British Touring Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
UK Tour 2008 directed by Una Buckley
Remote Goat review A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shenley Park:
Shakespeare as it should be
There are many amongst us who would claim that Shakespeare should always be performed outdoors. I’m a neutral when it comes to that argument but surely no one can deny that this particular play should always be performed in the open.
Of course it helps when the location is as stunning as the walled garden at Shenley Park. Containing a grass covered amphitheatre, this setting on a slightly gloomy midsummers night was perfect for the Bard’s take on folklore, fantasy, love and nature.
The cast, all playing multiple roles, were uniformly good but special mention must go to Holly Berry’s passionate but confused Helena and also to Robert Paul for his pompous. self-obsessed Bottom. Many other things will stay in the memory though: Lucyelle Cliffe’s lovely singing voice, the inventive songs penned by Alistair Smith and Chris Sharp’s hilarious suicide as Thisbe in the play within a play to name just three.
Also S P Howarth’s sly, mischievious Puck and Emma Burn’s Hermia, especially when enraged, stood out.
Great credit must go to Una Buckley for her direction. Despite some occasionally long costume changes the performance never flagged and it was obvious all the players were word perfect and well drilled. She also managed to incorporate genuinely funny slapstick without ever overdoing it. This is also the only Shakespearean play I’ve seen that managed to sneak in a blast of ‘Let’s get it on’ by Marvin Gaye.
The cast, without lighting, microphones or effects, and despite blustery winds and two rainstorms, did exactly what everyone should do when they perform Shakespeare. They trusted the words.
To be honest, in an ideal world, Shakespeare probably IS better when performed outdoors. And in an ideal world it would always be performed by British Touring Shakespeare.
Five stars by Dave Evans, 21/06/08
Romeo and Juliet
UK Tour 2006 directed by Una Buckley
The Stage reviews Romeo and Juliet at Tabley House:
British Touring Shakespeare, this hard-working and innovative young troupe, is currently touring the castles and stately homes of some of the leafy purlieus of England, winning acclaim with this tailored, slightly truncated version of Romeo and Juliet.
Tabley House, a beautiful Palladian structure from the 1760s, provided an open air atmosphere breathtakingly dramatic, as dusk fell and shadows lengthened in perfect harmony with the unfolding of the tragic events. The forecourt before the huge portico made a natural stage, framed by two curved staircases at either end, leading up to what might have been designed for Juliet’s balcony.
Clementine Croft as the tender Juliet delighted the audience almost as much as the eye of Romeo, who was played in no effete manner by Chris Chambers. They looked good together, their chemistry was right and when they kissed for the last time had this ancient house ever witnessed a more poignant stretched second?
This was in every way an economical but reflective and romantic affair for which director Una Buckley and producer Andrew Hobbs – also doubling as the willing Benvolio and the haughty Paris – deserve full credit. They took some liberties, it has to be said, but got away with them. The fights were perfunctory affairs, over before they had started, which is not to take anything away from Gareth Rubin who made a suitably menacing Tybalt.
And, oh yes, Mercutio was a woman, played to perfection as a jesting virago by Alison Playford, the star of the show, who also excelled as the Nurse.
The sky was pitch-black when the monument scene arrived. The great house had been swallowed up, apart from the weirdly floodlit pillars of the portico, which had become a shadowy Greek temple. It did not seem to matter that Paris did not show at all or Robert Paul’s diffident Friar failed to return. We were witnessing tragedy at its best, alfresco and with the pungency of the night.
By Andrew Liddle 15/08/06
2011 production at the White Bear Theatre, London directed by Andrew Hobbs
Remote Goat review Dr Faustus at the White Bear:
This production presented in what is essentially a black box containing the audience, starts in a haze of dry ice. Fortunately, this is the only mystifying part of the show and everything which follows only serves to clarify this classic tale of a man selling his soul to the dark side in exchange for instant pleasures, power and youth.
Performed in modern dress and directed with gusto by Andrew Hobbs, the revised text has been pared down to a lively 45 minutes each way and peppered with modern references. When it comes to contemporary resonance though, the tall, imposing figure of Edward Pemberton’s Mephistopheles does the job – all sharp-suited sangfroid as he demands the client’s loan agreement be signed in blood.
Robert Paul, who is also the producer, plays Faustus as a regular guy; perhaps a little too regular as in order for this play to work well, we need to feel great sympathy for the doctor and his reasons for entering this diabolical pact which must be deeper than a passing interest in the scantily-clad night-club dancers conjured up for his pleasure and appropriately choreographed by Lucyelle Cliffe.
Anton Shelupanov as Lucifer and S. P. Howarth as Beelzebub are two devils with the grotesque faces and foreign accents that we know all devils must have. There was comedy in the smaller parts with Alistair Smith as the slothest of sloths, barely energetic enough to pronounce his own name, and from those playing the household servants. Emma Burn is turned into an ape by a devilish spell which she is convinced has not worked until she tries to speak; while Simon J. Grant knows the campest way to sweep up spilled salt.
A word about audience participation:If you are going to bring up audience members onto the stage to take part in the action, you must be ready to handle whatever they throw at you. A confident woman pulled from the front row on the night I was there nearly had the actors corpsing. A more talented extrovert could have stopped the show.
In the end, it is the soaring poetry of Marlowe’s writing which is the star of the evening, especially at the climax when Faustus describes seeing heaven opening and all Christ’s blood unable to save him. It is to their credit that all concerned seldom stand in the way of this lofty grandeur and indeed, often enhance it. The voice-over prologue was particularly exciting and the atmospheric sound track complimentary throughout.
Four stars by Malcolm Eadie 28/09/11
An original comedy rock musical with book and lyrics by Andrew Hobbs and music by Alistair Smith
World premiere at the Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames July 2008
London premiere at the Stockwell Playhouse November 2017
Original cast recording available here
Bacchus In Rehab
A comedy romp by Andrew Hobbs and SP Howarth
World premiere at the Etcetera Theatre, London November 2009
A Season Before The Tragedy Of Macbeth
A play by Gloria Carreno
World premiere at the 2010 Camden Fringe Festival directed by Andrew Hobbs
A play by William Stanton
Workshop production at the 2013 Camden Fringe Festival directed by Andrew Hobbs
Video extract filmed and edited by Nigel Doylerush
The Woods Are Lovely
A play by Stephen Middleton
World premiere at the 2011 London Horror Festival directed by Andrew Hobbs