Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare

Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

★★★★

Or, Love’s Labour’s Won

(Royal Shakespeare Company, Haymarket Theatre, until 18 March 2017)

Several documents refer to a Shakespeare play called Love’s Labour’s Won, but there’s no sign of it in the First Folio and scholars have, increasingly, come to think that it might just have been renamed. The RSC make the playful but persuasive case that it may have been the play now known as Much Ado About Nothing (i.e. ‘Love’s Labour’s Won, or, Much Ado About Nothing‘). In the second part of their London-season duology, the cast and crew of the RSC take us back to the sumptuous country house we saw in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Then it was summer, the last summer, before war broke out and the young men marched away. But now it’s Christmastime: the Armistice has been signed and the soldiers have come home. The battles are no longer those of bayonets and machine-guns in the mud but, instead, the glittering flash and fire of wordplay.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost: William Shakespeare

Shakespeare: Love's Labour's Lost

★★★★½

(Royal Shakespeare Company, Haymarket Theatre, until 18 March 2017)

There are days when the whole world seems pitched against you. On Monday there was a Tube strike, it was pouring with rain and, too late, I found a hole in my boot. On arriving at the Haymarket, cold and grumpy and with a very wet sock, I was not disposed to be happy. But the RSC’s latest London transfer could charm a smile out of a stone. Two plays have come to town: Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing. Conceived as two halves of a pair, joined by a common spirit if not by the same characters, these plays unfold in a country house on either side of the First World War. Brimming with light and life, skirmishing lovers and rapier wit, they’re bubblier than a bottle of prosecco.

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The Libertine: Stephen Jeffreys

The Libertine: Stephen Jeffreys

★★★★

(Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 22 September 2017)

It is the age of Restoration: of rakes, rogues and wenches, frock coats, billowing cuffs and absurdly large periwigs. Charles II has been on the throne for fifteen years and the age is at its pleasure-drunk apex. Bands of drunken young noblemen riot through taverns and theatres, shaking off the privations of their Puritan youth. Their figurehead is none other than the most lascivious, most scurrilous, most impudent nobleman of all: the Earl of Rochester. He has just been allowed back to court after a previous prank went wrong (accidentally reading out an extremely crude poem in front of the Queen’s visiting relatives), and he is determined to make up for lost time.

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The Tempest: William Shakespeare

ARTS THEATER

★★★

(Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 27 August – 29 October 2011)

I wanted so badly to enjoy this play, which I booked after seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at the same venue. It was the final treat of my summer holiday.  I looked forward to seeing another production directed by Trevor Nunn; and I couldn’t wait to see Ralph Fiennes on stage again.  When I saw him in Oedipus, at the National Theatre in 2008, his performance was raw, haunting, and stayed with me for days.  I was sure that The Tempest would be a tour de force; but I’m sorry to say it fell short of expectations.

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