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Forests - Birmingham Rep / Barbican


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#11 xanderl

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:45 PM

View Postigb, on 05 September 2012 - 10:01 PM, said:

"Contains nudity, violence and scenes of a sexual nature"

To quote Peter Cook - "I get enough of that sort of thing at home"
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage

#12 Reich

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 03:16 PM

bonkers but somehow I’m starting to warm to the idea and as it has Christopher Simpson in :D

Broadway has been very good to me. But then, I've been very good to broadway.


#13 igb

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 10:04 PM

Well, that was fascinating.  I can see why there have been no-star reviews, and I can see why there have been four-star reviews.  Unbeknownst to me, tonight included an after-show talkback session, which was fascinating, and gave me a chance to collect my thoughts a bit.  

The piece is a collection of speeches from Shakespeare's plays which might be vaguely connected to forests, and it would take John Barton to be able to quickly place them all.  As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Cymbeline, Henry V, Henry VI Part 3, Lear were amongst the bits I spotted, and I gather there's a lot of Timon of Athens which I don't know well enough to recognise.  There's no obvious through line to any of the "characters" or "plots", and I think it would be fair to say that it's an example of Walter Pater's belief that all art aspires to the condition of music: one of the cast afterwards described it as a symphony of text or words to that effect.  The set and some of the action invokes Beckett --- Godot, Krapp's Last Tape, Happy Days --- and you could certainly do a decent Godot using the sets and costumes.

There's some a lot of overt sexual material which feels rather dated, and might be more shocking in a post-Catholic country than in Birmingham.  That women can cut a dash in men's suits, and vice versa, is not a new observation, nor is the phallic nature of ties, bananas and appropriately draped belts.     There's a rather nasty rape, which I didn't think justified its presence, and there's a section in which people simulate suicide with plastic bags that I found quite disturbing.  And although I'm certainly not averse to seeing young ladies' knickers (very crisp white cotton ones) and bras (ditto), after a while the disrobing, of which there's quite a lot, started to seem rather forced.  If you thought that what the last RSC As You Like It needed was Katy Stephens and Maria Gale in their smalls rolling around in a tank of mud, you might well enjoy this.

However, there's a lot to praise.  For a start-off, although even I could spot some fairly fierce liberties with the texts, it's fantastically well spoken.  I expected Katy Stephens to be RSC-clear amongst the less experienced, but actually they're all excellent, and even the English stuff spoken by the Spanish actors wouldn't disgrace a major production.  George Costigan is someone I've never seen but is really, really impressive with the seven ages.  The music, even if at a few points it channels Diamanda Galas, is uniformly interesting, and well integrated into the speech.  The design is beautiful, with the rich loamy smell of the forest helped by stage full of rich loam.

I can see why people hated this: it's teetering between radical and pretentious, and you have to go with it in order to enjoy it.  And I think that some people would find the sexual aspects of, especially at one point, troubling or upsetting.  Some writers warn on their blogs of "triggers" --- references that will upset people who have had bad experiences.  Here rape, suicide, self-harm and sexual abuse are referred to without really being resolved, and I can imagine this being problematic for some.  But I really rather enjoyed it, and I think that anyone who is willing to listen to Shakespeare's text being radically re-purposed, but by a group of people who clearly care a great deal about the text, would enjoy it.

If, however, you think Shakespeare should be treated with respect and performed "as the author intended", and harumph about anything radical, foreign or post-modern, then you should stay a million miles away.  You'll hate it.

#14 Lynette

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 12:35 PM

Love this review, spesh the ref to Birmingham, igb.

#15 igb

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 02:25 PM

This is a much better, and much more knowledgeable, review than I could possibly write: http://postcardsgods...birmingham.html

It's pretty much in accordance with my view, 48 hours on.

#16 xanderl

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 07:21 AM

The Barbican run is next week - anyone going?
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage




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