Thomas of Woodstock rehearsed reading, Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican

Thomas of Woodstock rehearsed reading photo2Even before it started, the Thomas of Woodstock rehearsed reading, performed by the RSC Richard II company at the Barbican on December 20th, looked to be remarkable on at least two counts: with about 700 people in attendance, this was the largest crowd in a rehearsed reading I have ever seen. And looking at the notes, I discovered original music had been written for it, an early sign – if nothing else – of how polished the performance was going to be.

Not to repeat what you can read in Wikipedia (and I would strongly urge you to read the entry), Thomas of Woodstock is a play by an anonymous author written between 1590 and 1595 that survives unfinished and without its original title.  It covers events in the reign of Richard II leading up to the murder of Richard’s uncle, Thomas of Woodstock. As this murder is the inciting incident in Shakespeare’s play, Thomas of Woodstock is often referred to as Richard II Part 1 as if the two plays can be seen as the same story. (This is not altogether possible: at the end of Thomas of Woodstock, Green is killed in battle, while at the beginning of Richard II he is still alive). Continue reading

Review: Bracken Moor by Alexi Kaye Campbell, a Shared Experience / Tricycle theatre co-production

bracken_moor_tricycle_reviewI always felt an affinity with Alexi Kaye Campbell. He was born and grew up in Athens (like I did) and I idly like to wonder whether our paths has crossed and could he be one of the older boys we fancied from afar at the english speaking school next to mine? Which is an excuse to reminisce about teenage crushes but has little to do with plays (if you discount the fact that almost all artistic adventures start as teenage crushes). But I digress. The point is, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s work gives me a tingle of anticipation, not only because he is one of the most intersting modern playwrights, but also due to our common roots (and he would know exactly what I mean when I talk about this).

Bracken Moor, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play, is named after a fictional (as far as I can tell) moor in Yorkshire. It’s set in the cavey drawing room of a mansion in the 1930s, a mansion built next to a coal mining community. The play is co-produced by Shared Experience, whose previous successes include Mary Shelley, and all these elements start to paint the picture of a gothic morality tale. In fact, it is a gothic morality tale of private tragedy and public responsibility brought to life with elegance, precision and visceral enthusiasm. Try to resist spoilers, the less you know the better. Continue reading