Archiv der Kategorie: Old Vic

Forever Young

Conor McPherson (Music & Lyrics by Bob Dylan): Girl from the North Country, The Old Vic, London (Director: Conor McPherson)

By Sascha Krieger

It’s probably the kind of phone call you never expect getting even when you’ve been an accomplished playwright for the better part of 20 years. When the record company of the most celebrated songwriter of the 20th century call, a man, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, a cultural icon, the stuff of legends and myths, appropriated or rejected by pretty much every social and cultural movement of the past 50 years, when they ask you if you’d be interested in using the man’s songs in an original play, what do you say? The initial response of Conor McPherson, a son of Dublin, Ireland, was no. Then he thought about it. And thought some more. And now, some four years later, the Girt from the North Country has been born on the stage of the Old Vic. So what’s to expect from a show built around Dylan’s prolific songbook? A musical weaving a this story around them to make them shine, Mamma-Mia-style? A glorified greatest hits concert with a bit of drama added to justify the ticket price? An attempt to filter a story out of the songs that tries to go beyond them but will always take second place? The answer is: none of the above. Girl from the North Country is a masterful play in its own right, conversing with the Minnesota bard’s music not being subservient to them, a symbiosis of play and songs, of words and music that turns out to be a lot more than the sum of its parts.

The Old Vic (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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Playing Death

Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Old Vic, London (Director: David Leveaux)

By Sascha Krieger

At the end, there is a familiar display: a pile of bodies covering the stage, a king, a queen, a prince, all slain, lamented, mourned. It’s the end of Hamlet, a royal family all wiped out, a Norwegian prince vowing to remember them an d to restore the realm’s greatness in their name. However, as any student of history knows: for every „great person“ mourned, there are hundreds, thousands discarded. Nameless, faceless victims who do not count or matter and never have. The waste of human ambition, thrown on history’s garbage heap. William Shakespeare knew about this and yet, he did play this game, too. His nameless masses, sacrificed without hesitation to advance once objectives, are named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. At the end of David Leveaux‘ production, they are missing from the elaborate tableau of carnage. They die off stage in Hamlet  and they do so here. Just before the final image, they have their lights turned off, literally. Footnotes, material to be dispensed with.

The Old Vic (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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It’s a Man’s World

London theatre trip (4): William Shakespeare: King Lear, The Old Vic, London (Director: Deborah Warner)

By Sascha Krieger

„I think I know the trick of that voice“. Gloucester’s words will echo in many spectators‘ ears when they watch this production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. For 25 years, this voice was heard on a different stage. In 1992, Glenda Jackson ended her acting career to become a Labour member of parliament. Now, after many political battles fought, won and lost, the two-time Academy Award winner has returned to her first love. And how appropriate that it would be in King Lear: Firstly, like her character she cannot give up what and who she is. She has to go on, she has to, to paraphrase Beckett, try and fail and try again and fail better. Secondly, she has been a fierce fighter for female equality, a practical feminist on stage and screen as well as in politics. Playing a gender-bending Lear is a logical move, too. And thirdly, age: Lear is the personification of old age, discarded, underestimated, deemed useless. He goes mad – or pretends to – when he is no longer needed, his „madness“ being the final act of rebellion and self-assertion. Jackson is in her 80s, her frame seems frail but when she speaks, the sharpness in her voice, the acerbic wit, the relentless energy is still there. If anyone can take on this role of defiant old age, it’s her.

Image: Sascha Krieger

Image: Sascha Krieger

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Once upon a time: Notes from the London stage

William Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, The Old Vic, London (Director: Mark Rylance) / Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson: The Light Princess, National Theatre/Lyttelton Theatre, London (Director: Marianne Elliott)

By Sascha Krieger

Let us start with an apology: Yes, London is one of the, if not the leading theatre capital in Europe, a city full of stages as rich in tradition as they are in variation. There is little not to be found in Britain’s capital, so if the following two reviews are little more than underwhelming, this is more to do with this reviewers poor choice in current productions than with the overall quality of London’s theatre offerings. But alas, truth must be told and it is a matter of fact that not all is well on the London stage and two productions very different in nature must serve as witnesses: one a rather uninspired new take on one of Shakespeare’s more popular comedies, the other a musical that might not be remembered – or running, for that matter – for very long.

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William Shakespeare: Richard III, The Old Vic, London (Director: Sam Mendes)

When Kevin Spacey, Academy Award winning actor and artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre, and Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes teamed up two years ago to launch the Bridge Project – bringing together talent from the UK and America and performing both at the Old Vic and in New York City – it was clear that Spacey would star in the project’s final production. There is no surprise in it being a Shakespeare play – 4 of the five Bridge productions have featured plays by the bard from Stratford. So, looking for a role for Spacey to play, Richard III was an obvious choice. It is one of the role great actors have to play at some stage and has even gained in stature through big screen performances by the likes of Al Pacino and Sir Ian McKellen in recent years. So Spacey is Richard, complete with hunchback and crippled limbs, ready to strike, overwhelm and snare the audience.

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William Shakespeare: The Tempest, The Old Vic, London (Director: Sam Mendes)

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players

These famous words from As You Like It seem programmatic for Sam Mendes‘ production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which was one of two plays in this year’s Bridge Project at the Old Vic, the other being – As You Like It. The choice reveals Mendes‘ fascination with those enigmatic, fragile and dark late (tragi)comedies – last year’s debut season featured a dark and beautifilly poetic A Winter’s Tale.

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