Friday, July 04, 2014

Midsummer Mischief: 'The Ant and the Cicada' by Timberlake Wertenbaker and 'Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.' by Alice Birch

4 July 2014

Last Thursday we were in Stratford-upon-Avon to see two of the RSC's new 'Midsummer Mischief' plays. 'Midsummer Mischief' comprises four short plays commissioned to mark the 30th anniversary of The Other Place and performed in a pop-up theatre on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre (which currently stands on the site originally occupied by The Other Place). We saw 'Programme A' which was directed by RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman. 'The Ant and the Cicada' by Timberlake Wertenbaker is a contemporary Greek tragedy which explores democracy, art and commerce. It is a relatively conventional play but uses some gentle audience participation to make us complicit (“we are all Greeks”). 'Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.' by Alice Birch is a much more experimental piece, consisting of a series of apparently disconnected scenes in which unnamed characters challenge traditional views of sex, gender and work. The writing is witty, funny and thought-provoking and I liked the way recurring phrases and references emerge to link the scenes. I always used to like The Other Place for the way it got you closer to the actors, stripping away the distraction of the big production values of the old Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage and allowing you fully to appreciate the brilliant acting. The new thrust stage Royal Shakespeare Theatre brings the audience much closer to the action and has managed to recreate some of the excitement of The Other Place on a much bigger scale, but it was still nice to be reminded of the charm of the RSC's smallest stage.

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