Review: King Lear

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There is a history of women playing classic male Shakespearean roles; in the past few years, parts stretching from Hamlet and Julius Caesar to Prospero and Richard III have been taken on by a range of actresses at British theatres, from Maxine Peake at the Manchester Royal Exchange to Harriet Walter for the Donmar Warehouse. The part of King Lear, however, has remained almost resolutely male.

There are exceptions, of course. In 1990, an 80-year-old Marianne Hope played Lear in a production directed by Robert Wilson. Kathryn Hunter took on the role in 1997, earning mixed reviews for her portrayal. Yet, despite these notable performances, the concept is still treated as a novelty at best, and an ‘absurdity’ (as Hope herself pointed out) at worst. Glenda Jackson’s appearance in the role for Deborah Warner’s new production for the Old Vic, then, is doubly remarkable; not only is Jackson adding her name to the female Lear canon, but the production is the actress and politician’s first stage role in 25 years. As a result, Jackson’s casting has generated some serious theatrical buzz, with all eyes on her to see how she handles the quintessential older male role. As soon as Jackson strides onto the stage, however, voice cracking like a whip as she calls her daughters to order, the casting choice seems anything but absurd.

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Review: Yerma

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I recently saw Yerma at the Young Vic, directed by Simon Stone. I’m a little late with this review (the play has been running since late July and recently closed) but it had a significant impact on me, and I wanted to share my thoughts nonetheless.

As Spanish speaker, I was nervous. Lorca is notoriously difficult to translate. His texts are rich with strong imagery and cultural resonances, and the rhythm of the lines heightens the emotional intensity of the language. His plays are beautiful to read aloud in Spanish; even if you can’t understand the words, meaning is conveyed through the flow of consonants.

I needn’t have worried; watching Yerma, I was thrown straight into the world of the play. Despite being written and set in Catholic Spain in the 1930s, it felt unnervingly fresh and relevant.

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Review: Richard III

Ralph-Fiennes Richard III

Photo by Miles Aldridge

I have never devoted much time to Shakespeare’s history plays. When given the choice between the Bard’s real and fictional kings, I instinctively opt for the latter. Yet, despite my broader reservations, Richard III has always intrigued me; the first time I read the play, his curved back, seductive rhetoric and malevolent deeds captured the darkest recesses of my imagination. Naturally, then, when the Almeida announced their prestigious new production, with Ralph Fiennes in the title role, I happily spent a lengthy period on hold with the box office, desperate to secure a ticket. Thanks to their Under 25s scheme, I got lucky.

It takes a remarkable production to make three and a half hours of classical theatre feel like half that time. Fortunately, that’s exactly what director Rupert Goold achieves here, with the help of an outstanding cast and creative team.

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A guide to Wapping, London

Prospect of Whitby - Jim Linwood Flickr

Jim Linwood | Flickr

I moved to Wapping in September, after an extensive flat hunt. I knew nothing about the area when I moved in, but, after many  a weekend spent exploring all it has to offer, I’ve fallen in love with this under-appreciated part of London.

I wrote about a few of my favourite Wapping hangouts for The Culture Trip. Check it out and let me know if I’ve missed out any must-see sights!

On the Loss of Childhood Heroes

‘It’s a human need to be told stories.’
Alan Rickman

There are some weeks that we wish we could erase from our collective consciousness. Press delete. Return to sender, unopened and unread.

This has been one of those weeks.

This week we lost two towering ambassadors of the arts, two beacons of British culture: David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Both men were 69 and both were killed by that omnipresent grim reaper, cancer.

A tidal wave of grief flooded the internet. It was immediately clear that their deaths were felt keenly around the world, but nowhere more so than in Britain. To us, it felt deeply personal.

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