Drama Online to add filmed theatre productions to its resource collection

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Stage On Screen’s filmed production of The Duchess of Malfi will be available to watch via Drama Online from October

Drama Online, a subscription study resource available to schools, colleges and higher education institutions, is expanding its resource offering this autumn with video content. Partnerships with organisations such Shakespeare’s Globe and Stage On Screen will see more than 60 hours of material added to the site.

Drama Online’s partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe will add 21 productions to its collection, with further shows to be added. Shakespeare’s Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, says: ‘In Drama Online, Bloomsbury and Faber & Faber have created a fantastic portal for students, and we’re delighted that Globe productions will be some of the first video content on offer there.’

Stage On Screen will be contributing high-definition filmed productions from Greenwich Theatre of The Duchess of Malfi, Doctor Faustus, School for Scandal, and Volpone; and Manchester Royal Exchange’s Hamlet starring Maxine Peake will also feature among the new content.

As well as the filmed productions, Drama Online will be adding a six-hour Shakespeare acting masterclass with Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s head of voice Patsy Rodenburg, featuring movement, speech, body and warm-up exercises.

The new video content will be available for trial in October; for more information, visit www.dramaonlinelibrary.com.

Theatre casualties in Arts Council national portfolio announcement

Richard Frame (Hermia), Thomas Padden (Theseus) & Sam Swainsbury (Demetrius)

Propeller in performance: the theatre company’s future is thrown into doubt without Art Council funding

Arts Council England (ACE) has revealed the organisations who will, and will not, be part of their national portfolio for 2015–18. All-male Shakespeare company Propeller, Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and radical touring company Red Ladder have not made ACE’s portfolio list, resulting in loss of funding.

Propeller were told by the ACE, ‘’We decided that, taking into account the quality and level of your artform provision available nationally, we preferred other applications.’ Responding to ACE’s comments, the company and Propeller’s director Edward Hall said: ‘Whilst a lack of commitment from ACE to high-quality touring theatre on a financial basis is perhaps understandable, Propeller’s national reach and quality of work cannot be called into question as our track record amply demonstrates. I am sorry that this decision will prevent us from continuing to pursue our national touring programme which has delighted so many thousands of people and which will prevent our company from pursuing its commitment to delivering affordable, high-quality drama in the regions.’

News of Orange Tree Theatre’s funding loss from the ACE came as the new artistic director Paul Miller began his first day in the role. He told BBC news: ‘I think the big, national contradictory pressures that are on the Arts Council were just so great that something had to give – and on that occasion it was us.

‘Once upon a time, the Orange Tree was a fledgling start-up company that had its first Arts Council funding. For new younger companies to get into the system, it means that existing organisations cannot simply take for granted that they will continue to be regularly funded. There are still many ways in which we can continue to take wonderful theatre in our lovely space. We just have to find a financially different way of doing it.’

Other organisations face smaller cuts: The Barbican will lose 18% of funding, while The Southbank Centre, National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company will each receive a 3.6% reduction.

Some theatre organisations enjoyed a boost, with increases in funding for Unicorn of 28% and Hull Truck of 46%; welcome news for Hull Truck following the ACE’s assessment of the theatre company earlier this year as facing ‘immediate and serious financial risk’.

This year saw a 2% rise in the allocation of funding to regional companies, with 47% dedicated to organisations in London and 53% to those outside of the capital.

ACE chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said of the portfolio announcements: ‘We are in the premier league of creative nations and this portfolio will keep us on top in an era of tight funding. We can delight in our arts organisations and museums for the sheer inspiration they bring to our daily lives as well as their contribution to the creative sector. I’m proud that we’ve been able to deliver such a strong and well balanced portfolio.

‘With 46 new entrants to the national portfolio, with increased funding for grants for the arts, and with creative people and places being maintained at its current level over the next period, this settlement represents a commitment by Arts Council England to new talent and building England’s arts and culture capacity all over the country. When funding is declining you have to set priorities – this we have done.’

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre: Twelfth Night, Re-imagined – Performance Review

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Iain Johnstone leads the Twelfth Night cast as Feste in a musical rendition (Credit: Johan Persson)

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating

*****
Same stage and sunshine, but a new adventure each year at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s ‘Re-imagined’.

Around this time last year, I attended The Winter’s Tale: re-imagined for everyone aged six and over. I recall (helped by re-reading my five-star review of the show) having a great time.

With the ethos the same each year, it could be feared that the ‘Re-imagined’ shows get samey or stagnant. This is definitely not at all the case with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre: the energy and techniques used to deliver the desired outcome for ‘Re-imagined’ feel completely fresh. There’s an ease in what ‘Re-imagined’ does to connect with young audiences; the relationship between Shakespeare and young people isn’t forced – it’s genuine.

I felt that Twelfth Night had a slight more sophistication about it than A Winter’s Tale, which is still had the age-appropriate introductions to characters and plot, they felt more part of the world of the play – character’s introduced themselves in character, but in the third person. The production is colourful, energetic and fun without being brash.

One of the most enjoyable elements was the live music. Feste (played by Iain Johnstone) playing the accordion added a atmospheric ‘folksy’ feel to the piece. It also helped the audience dance participation feel more at home within the play. One of the ways in which this felt like a real ensemble piece was how the actors swapped instruments – once even during mid-song.

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Sarah Ridgeway and Guy Lewis as parted twins Viola and Sebastian (Credit: Johan Persson)

Performances from the whole cast were very enjoyable and engaging: Sarah Ridgeway’s ‘boy’ impersonation was funny, but not overdone or distracting; Riann Steele had great confidence and presence as Olivia; and Wayne Cater’s drunken Sir Toby Belch and Iain Johnstone’s Feste and pirate Antonio added darker notes to what was largely a fun and upbeat character make-up.

The set evoked the feel of a folk-esque funfair. The ‘love-o-metre’, which rang each time a character fell in love, was a fun set piece but also helpful at marking key moments in the narrative.

This production acts as a great introduction to Shakespeare for young people: it has mistaken identity, love, madness, humour and a man in yellow stockings.

Even if the rain had poured down, I can’t imagine that I would have enjoyed the show any less.

Twelfth Night re-imagined for everyone aged six and over runs until 12 July. There is an accompanying education resource pack available on the website, containing rehearsal images and post-show activity ideas: https://openairtheatre.com/production/twelfth-night-reimagined

Primary workshops for young people’s production at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre young people's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2008 (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s young people’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2008 (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is running a set of in-school workshops for primary-age students to accompany their latest production The Winter’s Tale re-imagined for everyone aged six and over.

The play, running from 29 June to 20 July at Regent’s Park, is a condensed version of Shakespeare’s original text, using music, movement, storytelling and visual elements to engage young audience members. The production has been directed by Ria Parr, who has previously directed a young people’s production of King Lear at the Young Vic.

The workshops have been devised by Sarah Gordon, artistic director of the Young Shakespeare Company. The sessions introduce young students to The Winter’s Tale’s story and characters, as well as to Shakespeare’s language. The workshop’s content is applicable to literacy and creative arts in the curriculum.

The sessions are suitable for primary students in Years 3 to 6, and take place before students see the production, available to book between 10–28 June. An education resource pack is available for teachers to download from the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s website before the workshop.

Winters tale High res for print - RESIZEDTo book, call 0845 673 2151 or email education@openairtheatre.com. For more information about The Winter’s Tale re-imagined for everyone aged six and over and other productions in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s 2013 season, visit http://openairtheatre.com.

National Theatre: Timon of Athens – performance review

Star rating
****
One of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays brought to the stage of the National with a modern twist.

The National Theatre’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad (Credit: Johan Persson)

This production of Timon of Athens is the National Theatre’s contribution to the World Shakespeare Festival and the Cultural Olympiad – and what an interesting choice to make.

Not only does it showcase one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works, but director Nicholas Hytner has decided to use it to touch upon the world-wide financial crisis and the societal obsession with money.

The first act is stylish and modern, with Timon’s dinner guests appearing in an array of designer clothing, schmoozing one other on slick designer furniture – comparable to a scene from Made in Chelsea, especially with Tom Robertson’s humorous, middle-class toff performance of Ventidius. But with Timon’s change in fortunes, and no real friends to count upon, his world falls into disrepair and he then must reside among the desolate foundations of the city’s skyscrapers.

The cast’s performances are very enjoyable, with Simon Russell Beale meeting both demands of Timon’s generous nature and then becoming a hater of human kind. There are very enjoyable moments of humour, laced within the tragedy. The set and design is imaginative and interesting to observe.

But, however much life and modernity director Nicholas Hytner has tried to bring to the play, it’s just not one of Shakespeare’s best works. The second act lacks the energy of the first, and with Timon becoming an anti-humanist from the betrayal of his friends, you feel little warmth towards his bitterness.

If you are to see a production of Timon of Athens, this is a great one to pick and the National has made the best of what is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays.

Timon of Athens closes on 1 November. But, if you are unable to make it to the South Bank venue, you can catch the final performance as part of NT Live – where it will be broadcast to cinemas across the globe.

To find the closest venue to you broadcasting Timon of Athens on 1 November visit NT Live. For other information about the production, visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/timon-of-athens.

The Rose announces development project

The Rose, one of Bankside’s first theatres, has unveiled its Rose Revealed project, which plans to develop the site for future use. The project proposes further archaeological excavation of the partly discovered theatre and development of the site’s facilities in order to enable better visitor access.

Plans for the future of The Rose

A number of supporters were in attendance at the announcement of the plans. Long time campaigners for the project included actor and director Michael Pennington, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes and Chair of The Rose’s trustees Harvey Sheldon.

Sheldon said of the theatre: ‘Plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and Kyd were staged here between 1587 and 1603. The Rose Theatre is of international importance because of its association with these ground-breaking playwrights and their contributions to language and drama.’

The Rose is bidding for funding from the Heritage Lottery grant, to realise the theatre’s potential as a location for education and performance. If the theatre were to be successful in its bid for funding it would see the current space transformed into a much more interactive site with plans for a visitor and learning centre to be developed. A ramp would be installed to allow visitors to get as close to the site of an original Shakespearean theatre, educational workshops would also take place in this space. Future plans also include the installation of glass panels into the floor so to allow better observation areas for those visiting The Rose.

Trustee’s have been attempting to develop the theatre  for almost 30 years, since The Rose’s remains were discovered in 1988 when the site was being developed to house a tower block. A  campaign ensued to protect the remaining structure in 1989 with a number of high-profile actors showing their support including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Pennington and Dustin Hoffman.

Sheldon said: ‘We believe that the Rose Revealed project should be an important legacy of the World Shakespeare Festival and a focus of the forthcoming national celebrations planned to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (2014), and the 400th anniversary of his death (2016).’

The Rose theatre is open to the public to visit. For more information about the Rose Revealed project and how to support it, as well as finding out about the other events and performances taking place at The Rose, visit www.rosetheatre.org.uk

Remains discovered from theatre where Shakespeare’s original plays were performed

(c) Museum of London Archaeology

Remains from the venue in which Romeo & Juliet is thought to have been first performed have been unearthed in East London. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) came across The Curtain Theatre’s gallery walls and playhouse yard when redeveloping the site in Shoreditch.

The Curtain Theatre is thought to be one of oldest theatre spaces in London. It first opened in 1577 and became home to the Lord Chamberlain’s men – Shakespeare’s company – for two years, until the opening of the Globe Theatre. The Curtain fell into disuse and was dismantled in the 17th century, leaving its exact whereabouts unclear, until now.

Chris Thomas, lead archaeologist on MOLA’s redevelopment of the area, said: ‘This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearean theatres. On other Tudor theatres we’ve found quantities of little pottery money boxes, which the punters put the price of admission into on the way in, which were then smashed at the back of the theatre to get the takings – I’m sure some from the Curtain are still there, just waiting for us to find them.’

The Curtain hosted two significant premieres of Shakespeare’s work – Romeo & Juliet and Henry V. The theatre itself is referred to in the prologue to the latter: ‘Can this Cock-Pit hold within this Wooden O, the very Caskes that did affright the Ayre at Agincourt?’

RSC artistic director, Michael Boyd said of the discovery: ‘I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare’s early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.’

RSC’s touring and education partnership branches out to new regions

April 2012 will see the Royal Shakespeare Company work with five new theatres as part of their touring and education partnership. Regions such as Hull, Newcastle and Southampton will take part in the RSC’s Learning and Performance Network (LPN).

The RSC is currently working with 400 primary and secondary schools through the LPN across the UK. The project, which was established in 2006, involves taking professional RSC artists to work with students from all different backgrounds and changing the way they experience and explore Shakespeare.  Partnerships made with participating schools and theatres last for three years, providing students with long term exposure to Shakespeare.

Hull Truck Theatre Company, Newcastle Theatre Royal, York Theatre Royal, Hall for Cornwall and Nuffield Theatre, Southampton are the new additions to the long list of theatres involved in the LPN. The theatres will run three-year programmes with schools in the surrounding area offering local artists, students and teachers the opportunity to develop their training, teaching and performance skills with RSC artists. The 2012/13 schedule will see schools and theatres explore King Lear. 

For more information visit: www.rsc.org.uk/education/lpn