More to follow
More to follow
I’m a little bit at a loss, mostly because I’m still overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of the production. The play and its second part redemption take Shakespeare’s greatest dramas (Richard II, Henry IV part 1, Henry IV part 2 and Henry V) and weave them together into a vivid, clear and magnificent history lesson – aided of course by the outstanding cast of the Stratford festival and actor/director/ write Graham Abbey who is responsible for the play. This is how it’s done. This is how (and I am tempted to compare it with a historically accurate and better written Game of Thrones but that wouldn’t do it justice at all) you follow the lives of kings, queens, their heirs and enemies and their lives, by allowing their soliloquies and scenes come to life in a way that captures the audience and is riveting and stunning in its complex simplicity. We see Tom Rooney turn from proud hero to lost king, Graham Abbey as Bolingbroke rise from shunned son to newly hailed king Heny, who is a hesitant leader with a hot-headed son Araya Mengesha, who has to grow up in battle to be formed into a worthy successor by steel and blood.
With Graham Abbey’s adaption of the humongous plays they turn into a very intimate chamber play, despite the violence of battles, betrayals and brutalities. This is when history becomes a clear, a clean line of meaning, an interpretation that loses nothing of Shakespeare’s magic, but contributes by focusing on visceral scenes that grab the audience and never let go.
The stage itself is beautifully empty. Just a flat surface filled with wood chips. and yet: the less influential Richard becomes, the less wood chips are on the stage, the smaller the parts of a united Britain are. At last there is everything gone, shoved towards the edges, when Richard gives away his crown to Henry Bolingbroke. And only years, if not decades later , during the battles against Scots and Welsh purpose, the ground is filled again, a country united in a war against each other. Again it’s beautiful in its simplicity and yet powerful and brutal.
Part one ends on a high note: the battle won, Henry saved by his unruly son Hal, and Sir John Falstaff (a brilliant and fat suited, sweaty Geraint Wyn Davies) has the last words … let’s kick up some more dirt tomorrow, or something to that extent.
I truly hope we get the textbook and a DVD of both parts soon. This is how theatre is supposed to be. Imagination at its best.
And yes, adds the shallow within me with a silent snicker: it doesn’t hurt that Graham Abbey’s Henry gets a huge cross tattooed on his back and then shows off his naked torso while thankfully slowly slipping into his shirt. 😎
So, Panto. I so hope I remember everything vital. Not just I’m all about that bass… LOL
It starts off with the magnificent Fairy godmother (Melanie Masson), who flies onto the stage sitting on a glittery moon, singing and being all around gorgeous and lovely. (Plus: a huge bonus: she has a wonderful voice and is a joy to listen to)
We are all netted into helping her and her girl Cinderella (Rachel Flynn) to find happiness and love, and we love it. Then we get introduced to Cinders‘ two ugly sisters (or almost sisters as the marriage has not yet taken place) – and we hate them – they’re awful bullies. But they are singing Born This Way and I have to admit: great voices as well! (Graham Hoadley and Wayne Fitzsimmons who took the part when Pete Gallagher wasn’t able to perform with only a week of rehearsal) They treat Cinderella, their sister to be, like their maid or worse and walk away leaving the poor girl in tears; she wanted to go to the Prince’s ball where Charming is supposed to find a wife. The ugly sisters hope it’s one of them. We know it’s not. Oh no, it’s not…
In the meantime Baron Hardup (Ian Krankie) o fHardup Hall (and yes, there were jokes…) and Buttons‘ wee brother Zip (Jeannette Krankie) – with zips all over his jacket and cap – explain, that the marriage is a must as Baron Hardup is skint. They go off in search of Buttons.
It’s then the elusive Buttons (John Barrowman) shows up – in a GRAND entrance – he’s in a hot air balloon, slowly descending and singing Happy – much better than Pharrell Williams ever could. It turns out that he is in loooooove with Cinders but doesn’t dare tell her, so he’d bought her a present even though Hardup pays him only buttons. He puts it in a corner and we’re roped in to alert him if/when anyone comes too close. First it’s the ugly sisters, then it’s Zip – and hilarity ensues as the wee lad can’t reach to high five Buttons. He low fives him onto the `nads.
In the meantime we meet the gorgeous Prince Charming (young Lawrence Robb), who was summoned home to pick a wife, and his suave servant/bodyguard/swordpartnerDandini (Gregor Stewart… yes, thankyou, soooo much eye candy) – over a playfight with swords they discuss the Prince’s frustration about having to marry – until Charming comes up with a plan: Dandini should be impersonating him on a last trip to the village so that he, Charming, would be able to maybe find a girl who’d love him for who he is, not for what he is.
Then Cinders sees the „package“ (yes, he’s packed his package for her) and Buttons tries to woo her with a song (Listen to the Music) but to no avail. She has to rush off into the woods.
In the woods the ugly sisters are out hunting for a Prince, but Charming’s plan works – both sisters dressed in bags (Zenga in a handbag, and „what’s that tartan (tart in)“? – Sadie in a tartan golfbag) go for the fake prince and run after Dandini. And it’s now that the real Prince meets Cinderella for the first time – and it’s loooooove. He invites her as Dandini to the ball and she accepts but only if he, Dandini, is going to be there – she’s not hot for the prince at all…
So Charming – as Dandini – sings to Cinders, while sitting on a wall (Everything I do, I do it for you) as Buttons comes back – and he is appalled – HIS Cinders duetting with a stranger. He tries to sabotage the wooing by popping up between and under them, then topples Charming off the wall, then gets toppled off, pushes Cinders, the Prince, it’s a hilarious stint that has everyone in stitches. And all the while all three keep singing, without missing a beat or a note.
Charming keeps his word – he delivers invitations to the Hardup household – and is once again confronted with the ugly sisters who race him to have a practice run for their marriage with the Prince (Dandini) . Buttons delivers the invitation to Cinders, but the ugly sisters force the poor girl to tear it up (while being booed by the audience of course) and all Buttons can do i scheer her up (You to me are Everything).
But now the Fairy godmother comes into play: (One night only) she givesCinders another invitation, a dress, a coach, a coachman (Buttons), sparkly slippers and a curfew – midnight. And to The Power of Love the white coach takes to the air thanks to a white winged horse and off to the Prince’s castle.
Snow is falling onto the audience and everyone goes awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
Meanwhile at the ball Dandini and Charming both hope Cinders will show up, even though she’s not a lady (it’s a man??? Dandini asks flabberghasted, no, just not a titled lady) – to the rhythm of We Danced All Night. The ugly sisters show up, dressed in chandeliers. (yes, they’re the entertainment – the light entertainment) and Baron Hardup as well.
And then finally Princess Starlight enters (yes, it’s our Cinders) and she goes straight to Dandini (Charming) who opens the dance with her. He has a lot to explain…
Then the „light entertainment“ starts and it is over the top hilarious. Both ugly sisters and Buttons (who wanted to go to the ball with Zip – undercover) show up in teeny tiny skirts (Buttons‘ had a wonky zipper and kept almost falling down) and paper mache tops with huuuuuuge fringed boobs. They sing I’m All About that Bass and from the second refrain on … the boobs sing too. It’s indescribably awesome. This leads to Buttons flirting with Dandini. Then Zip shows up as Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball singing I Wrecked The Ball.
And just as the Prince declares hislove for Cinderella it’s midnight and Cinders runs.
With her slipper in hand he sings A Moment Like This.
Back by public demand: the twelve nights of christmas. I think I peed myself there. I know I hurt my cheeks. Last show: John threw the loo-rolls towards his husband Scott and then forced him under his kilt to kiss his crotch. „That was my husband, it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before…“
Cinders is devastated she had to run and Buttons tries to cheer her up by finally giving her his package – it’s an ubercute Teddy Bear (song: Power of Love) but she rejects him – she loves Buttons, but as a brother. So he claims his Teddy again (on a loooooong note of let’s face the music and daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance)
But Buttons is so very sad – together with his Teddy he sings When You Tell Me that You Love Me and uses the ubercute bear as a kind of glove puppet, so that the stuffed cutie interacts with him. Awwwwwwwww
Meanwhile the mean ugly sisters kidnap Cinders (who has possession oft he other glittery shoe left!) and hide her in the cellar with Boris (a gigantinormous Spider) as her guard to get her out of the way as the Prince comes to try HIS find, the second glittery shoe, on every maid in town, to discover his future bride.
Needless to say that we tell Buttons where to find Cinders and he saves her. Just in time!
The Prince has already handed over the shoe to Zenga – no fit just stinky feet and a looooong stocking, and to Sadie – and it FITS Sadie!!! But it fits on an artificial leg, as Dandini finds out, and soon Sadie is „legless again“. With the help of the Fairy Buttons and Cinderella are saved from the locked wobbly wardrobe (which is the secret walkway to the cellar) and Cinders is able to try on the shoe. Awwwwwwwwww
So at least for Cinders and Charming there’s a happily ever after. Buttons – despite flirting outrageously with Dandini AGAIN – is left sad and lonely. But the Fairy tells him that he’ll find happiness soon – Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
And then it ends and it’s over and we’re all sad. But we, the audience, collected more than 25.000 pounds for a down syndrom charity, which is brilliant!
Stage door: as always The Barrowman was patient and professional and taking the time to sign and selfie with everyone. But everyone else was just as charming and sweet and patient! The only „problem“ were the ugly sisters – we didn’t really recognise them because of their hideous make-up which took 90 mins to apply. Lol
Especially sweet: Dandini and Prince Charming who was obviously enjoying the interaction with a bunch of crazy ladies with sharpies. LOL
Many thanks to Gabe and Katrin for their invaluable input. XXX
A restauration comedy, it says. This means that in the disguise of pretty dresses and opulent scenery there come razor sharp wit, sarcastic critique of social misgivings and still very current depictions of flawed characters all enrolled in brilliant dialogue. It’s a laugh and so much fun to enjoy even though it tells of a time when women had no rights at all, notably not if they wanted to escape an abusive relationship.
It was a read through – with actors who love to goof around reading multiple parts, having fun with accents and just generally fooling around on stage. Led by Geraint Wyn Davies as king and his real life wife Claire Lautier (quote geraint: who I’ve just met but I hear she’s decent) this farcical comedy deals with George’s first bout of his madness that will in the end lead to him being locked away and his son taking control as prince regent. This restauration comedy is also very clever depiction of life at court and the intrigues spun by everybody.
But what made the play good fun were undoubtedly the actors who played off each other and had a go whenever possible. So yes, lots of laughter masked the rather tragic fate of George III who is “retrained” to act normal in public while his son and parliament are trying to have him committed for good.
I am already looking forward to seeing a second wordplay next Sunday.