Cambridge Shakespeare, Spring 2006

Michael Grosvenor Myer

Grosvenor Myer, Michael. "Review of Cambridge Shakespeare, Spring 2006." Early Modern Literary Studies 12.1 (May, 2006): 16.1-2 <URL:>.

  1. The Lent Term at the ADC always begins with the European Theatre Group (founders: Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi) bringing back the play they've just toured round Switzerland, with a bit of France and Germany thrown in. Sometimes it's good - I have happy memories of a Much Ado two years ago. This year's Shrew was more-or-less all right, I think. An odd comment, it occurs to me. But I got home from it rather tired for some reason, and went straight to bed. Now it's six-o'clock the next morning, and I'm sitting here at the word-processor, racking my brains for something to say about the production; and, apart from a forceful and sometimes moving black-clad Kate from Zara Tempest-Walters and Miles Bullock's reasonably strongly characterised Petruchio, I can't remember anything about it. So nothing wrong, then; but nothing to catch the mind, either. I suppose that constitutes a review of sorts; but whether critical copout or profound insight, I'm not at all sure. Heigh-ho. Think I'll go back to bed...

  2. I felt a bit like that, too, for much of the early part of the Marlowe Society's Richard III at the Arts. Tom Cornford had provided one of those resolutely stylised productions, full of choreographed movement which occasionally worked (in the closing battle scenes) but mostly didn't (in the opening battle scenes). Similarly, the interpolated echoing flashbacks, from earlier in the play or from Henry VI, sometimes added to the atmosphere and the narrative, but just as often fatally fractured the momentum. With lots of doubling, characters had to be indicated by dress, which led on occasion to absurdities like Hastings being aroused from his bed in overcoat and scarf - the production was mostly modern dress, you will gather, though the women not consistently so. The lighting was often more distracting than atmospheric, and the loud drumming and other musical effects sometimes drowned out the speech, though I warmed to the live onstage trumpet-calls. Overall it was one of those productions which, just as you thought you couldn't stand another minute (two friends of ours, much connected with and knowledgeable about the theatre - one an ex-administrator and BBC Kaleidoscope critic - vanished at the interval), made you gasp at moments of brilliance. I had never before, for instance, seen better played the scene between Richard and Queen Elizabeth where, having disposed of the unfortunate Anne, he announces his intention of marrying Elizabeth's daughter. Will Featherstone's convincingly devious king and Sarah Brocklehurst's forthright, beautifully spoken widow-queen bounced back and forth almost dizzyingly the vital moral themes of political murder and incest. Following upon Chloe Massey's chilling delivery of the Duchess of York's curse, this furnished a finely conceived and executed moral climax to precede the well-judged physical climaxes of the ghosts and the battle. Other good characterisations and able verse speaking-particularly from Brook Morriswood's Hastings and Tyrrell, Sam Kitchener's Buckingham, Luke Roberts's Clarence, and Vivienne Storry's Queen Margaret-constituted some of the more praiseworthy elements of an often admirable but occasionally infuriating experience.

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at

© 2006-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).