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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Intern? Our turn!

Here in the RSC Marketing department, our current set of fantastic interns are coming to the end of their time with us, so we thought it would be a good idea for each of them to write a blog post giving an insight into the nitty gritty life of an RSC Marketing Intern. Intern? Our turn! comes from Eve Parker.

Eve Parker

I’m nearing the end of my internship with the Marketing Department here at the RSC and still busy as ever! For those that aren’t sure quite what marketing entails, you’d be surprised how much we do! Right now I am in the middle of updating our Pinterest site, sending off mail to our new RSC Key members, and writing an application for The Industry Wedding Awards. That, of course, is only one afternoon out of many over the course of my internship, and the experiences I have had have been varied. From the glamorous and exciting (think free lunches to ‘greet’ the new acting companies once they arrive in Stratford, or sneak previews of sets for upcoming shows featuring a certain Mr Tennant), to the everyday chores (rehanging 7ft posters in the freezing cold and rain, and LOTS of carrying boxes!) I’m constantly learning more about the department and the company in general.

The Marketing internship is great because you are in the office once a week for 6 months, meaning that you get to see how things run over a full season. There’s a certain thrill from seeing work you’ve done come to life. It was somewhat surreal to finally see the costumes worn by the actors onstage in ‘A Mad World My Masters’ after uploading the designs onto the website a few months previously!

As well as assisting with the day-to-day running of the department, each intern is given their own project to work on over the course of the internship. I am a bit of a wedding nerd so was handed over to Lucy our Hires Manager, and have had great fun helping her come up with new ways to promote our Wedding & Civil Ceremonies service. It was a complete pleasure and honour to then help out on a couple’s Big Day, you can definitely see all the hard work pay off!

I’ll be sad to end my time here in our Chapel Lane offices, but I’ve still got a lot to do before I’m done and I’ll be sure to make the most of it. For now though I’m back to my to-do list, and it seems that I can tick off job number 4: ‘Write Blog Post’!

Eve Parker

Thursday, 2 May 2013

As You Like It
Directed by Maria Aberg
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Until 28th September
Reviewed on the 18th April 2013 by Luke Taylor age 18

Wrestling, lust, music! What’s not to love about Aberg’s As You Like It. A performance abounding in naughty references, Shakespeare’s As You Like It does not disappoint. The RSC’s bravura performance questions As You Like It’s reputation of being an uncompleted version of 12TH Night.  Aberg successfully modernises the traditional comedy but still maintains the sexual ambiguity in a haughty rendition, which leaves the audience falling in love with the idyllic forest of Arden.
From the tragedy-esque beginning that leaves the audience on the edge of their seat to the perfect party ending, As You Like It fires on all cylinders. This capricious court features a monotonous heartbeat thumping as the gallant Orlando finds himself successfully beating the wrestler Charles. In comparison to the idyllic forest of Arden where liberation occurs as they ‘fleet the time carelessly’, and through all of this Aberg’s directing is unmistakably successful.  Her interpretation of the capricious court in which Rosalind and Celia find themselves creates unnerving tension as the stage lights create an emphatic effect. This effect is used throughout the court scenes and creates an unnerving aura, making the audience relate to the protagonist’s want to escape Duke Fredrick’s despot. Heroine Rosalind is then banished by Duke Fredrick but not before she has stolen Orlando’s heart in what the audience determines as love at first sight. Rosalind and Celia then go in disguises of Ganymede and Aliena, apt names for the sexual antics that take place in forest. Love struck Orlando then follows suit after agreeing to take perennial servant Adam along with him. It is at this point that the stage is transformed from the repressive court to the magical, idyllic forest of Arden, where characters experience liberation.
The staging really is very impressive as the audience find themselves in a hippy camp where characters in essence compete against nature for survival. Celia from here on in takes much more of a back seat which is a shame as her quirky nature evokes much laughter. Orlando and Rosalind are then reunited, however with Rosalind dressed as Ganymede, which results in Rosalind being able to test her lover through wit, wordplay and repartee. Through this relationship both characters explore sexuality with continuous support from the clown Touchstone, much to the amusement of the audience.  We are then introduced to varying amounts of mis fit characters that each experience their own trials in the forest. The play, with out spoiling too much, ends, as is typical of a comedy endings, happily.

A special mention must be made to the director of the music Laura Marling. While the set design is incredible, it is complemented by the songs, which heavily feature the play.  Other productions that I have watched have interrupted the songs in a very rustic way with a single acoustic guitar and a sombre voice. Marling completely reinvents this tradition by having a full folk-like band performing songs, which the audience can’t help but join in with.  Marling’s melodies instil this idyllic view of the forest and further this feel good vibe that makes the play so enjoyable.
To conclude if you would like an easy watch, where your not afraid to laugh at the numerous sexual innuendos, that ends on an uplifting, happy note I couldn’t recommend a better play. Aberg has done an excellent interpretation of a play that has the potential to be quite repetitive and therefore deserves to be extolled.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Winter’s Tale reminds us how much we need Theatre

The Winter's Tale
Directed by Lucy Bailey
On UK tour from 13 March - 20 April

Review by Jake McBride

Things have certainly been quite wintry for the Arts lately as the cuts continue to bite and theatres across the country lose out on funding. The gap between rich and poor looks as wide as ever and with the highs of 2012 over, there doesn’t seem to be as much to celebrate.

What better opportunity, then, but to sit back and bask in The Winter’s Tale, a play that reminds us just how much we need stories and theatre, even more so when times are tough. What the government perhaps doesn’t realise is that the harder the times are, we need theatre more than ever, not less, and Shakespeare’s play provides the perfect lesson in teaching us how art is equally capable of creating life, as life is of making art. Resolutely defying the realistic and all barriers of time, it takes us into a world of magic and romance, music and dance, thunderous oracles and stormy seas, sheep-shearing and man-eating bears. It broadly opens up the possibilities of theatre, and in turn, the possibilities of our imagination, offering us the chance to meet “with things newborn”.

Director Lucy Bailey certainly rises to that challenge with the RSC’s latest production. She is all too aware that The Winter’s Tale is exactly the sort of theatre that’s needed for hard times, grounding her production in two kingdoms that are separated primarily by class. Set in the 1860’s, the play begins with the rich Pre-Raphaelite Sicilia, before moving to a Bohemia as an industrial Lancashire sea resort sixteen years later. But the luxurious veneer of Sicilia is deceiving; it’s not long before the colourful and exotic rugs that had warmed the stage during the first act are swept away and a stark, distinctly chilling atmosphere pervades the theatre, particularly through the screen that acts as the visual backdrop of the set. Prisoners bound and gagged are thrown down along the gangways while an executioner stands ominously, sword in hand, at the centre of the stage. Leontes (played by Jo Stone-Fewings), struck seemingly from nowhere by a deep suspicion that his wife (Tara Fitzgerald) is having an affair with his friend Polixenes (Adam Levy), lets his jealousy turn him into a tyrant, destroying his closest relationships and the idyllic lifestyle they had built and shared together.

It’s not among the rich that happiness and a passion for life is to be found. The shepherds (or rather, fishermen, as they are here) of Bohemia don’t have much but they certainly make the most of it. The stage comes alive with Morris dancing, accordion-playing and Pearce Quigley as the pedlar Autolycus, swindling as many laughs from the audience through his dry delivery as he does purses from unsuspecting pockets. It’s a place free from the bitterness and envy of government, and even when Polixenes temporarily spoils the fun, it’s only after he has been pushed through a sewer and had his clothes soiled. The harsh realities of the world are never completely brushed to one side – the penitential figure of Leontes remains visible throughout, stuck at the top of a magnificent tower rising out of the stage, brilliantly designed by William Dudley. Yet the figure of Perdita (Emma Noakes) brings him back down to earth and reconciles both worlds, rich and poor, restoring warmth to what was cold before. The play ends by quite literally bringing art to life before our eyes, showing us humanity in all its fullness and how important it is that, unlike Leontes, we never lose sight of that.

Like the holidaying shepherds, the play offers only a brief respite from the pressures of work and reality, but it brings a ray of sunshine back into our everyday lives to help dispel the wintry gloom and offer hope of new things. Even at a time when little money is going around, Bailey’s production of The Winter’s Tale in particular shows us that it’s not money we need in order to have a good time and to tell a great story. All you have to do, as Paulina says, is “awake your faith” and be prepared to resolve yourself “For more amazement”.

The Winter's Tale is on UK tour from 13 March 2013

Photos courtesy of RSC, Sheila Burnett

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Life of Galileo
Bertolt Brecht, translated by Mark Ravenhill. 
Directed by Roxana Silbert 
Swan Theatre,
Until 30 March 2013
Reviewed on 13th February 2013 by Alice Leake age 24

A Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Mark Ravenhill.  Directed by Roxana Silbert at the RSC Swan Theatre, 13th February 2013.

The current RSC season takes a look at what else was going on in the world during Shakespeare’s lifetime, A Life of Galileo is the Italian input into this “World Elsewhere” theme. The play is in essence a debate between scientific logic and religious faith.  An enjoyable, light hearted and humorous script devised by Mark Ravenhill and Roxana Silbert’s lively direction have the audience captivated from the word go.  Galileo believes that fact based research and development is key to human advancement, whereas the church considers these issues less important than giving people a purpose in life, as faith does.  The church argues that science irresponsibly draws us away from humanity by quashing religions legitimacy, thereby leaving humans on a par with animals.  With debates on issues such as IVF, abortion and euthanasia constantly in and out of the headlines, this question of science’s social responsibility resonates with modern day audiences.  The majority of people in Britain accept that science is factual and those that are religious generally come to terms with this by marrying the two together.  However, in America there are still schools that teach religion in science lessons, so the idea “God created the world, Adam and Eve and everything we see” is readily received as fact.  A Life of Galileo dramatises this debate by focusing on Galileo’s struggle to publish work that would contradict biblical teachings on the cosmos.  After evading the church’s powerful autonomy for years, he is eventually branded a heretic, caught and forced to recant his findings.  This plot proves extremely interesting.  Viewing Galileo’s personal story gives the play depth and we learn about the origins of scientific theories we now take for granted.   

Mark Ravenhill has translated Brecht’s play wonderfully, it is witty and engaging and he has given director Roxana Silbert the means to create a production that feels fresh and playful.  The direction is full of contrasts that keep the audience on their toes - one moment involving them directly, the next leaving them a fly on the wall.  We get off to a brilliant start as actor Ian McDiarmid (Galileo) introduces the first scene through a large red microphone; his booming voice is accompanied by LED light strips that flash the key words above the stage and along the balconies, a real credit to lighting designer Rick Fisher.  This method of introducing new scenes was repeated by other members of the cast throughout the play and was crucial to the audiences understanding as the modern and abstract sets did little to convey a time and place.  However, this is not a criticism, designer Tom Scutt has done the production justice by allowing the audience room for imagination.  The visual impact of large sheets of bright blue graph paper cascading down from the orchestra balcony left a strong first impression on entering the theatre and his modern costumes complimented the show by helping the audience to keep the play’s contemporary connotations in mind. 

In terms of execution Jodie McNee (Galileo’s daughter) was excellent.  In the scene where she waited to hear if her father would recant, her frantic prayers had many of the audience fighting back tears.  Philip Whitchurch’s performance also stood out, his comic timing was superb as ever.  In one scene, Whitchurch compelled the audience to enjoy the surreal onslaught of a song that had the cast raucously stomping around the stage in bizarre makeup and costumes, bouncing on gym balls and wheeling hoola-hoops crying “who doesn’t want to be their own master”.   The real genius of this piece though, was the scintillating performance of Ian McDiarmid as Galileo.  At times he was full of dry wit, mischievous and petulant but as the play progressed and the church began to persecute Galileo, he showed a man whose spirit had been broken but not lost its rambunctious core.  I was deeply impressed by his surprising and charismatic performance, throughout the play he undulated with a turbulence of emotions that brought the character to life and enchanted the audience.  His acting actually over shadowed a few of the other performers who seemed a little over rehearsed in comparison.

However, overall this play really delivered.  The RSC have managed to create a Galileo that the audience can relate to, a thought provoking and touching interpretation that at times had the audience on the edge of their seat.  This, plus lashings of theatrics made for a deliciously entertaining show that should not be missed.  You can catch it in Stratford-Upon-Avon from now until the 30th March.