Tag Archive | "Adrian Noble"

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Review: The School for Scandal

Posted on 12 July 2012 by Edward Franklin

The contemporary theatrical climate poses a threat to playwrights such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan. His works concern themselves with artifice, gossip and profligacy; The School for Scandal specifically details the problematic marriage of the elderly Sir Peter Teazle and a young gold-digger, as well as a contest for love and legacy fought between the slickly hypocritical Joseph Surface and his roguish spendthrift of a brother, Charles. Synopsised in a certain way and you’d never guess the play was written 235 years ago, but it was, and the danger in a time when interpretation and update are seen as vital to box office success is that the eighteenth-century origins of the piece may be disregarded, and the opportunity for audiences to subtly draw out parallels rather than being brazenly confronted with them, destroyed.

Luckily, then, young and innovative a director though Jamie Lloyd is, his Scandal – the opening production of Theatre Royal Bath’s first summer season since 2002 without the legendary Peter Hall at the helm – is an exemplar of well-researched period gaiety. He and his production team have clearly recognised that the brilliance of the play lies in Sheridan’s linguistic dexterity, and work to give it all the space it needs to breathe. Central to this approach is Soutra Gilmour’s white-washed set: simple and stylish, but flexible enough to capture the distinct atmosphere of multiple homes. With wall panels that rotate from portraits into bookcases, and a panelled room divider which shutters open to reveal a balcony, a back room or an upstairs landing, the design also gives Lloyd full reign to demonstrate his choreographic knack for managing stage business, with a bustling ensemble facilitating scene changes with the same effortless elegance as they did in his She Stoops to Conquer earlier this year.

As with that production, the cast is not-quite-universally stellar. It is James Laurenson who lets the side down here, robbing Sir Peter of his near-unassailable sardonicism, with a strangely stolid, low-key performance. Other performers have yet to fully settle into the rhythm of the play, with its frequent ‘raised-eyebrow’ asides, but are nevertheless adept at providing the laughs by way of relishing each line of tongue-waggingly salacious dialogue they are tasked with delivering – none more so than Edward Bennett, whose unravelling in the famous concealment scene is a study in comic mania. There’s a scene-stealing turn, too, from Maggie Steed, whose Mrs Candour – the most consummately indiscreet of the play’s gossips – spreads her malicious tittle-tattle in a breathless simper as false as her wig.

In the end, as it should be, the play is the star, and Sheridan’s epigrammatic wit and tongue-in-cheek moralism prove more than robust enough to translate through time without any gaudy directorial conceits imposed upon them. It would be perfectly fair to note that this is far from a brave choice for Bath, and given that its season continues with Terry Johnson’s Hysteria starring Anthony Sher, and The Tempest directed by former RSC head Adrian Noble, that doesn’t look set to change. But with the risk-taking Ustinov Studio just next door, it’s a comment which seems more-or-less irrelevant; classics such as these still deserve to be seen – and if the productions they receive are as elegant as Lloyd’s, and as the Theatre Royal where they are to be staged, there’ll be no complaints from me.

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Review: Hedda Gabler

Posted on 18 March 2010 by A Younger Theatre

Hedda Gabler at the Richmond Theatre is a poignant piece. One of Henrik Ibsen’s finest and most celebrated works, it depicts the crowded and claustrophobic life of the once Hedda Gabler, the now married Hedda Tesman.

Ibsen’s work has stood defiantly against the test of time, and in this production directed by Adrian Noble, it shows that Hedda Gabler is still standing strong. Nobel’s production is simple in it’s naturalistic form, yet the characters he has manipulated show a much more complex system at work.

Rosamund Pike takes centre stage as Hedda, who is truly fantastic. As the play draws its path through the events surrounding Hedda, Pike twists and turns the character, sparing fleeting moments on tenderness, anger, oppression and defiance. By the end of the play it is as if Pike wants to tear off her corset and break free of her restraints, to burst out of the drawing room to which she has been imprisoned. Of course anyone who knows the play will know how she finally escapes – but even this inevitable outcome left me somewhat surprised.

Whilst Nobel’s direction is naturalistic it is the subtle character traits that he has assigned to the actors that leave you with a slight edge.

Pike drifts around the stage as if automated, then suddenly she drops to a sofa, lays out, strewn in despair – in boredom, before jumping up and proceeding her solemn walking.

Robert Glenister as Tesman has a repeated hand gesture, and eludes a sense of child naivety about him, whilst Tim McInnerny as Judge Black is stern, slightly camp and a joy to watch.

Mention has to be made of Zoe Waites as Mrs Elvstead who for me, was truly remarkable. She was every bit of how I see the character, and not for a moment did she stray beyond my expectations. A fine example of acting that doesn’t become a  farce nor melodramatic, but rather blooming marvellous. (Watch out for Zoe Waites, she is certainly one to keep an eye on).

As a whole Hedda Gabler sits between being not quite spectacular, and neither  falling into average theatre. It is funny, charming, slightly shocking and works beautifully on the stage of the historic Richmond Theatre. Nobel has managed to make the most of Ibsen’s text, drawing the audience slowly in with subtle advances, whilst exploring the characters and producing a quality piece of theatre.

On a production side both Anthony Wards scenic design and Mark Hendersons lighting design are quite simply flawless. They work in completely harmony with Nobels direction working particularly well on drawing out a sense of oppression and madness of Hedda Gabler as a character through the darkened lighting of Henderson.

The only form of criticism I can give to this production is the length of the scene changes, something just didn’t quite fit right with them. I wanted the action to be worked through, instead of having to pause. Alas, a small price to pay for a brilliant night out!

Hedda Gabler is at the Richmond Theatre until 20th March. For more information on this Theatre Royal Bath Production or for it’s run at the Richmond Theatre see the theatres website here.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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