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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Young People's Forum - 20th April

On a gorgeous sunny evening outside the Swan Theatre the RSC Young People’s Forum met to discuss all things RSC. All thirty-something of us introduced ourselves, and it was great to see new faces and those who’d been before.

The first discussion topic was what the next RSC Key competition should be. The first idea was creative writing. Some were in favour of this, others thought it might be too narrow. It spurred a lot of other suggestions including visual art options, multimedia and a more open creative competition allowing RSC Key members to use whatever creative skills they have.

From this discussion developed ideas of running sessions at the RSC prior to competitions, in creative writing or multimedia or another area, in order to enable all members to feel they can enter. And on a side note, we all agreed that we would be interested in sessions about the work of different departments at the RSC, such as Marketing.

The next discussion topic was an ambassador scheme, with the idea of having some Forum members representing the RSC Key in different venues, including schools and universities. We talked about how many there should be and how to become an ambassador.

Finally, a question was raised about the name of the Forum, whether it should stay the RSC Young People’s Forum – a little lengthy – or have a new title called the RSC Key Forum – a little sharper.

All discussion topics will be developed in the next couple of months, so keep checking Facebook, Twitter and the Blog for future information!

Jude Evans, 22

Monday, 25 April 2011

Anna Laycock reviews Cardenio - Shakespeare's 'Lost Play' Re-imagined

Shakespeare’s ‘Lost Play’ re-imagined
Directed by Gregory Doran
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Wednesday 20th April 2011

Whether Shakespeare really wrote a play about “Cardenio” or not, we will never know. However, in my opinion, the authorship of the play does not matter, Greg Doran’s re-imagining of “Cardenio” allows the play to be excellent in its own right and not because of any links it may have to the Bard.

“Cardenio” is the result of literary archaeology from the RSC. In 1772, Lewis Theobald claimed to have obtained three manuscripts of an unnamed play by Shakespeare which he edited and published under the name of “Double Falsehood”. “Double Falsehood” has the plot of the Cardenio episode in “Don Quixote”. Using both “Double Falsehood”, “Don Quixote” and other sources Doran has managed to re-imagine the story for a modern audience to enjoy.

From the beginning the audience are transported into the world of sixteenth century Spain, as we find ourselves looking inside a domineering Catholic monastery. Religion is a prevalent motif throughout the play, and appears a controlling force, with characters questioning and blaming God for what happens to them. However, the lustful behaviour of the leads, Cardenio and especially Fernando, along with the pagan villagers and Spanish flamenco style music provide a contrast to the formalities and rules of Catholicism.

Much like a Shakespearean comedy, the play centres around two couples kept apart from their lovers due to disapproval from their families. Cardenio is in love with Luscinda, but her father insists that her father give his approval before the relationship continues. On the other hand, Fernando falls in love with Dorotea, a farmer’s daughter, thus his love threatens his reputation and status as the son of a Duke. The play has many very funny moments, yet, the tone changes throughout the piece and comes close to tragic just before the interval before reviving itself for the denouement where confusions are resolved and the couples reconciled reminiscent to such comedies as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Much Ado about Nothing”.

The new fiftieth birthday season ensemble is a group of very strong performers, not only can they act but also in “Cardenio” we witness members singing and dancing. The four leads particularly stand out; Oliver Rix portrays the charming Cardenio descend into madness after losing his lover with flair and whereas Alex Hassel may look similar to Rix in looks but his character, Fernando, is clearly the mischievous antagonist of the play. Pippa Nixon as Dorotea displays the subtle insecurity of the possessed and abandoned farmer’s daughter perfectly in the first half before gaining confidence and self-assurance towards the end. Furthermore, Lucy Briggs-Owen highlights both the innocence and strength in Luscinda’s character.

The motto “the show must go on” came into effect during the performance when the fire alarm went off about forty minutes into the first act and the audience, staff and cast members all evacuated outside the building. It might be said the alarm is the fault of Shakespeare’s said-to-be cursed play, Macbeth, which was being performed next door in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, although luckily the curse did little to affect the performance as it was a false alarm and the show continued as if nothing had happened.

Doran’s "Cardenio" is a highly joyful experience of theatre. For once all credit must be given to Doran, the ensemble and the team of design, music, lighting, sound, and movement directors for the creation of Cardenio rather than William Shakespeare.

Anna Laycock, age 19

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Dan Hutton reviews Cardenio - Shakespeare's 'Lost Play' Re-imagined

Shakespeare’s ‘Lost Play’ re-imagined
Directed by Gregory Doran
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Wednesday 20th April 2011

The performance reviewed was a preview performance. Press night is Wednesday 27th April.

In a recent directing workshop, I was given one sterling piece of advice to remember when trying my hand at directing: “You’ll never be as good as Shakespeare”. What’s beautiful about Greg Doran’s so-called ‘re-imagining’ of Shakespeare’s Cardenio is that in all the publicity and in performance it never professes to be as good as anything the Bard could have written, constantly taking a tongue-in-cheek look at the classic Shakespearean comedy.

Piecing together pieces of Lewis Theobold’s Double Falsehood (which was supposedly based on a manuscript of Fletcher and Shakespeare’s Cardenio), Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote and Doran’s own ingenuity, the tone of Cardenio is never able to shake off the feeling of being a cross-centuries collaboration. Some lines feel solidly Elizabethan (“There’s not a maid whose eye with virgin gaze/ Pierces not my guilt”), but elsewhere relatively modern (“There is a woman, sir, there is a woman”). This doesn’t matter, however, for the themes of the play – those of consent and deceit, favourites of Shakespearean comedy – go hand in hand with the atonal language.

It is a perfect formula for a Shakespearean comedy; two men fighting over one woman, even though one of the men is already married. Through disguise and treachery they eventually get what they want and everyone lives happily ever after. The character of Doritea – the second woman – is questionable, as she returns to the man who abused her in the style of Hero, but the strong speeches she is given in the second half of the play remedy that somewhat.

Doran’s joyful production revels in the references to other comedies while taking a look at the darker undertones of religion in the play. Paul Englishby’s remarkable score reverberates around the small space, taking us from brazen ritual to quiet prayer. Niki Turner’s semi-reflective set, lit by Tim Mitchell, facilitates these tonal changes, and the strip of mirror revealed at the back of the stage suggests we are only peeking momentarily into the history behind this lost play.

The four young leads all impress. Pippa Nixon as Doritea copes well with a difficult role, gaining confidence later in the play and showing a strong resolve, even if the script doesn’t. Lucy Briggs-Owen’s Luscinda, the object of the two male leads’ desires, is charmingly innocent, being won over by Oliver Rix’ exuding charisma in his professional debut as Cardenio. Most impressive is Alex Hassell in the role of the loveable antagonist Fernando, a deeply flawed character who wins our empathy through hilarious asides and looks to the audience. Among the strong ensemble, Christopher Ettridge and Christopher Godwin both stand out as the two surprisingly liberal (for Shakespeare) fathers.

Fittingly for the RSC’s Fiftieth Birthday season, Cardenio offers a meta-theatrical look at Shakespearean comedy, straddling five centuries and being fully aware of its roots. It’s unlikely to become part of the canon anytime soon, but it’s no doubt a production which Shakespeare would be able to watch and recognise as something he had a hand in creating.

Dan Hutton