Sunday, October 21, 2007

Need Theatre, urgently

Well, that was obviously what was going on in the subconscious yesterday. Had been thinking, on and off for several weeks, that I must ring Amanda about going to Henry V at the Exchange. Had a quick check yesterday morning to see how long it runs for - eep! ends now! Luckily, Amanda was free to meet up for my impromptu transpennine dash to get a Shakespeare fix.

So, last night found us at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, which is one of my favourite spaces ever, for a modern dress production of Henry V, directed by Jonathan Munby, with Elliot Cowan as Henry. The set was a bare metallic grid, raised a foot or so from the floor (good decision not to go for banquette seats), with two main entrances facing each other across the space, which is totally in the round. I really like bare staging and plain dress for Shakespeare, because it means the focus is on the words, not the surrounding fripperies. But what I loved about last night's production is the way they used a plain metal grid to be everything from a royal court to a battleground - it rose at one end to make a ramp for "Once more unto the breach" and the seige of Harfleur, was pulled up fully to make a rain-sodden camp, and had a fire in the centre for the "little touch of Harry in the night" scenes. Brilliant design by Mike Britton, who made something so simple add enormously to the production. Elliot Cowan was excellent as Henry V, a King who grows into his role as the play progresses despite his initial doubts; he does the stirring stuff fantastically well, the St Crispin's Day speech in particular, but also is sweetly funny and endearing in the wooing scene, where soldier Harry attempts to convince French princess Katherine that he is worthy of her love.

There are really only two big roles in Henry V, Henry himself and Chorus; the rest are a bit of a muddle of Lords, Dukes, peasants and French royalty, so it stands or falls on those two. I didn't particularly like Chorus last night, he didn't have much subtlety, but Elliot Cowan more than made up for him. It really was a fabulous performance - hopefully the MEN awards will recognise him in due course. Well worth the dash for a Shakespeare fix.

And the next twelve months is shaping up to be wonderfully Shakespearean - I have tickets for Othello at the Donmar with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ewan McGregor, directed by Michael Grandage (if you want to go (and if not, why not?) you'll have to queue for day tickets, its sold out), plus tickets for Dr Who vs Star Trek, oops, I mean the David Tennant/Patrick Stewart Hamlet at the RSC, plus Mr Tennant in Love's Labours Lost; plus tickets for the Glorious Moment - 8 history plays in the right order, over 4 days (A's view - "it may be heaven for you, but for most people that would be torture" - I confess, I'm a little unusual, 8 plays in 4 days is heaven for me). Am also looking forward to a "Donmar in the West End" Hamlet with Jude Law as Hamlet directed by Kenneth Branagh. 2008 is going to be a spectacularly Shakespearean year. Hoorah!
And in totally different mode, Nina and I saw "Ratatouille" this week, and both loved it (ooh hang on while the earth does a small wobble). The story is daft but is so lovely that really you don't care. The animation is up to Pixar's best, and the characters transcend the nonsense of the story. It's charming, and endearing, and funny. And best of all, it says that we should care about food, about how it tastes, how it's cooked, that loving food is a good thing, and that junk food is called junk food for a reason - because it's garbage. If you're going to eat, eat something good, and savour it, with good company. Go Pixar, and go Ratatouille (even with the idiot's guide to pronunciation)


Anonymous haze said...

I absolutely loved Henry V, was blown away by it's muscularity and the power of such a simple set. It helped too that Elliot Cowan was fab and I knew one of the cast. So good I went twice! I was going to see if you and Amanda had seen it! lucky you for getting tickets to see Ewan, i tried and tried and wasn't lucky (note to self, i must remember to join Donmar mailing list/friend thingy in future! :-) )
Hope to catch up soon. x

12:13 am  
Anonymous haze said...

On the "need theatre" theme and seeing loads of shows, I've managed to see 8 shows in 9 days. As A says torture for some, heaven for others.
haze x
PS how are the chickens?

12:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last minute Saturday Shakespeare fix was a Very Good Idea! I loved it and it filled a gaping (and slightly embarrasing) hole in my theatre experience. Must see Richards 2 and 3 ...

5:58 pm  
Blogger Stacie said...

Sounds like an excellent theatre fix!

PS-How are the chickens?

6:28 pm  
Blogger Viv said...

Sounds an excellent production! And a fantastic idea too. :)
Must remember to check what is on here...

11:20 am  

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