Posts Tagged ‘Lazarus Theatre Company’

Macbeth, Greenwich Theatre 28 February

February 29, 2020



Picture from Davy’s Wine Vaults/Twitter

The Lazarus Theatre production of Macbeth at the Greenwich Theatre was manly, clear and straightforward, at least when you could make out the words.  (A scene with Macduff’s pregnant wife addressing her bump was almost entirely lost on me, and it was sometimes difficult to understand what Lady Macbeth was saying.)

In line with manliness, the witches were male and as well as having some witchy exchanges cut they wore gas masks in one scene,  The direct approach meant that the pace of the action and there was on occasion the feeling that the cast just wanted to get it over with quickly.  There was no real distinction between the external world of action and heroism and the inner one of evil, obsession and femininity.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow raised a small shiver at the end, while Macbeth’s address to sleep was rather thrown away as he busied himself with washing off blood.  The murderers waylaid Banquo in complete darkness, rather contrary to their own words on the occasion.  Duncan became simply a comic figure at times.  The scene where Malcolm relates his imaginary failings to Macduff was even more tedious than normal, though that probably can’t be helped.

It was one of those productions where you can ask yourself what they are quarrelling over–if there is no glory, magnificence or colour (apart from Lady Macbeth’s dress) then what is the point.  But it will have been useful in helping anyone studying the text for an exam remember who the characters are and what they do.

Dido Queen of Carthage, Greenwich Theatre 22 May

May 24, 2013


Picture from

Picture from

Well I enjoyed this performance, probably because it was a good play!  The theatre was perhaps a quarter full, to be kind, and at the beginning at least I often had difficulties in catching what the actors were saying, both because of uneven delivery of Marlowe’s blank verse and because they were just facing away from the audience.

It wasn’t my fault anyway since I had prepared myself by reading the text, so I can report that there was a prologue adopted from somewhere else and The Passionate Shepherd to His Love had been adopted as a kind of leitmotiv.

How much the tricksy lighting, vocalise, and stylised playing with ropes actually helped things is hard to say, but I thought the puppet Ascanius was good.  The actors became more settled in their delivery as time went on, though Aeneas was never exactly secure in this regard and insecurity seemed to be the keynote of Dido’s characterisation.

The ending would have been overwhelming if the cast had just sung a bit better and in two parts.

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Oedipus, Blue Elephant Theatre 01 March

March 2, 2013



Picture I lifted from

So.  Let’s try to work this out.  Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, while there is an Oedipus by Seneca.  But this was Oedipus ‘After Sophocles’  as pastiche Shakespeare, complete with painful rhyming tags, and complemented by some daring anachronisms.  I suppose that adrenaline, dating from about 1900, would be the most extreme, but the real question is how can the curse or prophecy of pagan gods  have any effect on characters who swear Jesus Christ?

Anyway, we had Oedipus in the manner of a modern production of Coriolanus or Macbeth, with the protagonist swaggering his way through extraneous scenes of martial display (war and plague had become very mixed up here) until he came to a terrible realisation that we didn’t care about because the whole thing was so exteriorised and the text was so clunky.

There were some beautiful stage pictures along the way, an effective scene between Oedipus and Jocasta, and for some reason I enjoyed the messenger speech (delivered by Nasa Ohalet) describing Jocasta’s death, which had here been overelaborated into a universal Wagnerian conflagration.

At the end, two girls behind me opined that the beginning (chorus singing in smoky darkness) had been stunning and that Jocasta (Samantha Andersen) had been very good.  To me, the opening seemed to be a typical Lazarus trick or mannerism that I’ve now seen often enough to start wishing for Katie Mitchell. Samantha Andersen was indeed very good, putting colour and emotion and variation into her part–but that’s what we needed from Oedipus and didn’t get from Robin Holden here.

See here for what I know of other Greek plays in London.

Iphigenia in Aulis, Brockley Jack 02 October

October 3, 2012


Picture from Lazarus Theatre Company Facebook page

This was billed as a preview.

The play started with an elaborate session of sound-and-movement, in the spirit of the same company’s Hecuba, then morphed into semi-darkness with lighting from the side as in their Trojan Women.  The Abraham-and-Isaac style happy ending was dispensed with, as was the corresponding explanation of why Artemis had taken against the Greeks in the first place.  Agamemnon was played (by Wayne Reid) as a kindly buffer swept up in events beyond his control, while the faux domestic scenes between him and Clytemnestra (Jocelyn Weld Forester) were just embarrassing.

Many of the parts were severely underplayed, in particular the matter-of-fact acquiescence of Achilles (Jack Greenlees) to marrying Iphigenia–not marrying Iphigenia–his honour being impugned by not saving  Iphigenia.  The man is a crazed homicidal narcissist FFS!   Of course, none of this was helped by the normal problems of playing Greek tragedy in a space vastly smaller than originally intended–happenings that are meant to allow time for expectation, apprehension and release pass by affectlessly like telegraph poles seen from a train.

Director/Designer Gavin Harrington-Odedra also didn’t help himself by effectively abolishing entrances and exits with his penumbra.

Comparing this with their Trojan Women makes me think that having the wrong idea about a Greek tragedy is a great deal better than having no idea at all…

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

The Women of Troy, Blue Elephant Theatre 4pm April

April 4, 2012


The first and main thing to say is that this production worked, which modern attempts at Greek tragedy most often don’t.  So much so indeed, that the apparent school party who made up most of the audience staged a mass walk-out after the reinterpretation of the killing of Astyanax as an enforced abortion.

At the beginning, as in the same company’s Hecuba, there was an effective stage presentation of Trojan glory and collapse.   After that, a lot of the action went on in semi-darkness, which is definitely un-Greek as an idea:  let him at least kill us in the light.  The characters on stage arranged themselves in static patterns that recalled at times David and at times Alma-Tadema.  In fact, the possibility of having any impressive choral movement was vitiated by most (but not all) of the stage being occupied by a raised dais.

But there were many stage devices employed more effectively.  Having the cast sing a vocalise, then one character sing the words, that at the end a triumphal two-part chorus after which Hecuba’s face alone illuminated in the midst of darkness reflected all the pain and tragedy that had passed.  Hecuba (Alice Brown) was very good throughout, while Kerrian Burton as a fey red-haired disengaged dissociated Cassandra made by far the best Cassandra I’ve ever seen, and in her first professional performance too.

I suppose I should have been irritated by the hand-me-down katiemitchellism of this production:  the sound of the roller door without the thing itself, for instance.  And the female character relaying the words of Talthybius who couldn’t run to a clipboard and so had to sort frantically through bits of paper instead.  But at least here we had a representation of Greek tragedy as being about something, even if feminist rant is not what Euripides had in mind.  I thought the adaptation–I can’t work out who did it from the programme, unless it was ‘Dramaturg Bobby Brook’–was highly effective, and made skilful use of rhyme where it helped.

Definitely worth seeing, and even staying for the whole 70 minutes.

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

Hecuba New Diorama Theatre 10 August

August 10, 2010


At the beginning of this production, Paula James as Helena sang

Sophisticated, complicated, Troy is at its prime

among a crowd of celebrating Trojans.  Then they clapped in slow motion and fell together in appalled slow motion as Troy was captured.  I detected an active theatrical intelligence at work.

Then it all rather went into Greek drama autopilot for me.  The Trojan women were dressed in nice clean white robes showing no sign of rough handling and the mean were in nice clean black suits.  They made nice pictures nicely-lighted on stage but I was somehow uninvolved.  As Polyxena, Jasmyn Burke seemed to be taking her sacrifice rather too calmly from the beginning, not coming to see it finally as the way to maintain her noble freedom.

As for Natalie Lesser as Hecuba–how do you do Greek tragedy on a scale that is so different from the one intended?   I think you can shout and scream and try to physically dominate the audience (who are after all not so far away) or speak very softly so they can hardly hear and are all the time afraid of losing you.  This production was very much stuck in the middle.  It also ended with what probably seemed like comic nonchalance to an audience who may not have appreciated the prophetic force of the final denunciation of Hecuba from Polymestor (Simon Wegrzyn).  Surely his struggle with the Trojan women and blinding should have been drawn out to hellish length, to provide some balance in the arc of the play at least?  Here it tailed off quite tamely after just over an hour.

What about the chorus?  Here, they basically made nice pictures on stage, which I didn’t find very inspiring.

There was a man (presumably director Ricky Dukes) sitting in the middle of the back row with a diffuse source of light and a loose-leaf folder making (as it seemed) copious notes.  I wonder what they said?

New Diorama Theatre--certainly new to me!