Cambridge, Autumn 2003.
Michael Grosvenor Myer
Grosvenor Myer, Michael. "Cambridge Autumn 2003." Early Modern Literary Studies 9.3 / Special Issue 12 (January, 2004): 17.1-2<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/09-3/myerrev.html>.
Third Party Productions are real old-fashioned barnstormers. Their tour of Richard III went to over 50 venues nationwide, Alnwick to Guernsey, with a beautiful, serviceable travelling set based mainly on a big cart (To Hell On A Handcart, the production was subtitled), inscribed The York Brothers Freak Show in fancy curlicue lettering, storming our village hall on its way past. Occasionally the freakshow aspects threatened to get out of hand -- Gloucester as a gleeful, huge-bellied Mr Punch, Lady Anne a big fat flouncing brat in spoilt- Victorian-child costume, murderers certified psychos bursting out of straitjackets; but they showed they could cool it and do serious when necessary, varying the grotesqueries enough to keep interest and effectiveness alive. In an entirely competent cast of half-a dozen under John Wrights able direction, Nicholas Colletts insidious clown of a Gloucester was dominant, with particular support from Neil Haighs matter-of-fact Clarence, and Leah Fletchers Lady Anne, sailor-suited Little Prince hornpiping to penny-whistle and poignantly suffering Elizabeth. For all the variety of odd accents (Yorkshire [what else?] for the Yorks, cockney for Hastings, parody-posh for the Mayor), the verse speaking was exemplary throughout. If this lot ever come storming your barn, dont miss.
My heart sank as that ever-otiose dry-ice smoke cleared to reveal a Capulet
servant pretending to piss against the back wall. Oh, no; not another of
those trendy political-commentary-for-the-twentieth-century R&Js
(yes, I do mean twentieth -- 1950s costumes one of the few bright spots).
But this wasnt callow students in a college studio out to make their
impact: it was Stephen Unwins usually reliable English Touring Theatre,
who brought us that magnificent Tim West Lear only a few months ago,
at the Arts Theatre. What could have gone wrong? I suspect it was the status
of the play as permanent public exam set-book that led the distinguished
Mr Unwin astray this time, tempting him to succumb to the trendy blandishments
of teen titillation. The auditorium was predictably full of school parties,
who obligingly giggled to cue, if perhaps a little self-consciously, at
Samsons (or was it Gregorys) urination, and, a little later,
at the more of a pain-in-the-arse even than usual Mercutios obscene
penis and vagina gestures. Romeo, true to the style, incessantly twitched
and fidgeted, mowed and girned. Marjorie Yates garrulously affectionate
Nurse wasnt too bad, nor Robert Styles saturnine Tybalt; but
they didnt get much of a look-in; little chance to shine in the enveloping
gloom, or to achieve much dignity among the posturing Mercutio and piddling
Gregory (or was it Samson?). The only one really to teach the torches to
burn bright was Davies Greys quiet, still, dignified Juliet, an oasis
of calm amongst the overwrought fuss; the more praiseworthy as she was acting
as stand-in for the indisposed Laura Rees. I expect Ms Greys death
scene will have been well worth seeing; but, alas, I shall never know --
I only made it to the interval.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).