Monday, April 13, 2015


Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at Temple Church

King John, once prized for its patriotism and its pageantry, is not so often staged these days, Indeed, it's taken the Globe nearly twenty years to put it on – the last of the canon to have a production here.
Magna Carta is the spur – and this joint production with the Royal & Derngate Northampton is being seen in the Temple Church, in Salisbury Cathedral and in the Holy Sepulchre Northampton, all sites closely associated with the flawed king.

The Temple Church proves a stunning setting. We enter through the ancient round nave, with hooded figures chanting a Requiem for Richard, candles and incense around the recumbent effigies.
James Dacre's largely traditional staging is exciting and engaging, the narrative lucid, the text spoken with clarity and passion. The raised stage at the east end has three star-speckled ceiling cloths above it. 

The lighting [by Paul Russell] is wonderfully effective at supporting the real candles surrounding the acting area, which extends down the nave, After the funeral, a Magnificat, the first of several, for the crowning. Commotion, hammering on the west door as the French envoy arrives to start the plot proper. There are battles, blasphemy, a nuptial mass and all the “industrious scenes and acts of death”, underscored by “dreadful drums” and the excellent music of Orlando Gough.
Jo Stone-Fewings [a notable RSC Bastard back in the day] is a terrific king – shades of Henry V. Tanya Moodie is magnificent as Constance – superb stage presence and impassioned delivery, notably of the “grief” speech in Act III. Joseph Marcel is outstanding both as the envoy Chatillon and the scheming papal legate, Barbara Marten imposing as the old Queen Eleanor.
Alex Waldmann makes a chirpy Bastard, commenting cynically on the action, though in this company, in these surroundings, he struggles to connect intimately with his audience.
A memorable theatrical occasion, given an extra dimension by being acted out in the very church where John met his barons before Magna Carta – which does get a fleeting mention in this version, in the king's “scribbled form and parchment” speech as he dies in the Swinstead orchard.

After the Temple Church, Northampton Holy Sepulchre and Salisbury Cathedral, the production is home at the Globe.
A very different experience: some of the sense of occasion, atmosphere and spectacle is lost, but intimacy, and connection with the audience is hugely enhanced.
Alex Waldmann's Bastard is in his element, sharing his thoughts with the groundlings and re-christening a confused Hervé ...
Good to see the musicians on stage for Orlando Gough's score; the cruciform layout is retained from the church performances.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review. Just to say that it is Alex Waldmann (not Walden). Just to say that the Alex Waldmann News blooger thought that Alex really engaged the audience. It's interesting to read the different viewpoints.

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