Posts Tagged ‘ Tobacco Factory Theatre ’

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Tobacco Factory Theatre: review

4 stars

What if there were no magic potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What if your best friend fell for your girl and no enchanted flower could lift the spell? That is the premise of Shakespeare’s rarely performed comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona. And this is the play that director Andrew Hilton and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory have chosen to stage in rep with their recent Richard III…

Read the rest of my review of this production in The Independent here

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Review: Richard III, Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

★★★★

From a public relations point of view, Richard III is very much “on trend”. It was only earlier this month that a skeleton discovered in a car park in Leicester was confirmed to be that of the 15th-century king. And thanks to Hilary Mantel’s double-Booker-winning series about the reign of Henry VIII, the UK has become a country of historians.

So the director of this Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, Andrew Hilton, is wise to dress his actors in Tudor costume. It gives the production something of a Wolf Hall feel to it.

John Mackay takes on the central role, and in his hands the murderous upstart king becomes something altogether more interesting: we get the sense that he doesn’t take anything seriously. He has realised the essential pointlessness of life and has decided, therefore, to have his fun.

In the famous opening ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ speech there’s a new cynicism. Gone is the wounded ambition: it’s replaced by a superiority which laughs at the value the world places on ‘victorious wreaths’. He is a gambling king who measures up the challenge of chatting up the woman whose husband he has killed – and likes the odds. He lists his achievements and taunts the incredulous audience with the question ‘can I do this and not get a crown?’

Between them, Hilton and Mackay squeeze every drop of comedy out of this play – and it turns out there are plenty of laughs. Mackay’s Richard is impish: he peers into a bag he’s been handed with the head of the courtier Hastings inside – ‘Good morning, Hastings!’ he trills and as he slopes off stage he makes as if to throw the bag into the audience. After seducing Anne he turns – incredulous at his success to ask ‘Was ever woman in this humour won?’. Like all the best evil characters, Mackay’s Richard is a joy to watch.

All of which rather drowns out the rest of this very strong cast. Alan Coveney is affecting as the over-trusting Hastings, Paul Currier proves a slippery Duke of Buckingham and Dorothea Myer-Bennett manages to make Anne – who marries Richard – not only sympathetic but empathetic. The women in this production are not won over by Richard, they are not dazzled by his word-wizardry, rather they are psychologically beaten in to submission, forced into a corner and made to believe he is their only way out.

But even this cast cannot disguise the fact that Shakespeare’s play may as well be a one-man show – which is both its strength and its weakness. Richard is one of Shakespeare’s most vividly painted characters, a cartoonish devil wreaking havoc on England. But to allow this character the space he needs to strut and fret, the supporting cast are reduced to Richard’s play things. Hilton has created an elegant, deftly handled production of one of Shakespeare’s more flawed plays. But this is not a stripped-down portrayal of an enigmatic king: for that you’ll need to go to Leicester.

Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ is at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre until 30 March

King Lear, Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol: review

4 stars

An old man sits on the ground, his feet clapped in stocks. But he doesn’t much want rescuing – in fact, he could do with the sit down.

Welcome to the bleak, comic world of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Andrew Hilton’s new production at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory takes a while to warm up, but once in its stride, this is a Lear that appals, shocks and saddens – just as it should…

Read the rest of my review of this production on The Independent’s website here

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