

If you don’t have a smart phone, and don’t want to shell out for Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, there is no shortage of free photo editing software online. The best include and
Both are easy to use and easy to understand.

So, now I’m happy with my shot, what next?

Okay, so you’ve got your shot, now all you have to do is download an entry form here, fill it out, and you’re on your way to becoming a winner! Simple!

Top 5: A few tips and tricks…

1. Try something different!
Where you might have submitted a picture in colour, why not try black and white?

As you can see, the black and white adds real drama to the shot, and makes it a lot more interesting!

2. Move it from the middle.

Moving your subject off centre really can help your photo!

3. Try vertical!
From pictures of the Eiffell Tower to pictures of your mates, try shifting the camera to a vertical position – it can really change a photo!

4. When you’re taking pictures of people, try going for a plain background.
Try to choose a plain background so your subject is the centre of attention!

5. Don’t be afraid!
If you’re taking a picture of someone and they’re not smiling enough, tell them!


Good luck!

Drew, Marketing Interm at RSC and Photographer

Being a Marketing Intern at the RSC by Emma Dodd

Hi Blog readers and RSC Key Members, I’m Emma and I am just finishing my Marketing Internship at The Royal Shakespeare Company. The new set will start in April and the vacancies are now listed on the website, so check it out here:
If you want to know a little bit about the kind of things you might get to do and what the experience is like then here is my quick summary of what it was like to be an RSC Marketing intern:
 My role revolved around 16-25 Audience Development and I got the chance to be responsible for my own individual project (developing the RSC Key Forum) and lots of other fun things to promote ‘The RSC Key’ and the RSC’s productions in general. A few of you may have met me or one of the other interns at Fresher’s Fairs where we got loads of contacts so we could reach as many people as possible with our discounts and events. Me and Ellie also got to be ‘Maltilda’s Mates’, promoting the show locally by taking bookmarks and print around to local Stratford businesses so as many people as possible would get the Matilda ‘bug’! 
 I also developed and led the Forum which was used to communicate with our younger audiences and find out the best ways to reach them with our RSC Key Scheme. I put a lot of thought and effort into planning them, but never thought I would get to lead them on my own! It is a great opportunity to find out what people in the 16-25 age group actually want from the theatre and to use this to develop events, and also create things like the newsletter and this blog.
It was an unbeatable experience getting to be creative and learn from this awe-inspiring company, and it is so satisfying to see all of the ideas I had actually coming into being.  I think we have started to reach out to the younger generation of  RSC fans and are finding the community of people out there who love to see great theatre (at cheap prices!). But it’s time to hand the baton on and who wants to take continue the challenge...?!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sita Thomas interviews Toby Thompson, cast member of Sound and Fury

Sita Thomas interviews Dizraeli, cast member of Sound and Fury

Jude Evans reviews Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Directed by Rupert Goold
Royal Shakespeare Company, The Roundhouse, London
Saturday 1st January 2011

Productions of Romeo and Juliet come fast and furious like Hamlets. Many are good, some very good, but it is rare to find one outstanding. Rupert Goold’s production is just that, a rare gem amongst the masses. Goold exquisitely captures the conflicting worlds of the brutal Catholic Renaissance and Romeo and Juliet’s own isolated, personal sphere.

Goold’s production reminds us of the play’s historical context, something often lost. The setting is Catholic Renaissance Spain where, in the opening scene, Tybalt and his men tie Benvolio to a stake. Bodies whirl across the stage with daggers and rapiers abound. Goold has his cast dressed in traditional Renaissance garb. Tom Scutt’s design brilliantly supports the setting. Flaming fire bursts from a vent, dark steps loom at the rear of the stage ultimately functioning as steps in the vault, and a central stone plinth, with multiple functions, is most importantly the place where Mercutio is wounded and a tomb for the lovers. Richard Katz’s Capulet echoes this brutal world as he violently thrusts wine in his daughter’s face and grabs hold of her with a look of murder in his eyes.

Goold’s innovation is in having Romeo and Juliet detached from this world. Both are costumed in modern dress seemingly distanced from their families. They verge on being out of time and out of space; they don’t truly fit into the Renaissance environment of the other characters.

Mariah Gale’s Juliet appears detached from the world she has been brought up in from the very start. We first meet her playing with a toy whip whilst her mother suggests marriage to Paris. She is more in love with death than Paris, preferring ‘dead men’s rattling bones’ than being married to him. This Juliet knows her own mind. She demonstrates a maturity beyond her years in taking the vial from Friar Lawrence, yet she never removes too far from her youthfulness seen when tripping over at the excitement of marrying her beloved Romeo.

Sam Troughton’s Romeo shares with his Juliet a mature yet still youthful nature (he jumps at realising Juliet is very much in love with him). He grows during their encounters, and after realising the full force of his act in killing Tybalt. Like his Juliet, Troughton’s Romeo shows a keen desire for death, rather being united in death with his beloved than to live in the dark, brutal world from which they have sprung.

The fierceness of reality penetrates through the lovers’ sphere in the form of Jonjo O’Neill’s Mercutio. His Mercutio possesses a perturbed imagination, and O’Neill conveys this through manic mimes and fantastic enacting of all he speaks, always drawing a guffaw of laughter from the audience. But despite the laughs, his dark language reverberates around the stage. It is a light gone out when O’Neill’s Mercutio leaves the stage at his death. The stage soon plunges into darkness as the lighting dims for the rest of the production. The resonant ‘you shall find me a grave man’ painfully remains with us until the production’s close. Jonjo O’Neill is that rare thing, an excellent Mercutio.

Forbes Masson and Noma Dumezweni provide superb support as Friar Lawrence and the Nurse. Both are excellent in their overlapping scenes as flawed mentors to Romeo and Juliet. Masson’s Friar is all too aware of his part in the lovers’ tragedy and Dumezweni’s Nurse is struck by the apparent death of her ‘prettiest babe’.

Excellent direction from Goold and sublime performances from Gale, Troughton, and O’Neill make this Romeo and Juliet an exhilarating production to watch. It will be all too welcome back in Stratford this spring.

Romeo and Juliet will be back in Stratford-upon-Avon running at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 3rd March - 2nd April.

Romeo and Juliet photos by Ellie Kurttz

Jude Evans, age 22

Sita Thomas interviews Professor D, cast member of Sound and Fury

Sita Thomas interviews Polarbear, director of Sound and Fury

Sita Thomas interviews Kate Tempest, cast member of Sound and Fury

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Dan Hutton reviews Matilda, A Musical

Matilda, A Musical

book by Dennis Kelly, Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
based on the novel by Roald Dahl
at The Courtyard Theatre, Wednesday 10th November 2010

 On paper, Matilda, A Musical looks like a winner. Based on the original children’s novel by Roald Dahl, with a script by Dennis Kelly supported by music and lyrics created by comedy genius Tim Minchin? What? AND it’s directed by Matthew Warchus? Could any production live up to such a hype? Well, there’s a simple answer to that question: yes it can.

Matilda is the perfect children’s story. We watch as a young girl with an extraordinary mind overcomes all odds to overthrow the domineering adults around her. She is ignored by her family and detested by her headmistress, the towering Miss Trunchbull, who sees all children as maggots. This is how many adults look like to children, and for once they aren’t allowed to get their way.

This new production is far more faithful to Dahl’s original novel than the later film version. Matilda’s magic is shown to be miraculous, rather than the superpower it was later made to be. One rather curious addition is that of a storyline explaining Miss Honey’s childhood situation. It sometimes seems rather redundant, but does create a closer bond between Honey and her pupil. Having another story to divert our attention away from the main arc is often a welcome break.

Dennis Kelly’s book appeals to both adults and children alike. It is witty, daring and moving, and speaks to everyone, without patronising or confusing. It is simple, and is complemented perfectly by Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics. The lyrical dexterity with which he writes is nothing short of miraculous in itself, and we often hear his voice coming through, especially in songs such as ‘Quiet’ and ‘My House’. He is the ideal wordsmith for this musical; many of the songs hold within them amazing existential thoughts but always have a cheeky childishness embedded within.

The design is clearly based on drawings by the original illustrator, Quentin Blake. Scrabble tiles adorn the theatre, and the costumes are all larger than life. Miss Trunchbull looks like exactly like we remember her all those years ago, and along with the children they all look like they could have been sketched by Blake. Rob Howell’s design emphasises the beauty of words, and is lit vibrantly by High Vanstone.

The entire cast is superb, portraying caricatures while remaining human. Josie Walker and Paul Kaye capture the ignorance of the Wormwoods with flair, and Lauren Ward as Miss Honey beautifully offers a vital counterbalance to them. Initially, the choice to play Trunchbull in drag is somewhat disconcerting, but the hilarious Bertie Carvel brings out the headmistress’ masculinity, and during fleeting moments we pity her. As the eponymous hero, however, Adrianna Bertola is extraordinary, and offers both the intelligence and playfulness required. When Bertola is on stage, all eyes are on her.

As it stands, the show (it is still in previews), at almost three hours, is slightly too long, especially for a show with a young audience. It also feels like too much action is played to the central auditorium, and that pulling back everything a metre or two would benefit everyone. Of course, these are the sort of things which will smooth over after previews, but they certainly need to be addressed. Then again, our minds are usually on other things, namely chalk magically writing on blackboards.

Matilda, A Musical is no doubt going to be the must-see show this Christmas. Is is a joyous, magical and wonderous retelling of a treasured story. We understand the power of words and of reading, something too-oft forgotten in this technological age. Minchin’s songs will play over and over again in your head and some of Kelly’s script will be etched in your mind for months. Watching the production, something miraculous happens: we feel our adult selves regressing into children we once were and see the memories come flooding back. Again, a perfect demonstration of the power of theatre. West End transfer, anyone?

Dan Hutton reviews two shows in our new theatres

What You Will & Light's Sound Action! At the Swan and Royal Shakespeare Theatres, Wednesday 15th December

The Royal Shakespeare Company are certainly firing on all the engines at the moment. Not a day seems to go by without some event to showcase the new theatres. On some days audiences are treated to more than one, and the brilliant thing is they could not be more different.

Roger Rees’ one-man show What You Will is a cross between stand-up and traditional performance, mixing anecdotes about Shakespeare with some of his most famous speeches. Rees has condensed some of the most memorable and entertaining moments of his professional life into a ninety-minute show which stretches from laugh-out-loud funny to deeply moving.

We start with Rees joining the RSC with his friend Ben Kingsley, telling us how he was given non-speaking roles, essentially playing a “mime-artist”, before moving on to greater things. We hear mention of Olivier, Richardson and Dench among others, and hear fleeting moments of greatness. Another structuring method is the use of reference to Rees’ four favourite actors, providing anecdotes on each to strengthen our understanding of the trials and tribulations faced by the Shakespearean actor.

But it is not all storytelling. Inserted throughout are references to the views of Dickens and Shaw on the Bard and advice to actors from the 1940s. Most engaging are the answers given by pupils about the works of Shakespeare, providing nuggets of hilarity at regular intervals, such as “Shakespeare was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday” and “He wrote in Islamic pentameter.”

Most successful are the famous speeches, however, and the rest of the performance pales in comparison when Rees utters the Bard’s immortal words. We are treated to Sonnet 18, the Prologue to Henry V and Romeo’s address to Juliet on her balcony. Some of the most famous words in the English language spoken afresh. It sometimes seems that the rest of Rees’ show is simply a vehicle to showcase this enormous talent, but this shouldn’t sound like a criticism. Most would be happy to sit through dirge to see these lines spoken by such a wonderful actor.
Following What You Will we can kill a few hours exploring the new theatre complex. The insults chair and tower are worth a look, and one has to keep an eye and ear out for
quotes projected onto various walls and spoken from small crannies. The Swan exhibition room seems somewhat lacking at the moment, concentrating on the transformation project, but will no doubt take on a life of its own when hosting new installations.

The day finishes with a demonstration of the tech in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Lights, Sound, Action. We are introduced to the lighting, sound and automation managers for the company before being treated to a demonstration of each. At times there are a few too many in-jokes to be funny to outsiders, but what is said is interested nonetheless. The real treat comes at the end of the evening, when the lighting, sound and automation departments put their skills together, turning the theatre into a Disneyland-ride-cum-disco. Sound rumbles through the floor, lights swivel rapidly and levels are raised and lowered from the gods. A simple idea, but one which truly showcases the scope of the new space. A director’s dream.

Matilda Review by Lottie Clitherow

Matilda, A Musical

Directed by Matthew Warchus
Royal Shakespeare Company, The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Friday 19th November 2010
As an audience member word-perfect with the original Roald Dahl book and a fierce fan of the 1996 film version, I approached Matilda, A Musical with some trepidation. However, with Matthew Warchus at the helm, a book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by the comedy legend Tim Minchin, and choreography by Peter Darling, this production combines Dahl’s broad appeal with the magic of the theatre, and is nothing short of a triumph.

Matilda tells the captivating story of an unforgettable young girl, overcoming the overbearing adults around her. Josie Griffiths is mesmerising in the title role, bringing intelligence and vulnerability to the role. Matilda sings ‘when you are little you can do a lot’, which is aptly demonstrated in the performances of the extraordinarily talented schoolchildren, who attack Darling’s energetic routines with unparalleled enthusiasm and astounding professionalism.

The entire cast is excellent. The grotesque Miss Trunchball, played by the hilarious Bertie Carvel, moves as a living Quentin Blake drawing, and is at times completely terrifying. Paul Kaye and Josie Walker skilfully caricaturise the ignorant Wormwoods, and Lauren Ward is the perfect counterbalance with her suitably sweet Miss Honey.

Dennis Kelly’s script appeals to both adults and children, while Minchin’s songs are a perfect accompaniment. Minchin demonstrates his lyrical dexterity and comedic cheekiness with tunes that will remain in your head for days. In particular, ‘When I Grow Up’ will leave many parents misty-eyed.

Most importantly, with a finale entitled ‘Revolting Children’, Matilda, A Musical is a production of which Dahl himself would have been proud.