Rsc Much Ado About Nothing With Meera SyalStratford Courtyard Theatre
Posted 31 July 2012 - 05:56 AM
A decent adaptation of the Shakespeare classic that was a very enjoyable evening.
Posted 31 July 2012 - 06:00 PM
The overall set looks very good. Theres a house at the back with some nicely detailed Indian architecture. A balcony and a set of stairs are connected to the theatre's balconies so there will be some neat entrances and exits. The stage floor is basically tiled and there is also a bare tree in front of the house, with ropes draping around the branches. The Courtyard has also been done up like a street in Dubai, with painted walls and floor, some objects that reflects India, and some bicycles are hung from the ceiling.
We were given some interesting infomation about how the production came about. When it was first brought to her, Meera Syal (Beatrice) at first wanted to do the Taming of the Shrew, though the play was already going to be performed this year. Director Iqbal Khan was hesitant to do Much Ado in an Indian setting and therefore did not want to do it in a historical setting. It must give a raw, lurid, contemporary and authentic commentry. He prefers productions to resonate rather than be totally aesthetic, or even topical over such matters as the male character's military background The experience of the audience was therefore more imporant than Shakespeare himself
When casting the production Iqbal preferred to find interesting people rather than have an idea of who the characters should be. He allowed the actors to be honest about any fear (It is Meera's first RSC production) , and he wanted them to challenge the concepts that the RSC, and even he himself, may have.
He gave some interpretations on Benedict, and the marriage. He saw Benedict to have been defined by his military career and wit yet is inexperienced infront of women, which Beatrice punishes him for it. The marriage will apparently be shown as a public one. He saw a public marriage when he went to India for research, which seemed kitchy, vibrant, vulgar, and generous (something which he sees Shakespeare as). The fact that Hero's marriage would be public would make the humiliation an even harder blow for her.
His approach to Shakespeare's text was not to ammend or cut it, unless it was absolutely necessary. He has in fact done a four hour Othello and Hamlet before. Apparently two scenes were cut into each other and adjustments were made nearer the time of the previews.
I will post a review by tomorrow
Posted 31 July 2012 - 08:12 PM
Been some spoiler alerts out and about recently, was very worried I may ruin someone's evening. Wouldn't dared to write as much as David's pre-review review.
I echo David's comments about the play. Text is very traditional and pretty true to the original but set in an Indian setting with the odd dance. (Meera Syal is not a mover and her dancing formed some of my funniest moments). Gets a solid four stars from me.
Posted 31 July 2012 - 11:37 PM
Posted 01 August 2012 - 07:57 AM
Posted 01 August 2012 - 05:30 PM
I would like to point out that this was the first time I had seen a professional production of Much Ado About Nothing. I have only seen an outdoor theatre production by the all male Festival Players Company.
If I would rank this against the authentic African Julius Caesar, and Rupert Gould's stylish The Merchant of "Las Vegas" then I would put this production in between. The production does very well in establishing an authentic Much Ado that is set in India. For instance before the production even starts the cast was out on the stage taking down a large piece of awning that was hanging above the stage (possibly a relief for those in the upper balconies), whilst conversing between each other as the sounds of an Indian city goes on around them. The public wedding was certainly quite effective; The cast got certain members of the audience to sit on the stage and the humiliation was quite painful to watch (in a good way)
The production did not become stylish unless it is necessary. During such moments like the party and wedding scenes, the stage became awash with colour, a band at the back of the stage played some fantastic pieces of Indian music, and occasionally the cast would start a vibrant dance sequence. There were occassions however when certain characters would sing a song and the colourful lighting would come up, to which I wondered whether that was necessary for such a simple scene. Maybe it is a Indian dramatic device.
Meera Syal was a firm Beatrice who spoke the witty lines with feistiness. Paul Bhattacharjee's Benedick puffed up with pride yet loses his nerve after Beatrice insults him during the party. After listening to Claudio and Don Pedro play a trick on him he starts to lighten up, gives big gestures and his voice wavers on a high pitch at times. During the trick scene it was very nice to watch him climb the tree and appear on the roof without being noticed. On the other hand Beatrice's trick scene was an odd one, during which Hero stood off stage and conversed with Ursula onstage via mobile phone, during which Beatrice appeared to Ursula to closely listen in on the conversation.
Amara Karan portrayed Hero as an indulgent daughter, making her childlike and playful to watch. Sagar Arya was at first a nervous Claudio but resolutely announced Hero's dishonesty to everyone. The watch overreacted to every command made by Dogberry and every sound they heared whilst on guard. If there was one performance I did not like it would be Gary Pillai as Don John. I do not expect Don John to come on twirling a moustache and announcing that he was the villain, but this actor’s performance could have been anybody.
During the whole production the cast managed to provide some interesting moments. The best example would be the girl that is sent by Benedick to bring his book to the Orchard, who is given an extended role during the trick scene. At times, the cast would break the fourth wall and act directly to the audience. There was even an incident when the aforementioned awning was being taken down, during which one of the cables swung around and brushed against an audience member, to which an actor shouted to the person in charge of the cable to stop hitting the audience.
This Indian production was both well done and very entertaining. The actors put together some interesting moments whilst making every effort to establish an authentic Indian Much Ado About Nothing. They occasionally interacted with the audience and performed some vibrant dance sequences and songs. This is worth a Low Full Price
Low Full Price
My full review can be seen at http://shallicompare...ing-review.html
Posted 02 August 2012 - 01:59 AM
At the moment it feels like a 4-star show in the making. It feels a bit tentative at the moment - more line slips than I am used to a the RSC - and certainly at close to 3 hours 15 over-long.
I suspect it is a production that could have benefitted from another week before press night - but given the timetable that probably wasn't possible.
Let's see how I feel about it in the morning !
Posted 29 August 2012 - 06:55 PM
I thought it was OK. The basic conceit seems to just about work, but there's been a fair amount of tinkering with lines in order to make the setting match the language, which I'm not sure is a good idea. Some of the cast are clearly not at home with the language --- clarity is certainly a problem --- and some of the scenes which hinge on the rapid interplay between speakers fall a bit flat. And even with the speeding up, the first half felt quite long. There's the whole "cast on stage as you enter, improvising and interacting with the audience" thing going on, which I don't like.
But there's also a lot of things to like. Meera Syal and Paul Bhattacharjee are really good as Beatrice and Benedick, and their being substantially older than Hero (a really feisty performance by Amara Karan) and Claudio (Sagar Arya) made their relationship very believable. The Tom Piper set is lovely, and takes advantage of having the Courtyard dedicated to the performance: the front edge of the stage has been changed into steps (and, in passing, coming back to the Courtyard after a couple of years reminded me just how good it is). There's a big reveal toward the end of the second act which opens the stage up a lot, and the production seems to open up with it. Rather than a fine stream of sand or feathers, plumbing has been installed to provide full-on rain, complete with drainage around the thrust: very impressive. And the music is good, if a little loud.
I think this is a classic three-star, "satisfactory with good features" production. There's nothing wrong with it, per se, and at times it's much better than OK. But it never quite catches fire, and at times it feels a bit laboured. Everyone involved has done good work, but the production is rather less than the sum of its parts. Sadly, the lack of clarity means it's not a good production for people who aren't familiar with the text, which given it was trailed as a summer, implicitly family, production is something of a shame.
But there's one factor which means that it's all perfectly justified. It's a major concern that Stratford's audience looks nothing like the West Midlands, and some more diversity in the audience was very welcome.
Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:55 AM
This is a lovely way of completing the life of the Courtyard Theatre. The production just owns the theatre, with no silly forced tricks. I felt so sad as I departed, knowing I'd never experience it again.
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