Theatre: PurpleCoat Productions’ Twelfth Night at Smock Alley, 2 September

From Smock Alley’s website:

Supported by Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and the RSC, Liverpool’s award winning PurpleCoat Productions bring Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on a whistlestop tour of the UK and Ireland.

Playing in 6 cities across 6 nights, Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s most bittersweet comedy; a tale of chasing hope and lost love, a hillarious and painful mix of holiday romance and drama.

With their usual eye for exhilarating, unique and innovative theatre, this critically aclaimed company are supported by some of the biggest names in the industry. Don’t miss the chance to see ‘one of the UK’s fastest rising ensembles’ on their first ever tour.

Review: Much Ado About Nothing at Kilkenny Arts Festival (Shakespeare’s Globe on tour)

Review by Deirdre Gallagher

To discover that the thing one has been most set against is actually the very thing one most desires is a dizzying shift of perspective which would challenge the most even-tempered. Admitting the revelation publicly is a feat requiring more than pluck. In this exuberant enactment of Shakespeare’s comedy of warring lovers, performed by the Shakespeare’s Globe on tour troupe using a booth stage in the outdoor space of Kilkenny’s Castle Yard, Simon Bubb’s Benedick and Emma Pallant’s Beatrice rise to the challenge and save face by means of their indomitable energy, wit and moral stature, as portrayed in this superb production.

For all the bantering humour and pleasing symmetries of the early scenes, and in spite of the happy outcome for all (except Don John), this is not, in fact, much ado about nothing. The marriages in Messina are a small, specific sample of something far more serious than the glib title asserts, and the Globe on tour production reflects this. The cheery tricks played on Benedick and Beatrice in the early scenes are presented with gusto as light-hearted counterfeits, revels created by friends purely for sport. The cast render them as so much innocent, harmless fun, and the audience willingly connives. The busy stage is full of movement and song, while hyperbolic gestures, grimaces, direct eye contact with the audience and high-pitched tones enhance the sense of rollicking good humour; all is merriment. Ours was a delighted audience, out to enjoy what seemed to be, above all, an entertainment. Yet there was more at play here, despite the smiling and joking.

The feigned conversations overheard by Beatrice and Benedick make ingenious use of props and the playing space itself. Benedick lolls comically behind a chair, moving it around the stage unseen by the tricksters as he listens, rapt, while they marvel at Beatrice’s fabricated declaration of love. He eventually upturns a cart of oranges in his shock, which spill out over the front of the stage: the calm certainty of the confirmed bachelor has been disturbed forever. ‘Is it possible?’ he repeats, but he has already swallowed the bait whole. For Beatrice’s parallel moment of false truth, she sits on the ground at the foot of the stage,  listening wide-eyed and open-mouthed, just steps from the front row; a line of washing separates her from the speakers, and as the clothes are hung water splashes about liberally, until finally the tub is emptied over her head and she is rendered briefly speechless. The gullibility of both characters is as striking as it is diverting, and yet the audience cannot but feel some unease.

After the interval, the mood deepens, becoming sober and restrained – and as daylight dims in the Castle Yard, the atmosphere darkens, the pretty wedding lights looking brave and delicate in the glooming. When Hero is grievously slandered, the language of lies and deceit suddenly resonates with a new foreboding. For while Beatrice can give as good as she gets (and more), Hero is helplessly abased: an object of scorn and shame, publicly humiliated and rejected. The language of lies is now laid bare as the insidious language of abused power, and a sense of injustice dominates. When Hero faints, the powerful men who believe the lies against her simply leave the stage, and the gravity and pathos of the scene puts the earlier clowning into uncomfortable perspective. Beatrice and Benedick’s compassion for Hero is portrayed convincingly, amplifying our sense of their moral strength. When Beatrice demands that Benedick kill Claudio in revenge there was a shout of laughter from the audience – a quick outburst which relieved the tension momentarily, reassuring viewers that this was, after all, a comedy.  But her next words hushed the audience at once; her passionate repeated wish, ‘O, that I were a man!’ made clear the power imbalance underpinning Hero’s ill-treatment.

The interplay between audience and cast throughout the production was a principal reason for its success. The ebullience of the audience was seized on and carried by the actors, who worked as if an organic whole, skilfully judging the mood and receptivity of the spectators, occasionally sidling up to those in the front row and even dancing briefly with one. Spontaneity, acute comic timing and a sense of impromptu interaction with the audience all made for a riveting theatrical experience. The actors, who are also accomplished musicians and singers, delivered their speeches, songs and music with seemingly equal ease, emitting jollity and merriment above all.

At the end of the play, Benedick, the married man, celebrates his new state wholeheartedly, even if he has had to go to ridiculous lengths to prove the rationale behind his volte-face – and this a man who is initially hurt when Beatrice refers to him as ‘the Prince’s jester’. He has proved his own assertion that ‘Man is a giddy creature’. Beatrice likewise embraces her transformation: ‘Farewell contempt and scorn, maiden pride adieu’. One may as well make the best of things, despite what went before. Ultimately, the subjective nature of human experience and human adaptability are amply expressed in this good-humoured, spirited, and beautifully choreographed production. The unsettling issues of  power and powerlessness, and the value of lies and deceit for good or ill do not evaporate completely but rather fade from view as the drama reaches its joyful resolution: ‘Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever.’

— Deirdre Gallagher

Theatre: Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC Live

Valentine and Proteus are best friends until they fall in love with the same girl.

Having travelled to Milan in search of adventure, they both fall for the Duke’s daughter Silvia. But Proteus is already sworn to his sweetheart Julia at home in Verona, and the Duke thinks Valentine is not good enough for his Silvia.

With friendship forgotten, the rivals’ affections quickly get out of hand as the four young lovers find themselves on a wild chase through the woods, confused by mistaken identity and threatened by fierce outlaws before they find a path to reconciliation.

Simon Godwin makes his RSC debut to direct Shakespeare’s exuberant romantic comedy. Simon is Associate Director of the Royal Court. His production of Strange Interlude recently played to critical acclaim at the National Theatre.

This is the first time in 45 years that The Two Gentlemen of Verona has been performed in full production on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.

Various cinemas, September 3rd, see link.

Conference: Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 29-30 August, NUI Maynooth

Registration is open for the conference until 25 August.

From the conference website:

The 4th Tudor and Stuart Ireland Conference will convene on29 & 30 August 2014 at the Iontas Building, North Campus, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Building upon the tremendous success of past conferences, this year’s programme boasts papers on a broad range of topics, and has drawn speakers from not only Ireland and the United Kingdom, but also from Europe and across the Atlantic.  Conference highlights include two plenary lectures, thirty research papers, and a tour of Maynooth Castle, with ample opportunity for more informal conversation throughout the two days.  Please see the links below to view the conference programme.

Plenary lectures will be given by Prof. Alan Ford, University of Nottingham, and Prof. John McCafferty, University College Dublin.

  • Prof. Alan Ford‘Love God and hate the Pope’:(un)changing Protestant attitudes towards Catholicism 1600-2000
  • Prof. John McCaffertyA single witness: Ireland and Europe through the eyes of a small man with a big nose

The conference dinner will be held on the evening of Friday, 29 August, at Picaderos, main street, Maynooth.  Dinner consists of three courses with wine/sangria/beer/soft drink on arrival, and tea or coffee with dessert.   The cost is €20, and can be booked during the registration process.  All are most welcome to attend.Please note that dinner availability is limited, and early booking is advised. 

Further information can be found by clicking on the links below.

Click here to proceed to online registration

Click here to view the conference programme

Click here to view the conference dinner menu

Click here for information on travel and accommodation

Click here to download the 2014 conference poster

Click here to download the 2014 conference flyer

The 4th Tudor & Stuart Ireland Conference is generously supported by Marsh’s Library, the Department of History, NUI Maynooth, Graduate Studies, NUI Maynooth, UCD Research, and the School of History and Archives, UCD.