Patrick Carnegy

David Tennant plays Richard II like a casual hippie

Gregory Doran, now in command at Stratford in succession to Sir Michael Boyd, launches his regime with Richard II, intending to stage the complete Shakespearean canon over the next six years, ‘making every play an event’. What’s really good is that the plays will also be seen on tour, in London, online and ‘live on

Mark Ravenhill’s take on Voltaire’s Candide

Ah yes, Candide, the adventures of an innocent abroad in ‘the best of all possible worlds’, as philosophers of the 18th century liked to insist. Voltaire’s satirical demolition of the higher nonsense of his age, and of the powers of Church and state who propped themselves up with it. A novel of 1759 written, at

Jonathan Slinger’s Hamlet

In his ‘Love Song’, T.S. Eliot’s ageing bank-clerk J. Alfred Prufrock protests he isn’t ‘Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be…’. David Farr’s new production sets out to put this to rights. The result is indeed a very strange affair. It is built around Jonathan Slinger, who last season starred memorably as Prospero in The

Moving heaven and earth

Although I’ve some doubt — and this would be applauded by Galileo — whether in everyday life it matters very much to know whether the sun goes round the earth or vice versa, I don’t for one minute doubt that the great physicist’s conflict with Mother Church mattered profoundly and resonates to this day. To

Boris unmasked

It’s extraordinary how many works have been upstaged by the operas based upon them. Of none is this truer than those of Pushkin, whom the Russians regard as highly as we do Shakespeare or the Germans Goethe. Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades are known to most of us primarily from Tchaikovsky’s operas, and

Vengeance, at a price

Where have you been all my life, Orphan of Zhao? Come to think of it, where has any Chinese theatre been? Bang up to the minute, the RSC’s new artistic director, Gregory Doran, launched his regime with the so-called (actually, badly called) ‘Chinese Hamlet’ on the very day that President Hu Jintao, dwarfed by a

John Bull versus Hiawatha

Written soon after Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida is by a long chalk Shakespeare’s most unpleasant play. With a pox-ridden Pandarus and the filthy-minded nihilist Thersites as our guides to one of the least savoury episodes in the Trojan war, Shakespeare probes the cesspit of human nature. It’s an exploration of a farthest frontier from which

This troubled throne of kings

The jewel in the crown of Sir Michael Boyd’s decade as director of the Royal Shakespeare Company was his 2007–8 staging of the major Shakespeare Histories from Richard II, through Henry IV, V and VI, to Richard III. For a short, alas too short, period, the entire sequence of eight plays could be seen over

Friends, Romans, Africans

There’s an honourable track record of versions of Shakespeare’s play presenting Julius Caesar as a dictatorial monster of modern times. In 1937 Orson Welles (playing Brutus) cast Caesar as Mussolini and staged many scenes like Nazi rallies. Despite a curmudgeonly critic dismissing the conspirators as looking like ‘a committee from a taxi-driver’s union’, the show

Water works | 3 May 2012

My colleague Lloyd Evans had much fun a couple of weeks ago playing the curmudgeon with the Cultural Olympiad. Alas poor Bard, he quipped, ‘press-ganged’ into the World Shakespeare Festival. And it sounds as though Lloyd will be running for his life, especially from the Bankside-based Globe to Globe project in which all 37 plays

Songbird in a gilded cage

Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz is accounted the most considerable literary figure in 17th-century Latin America. I’m happy to take this on trust, remembering with great pleasure her comedy The House of Desires, a palpable hit when given in 2004 as part of the RSC’s still memorable festival of plays from the Spanish Golden

All the world’s a bed

While it appears good sense to ask a woman director to grapple with the seemingly misogynistic Taming of the Shrew, there’s a serious snag. For as Gale Edwards remarked apropos her 1995 RSC production, any woman director ‘might as well get a loaded shotgun and put it against her temple’ because half the critics will

Conjuring with morality

You can see why Harold Bloom, in his marvellous book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, should have called Measure for Measure one of Shakespeare’s most ‘rancid’ plays. But it’s also one that he greatly admired, though it takes a good production like Roxana Silbert’s new one at Stratford to show you just why. Bloom’s

Bishops and ploughboys

The delectable drama student who served dinner beforehand in the Rooftop Restaurant told us she’d much enjoyed Written on the Heart but that it was a bit intellectual. As David Edgar’s new play is about the making of the King James Bible, this wasn’t altogether surprising. How do you make a play about the deliberations


Peter Brook’s 1964 staging of Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade for the RSC was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life as a young journalist. The magnificently titled Persecution and Assassination of Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade was a knockout. With

Power games in Stratford

There’s something decidedly odd in being part of a largely grey-haired audience sitting respectfully through a play about the discomforts of a cantankerous old butcher’s ménage consisting of a chauffeur, pimp, demolition worker and, ah yes, a professor of philosophy incomprehensibly returning from his American campus to the bosom of his dysfunctional family. This revival

Faites vos jeux

A short while ago Rupert Goold transplanted Prospero’s isle to an Arctic ice floe. A short while ago Rupert Goold transplanted Prospero’s isle to an Arctic ice floe. His latest hazard as theatrical travel agent is to whisk Antonio and Shylock off to Las Vegas. The hurly-burly of a modern casino turns out to be

Double toil and trouble

‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to Cardenio. The play appears to have been lost in the Globe fire of 1613, but why should the RSC’s chief associate director have wanted to ‘re-imagine’ and stage it as the inaugural production in the refurbished Swan? ‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to