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Monday, 29 September 2014

RSC Key member, Grace Murray, reviews Webster's Shocking Revenge Tragedy, The White Devil.

The White Devil
Directed by Maria Aberg

Swan Theatre
Until 29th November

Maria Aberg’s lurid and often uncomfortable production of Webster’s revenge tragedy could not have come at a better time. The corrupt patriarchy which dominates the Italian court of The White Devil may at first seem distant from our modern society, but the ongoing Everyday Sexism and Yes All Women campaigns, among others, have proven that we still have a long way to go before feminism becomes obsolete. Webster’s tale of the bloody consequences of the affair between Vittoria (Kirsty Bushell) and Duke Bracciano (David Sturzaker) exposes the hypocrisy and rigid genderism which still influence our perspective on sexuality today.
The production opens with Vittoria stripped to her underwear on a bare stage, dressing in front of a suddenly uneasy audience. It’s impossible to escape the casual objectification in this warped version of Rome, both for Bushell’s magnetic Vittoria, defiant but frustrated by her lack of agency, and for the audience itself, bombarded by the sexual imagery on the vast overhead screen which borrows from the modern music video. Aberg also turns Vittoria’s scheming brother Flamineo into her sister, played by Laura Elphinstone as a calculating politician who adopts the misogyny of her male superiors. Flamineo’s sexist tirades seem all the more unthinkable when delivered by a woman.

Indeed, nothing is sacred in Aberg’s vision. The house of convertites, a place of seclusion for sinful women, instead serves as the menacing backdrop of many a court scene as its drugged inmates shuffle around a transparent cell. Adultery is committed in the midst of throbbing techno music, and at one point a dead body is dragged across the stage. Webster’s play exposed the carnal desires at the heart of the 17th century nobility, but Aberg’s production forces its audience to accept that sex and violence still leave us enraptured as well as enraged. It’s a deeply unsettling feeling: there’s nowhere to hide.

When Erica Whyman announced the RSC’s plans to stage The White Devil, she noted that although the problems of gender inequality aren’t easy to solve on the stage or in the world, “we are intent on asking some questions about both”. The White Devil asks us many, but most of all I was left wondering, “What has changed?” And the answer is, “Not enough.”

BP £5 tickets are still available for The White Devil

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Time Flies

Hello to all of our RSC Key members! Our latest blog post comes from one of our Marketing Interns, Emily Milward, who tells us all about her time working with us on the Marketing Work Placement.

A big hello to all the lovely RSC Key members! 

I’m writing this post as, unfortunately, my six month internship here is coming to a close. Time flies when you’re having fun! It hardly seems a week ago when I was getting excited at seeing the position advertised on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website.

Applying for this internship has been one of the best decisions of my life. When I first kindled my love of theatre as a little girl, I would have never dreamed I’d be in with a chance of working for the RSC by the time I was 21.

I’ve met lots of friendly and interesting people while working here – ranging from my friendly co-workers in the Marketing Department, to our enthusiastic theatre-goers. My range of duties has been so vast, I’ve really had chance to take in many different skills. I’ve had a taste of all the diverse aspects of the Marketing Department (literally! The RSC Key sweets are delicious), from audience insight to copywriting, proofreading to RSC Key brand promotion at University Freshers' Fairs, I’ve genuinely enjoyed every assignment. I’ve even taken the everyday tasks of box carrying and cart pushing as a work out opportunity!

 Emily Milward promoting the RSC Key to students at the
University of Birmingham Freshers' Fair in September 2013

But, my placement as an intern hasn’t just given me the chance to shadow my co-workers' jobs.  And more importantly, it’s not a ‘get the tea and coffee for everyone’ kind of internship. Uniquely, I’ve been given the opportunity to take on my own project. My personal interests were taken into account - I’m a colossal book nerd, and I love writing. So, I was assigned the individual task of reading two upcoming plays and creating short synopses for The Roaring Girl and The Arden of Faversham. That’s right: I can now proudly say that my written work is on the RSC’s website!

I could go on for pages and pages about my time here. I’ve been the envy of my friends, attending Press Night Parties and star-spotting (cough, David Tennant, cough). But I’ll just leave you with this… I’ve worn my red RSC lanyard with pride over the past six months. It really has been a valuable and treasured experience, which I am sad to see come to an end. Believe me; I will go on to brag about working here for many years to come.

For more information, read about the Marketing Work Placement.

Emily Milward

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The RSC Key celebrates 10,000 members

Hello to all of our RSC Key members! We hope you're keeping warm with lots of hot chocolate and by dreaming of summer with our Summer 14 productions. Here at the RSC we're very excited as the RSC Key recently celebrated reaching 10,000 members. Our latest blog post comes from one of our Marketing Interns, Ryan Brown, who tells us all about helping with a press photo call with our lucky 10,000th member.

Having undertaken a six month work placement in the RSC’s marketing department, it is very exciting to be working as a part of the RSC Key, especially when the RSC Key recently celebrated its 10,000th member. This prestigious title was awarded to 21 year old Hannah Cammock from Stratford-upon-Avon. Lucky Hannah won a bag full of RSC Key goodies (including a pretty sweet notebook and mug) as well as tickets to see the fantastic Wendy & Peter Pan!

Hannah also got to have an exclusive photo shoot outside of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (the turmoil of being a Key celebrity, eh?) as part of an article for the Stratford Herald. When Lucy (Marketing Assistant and manager of the RSC Key) and I met Hannah, she was over the moon and hugely excited about being the 10,000th RSC Key member. She couldn’t stop laughing when she saw her companion for the photo shoot: our giant Key.
Hannah Cammock (L) with Lucy Dwyer (R)
When asked for a quote from the Stratford Herald, Hannah said the following:

"As a theatre lover I’m thrilled to be the 10,000th member of the RSC Key.  I joined the RSC Key because I think it’s a great opportunity to introduce more young people to the arts and especially the Royal Shakespeare Company. Personally for myself, it is an affordable way to see upcoming performances, and I’m hoping to try and see everything this year."

We'll hold you to that, Hannah!
Hannah Cammock

The day was a really rewarding experience for everyone involved. Being a part of RSC Key history was very exciting - who would have thought we would reach 10,000 members since it started in 2010? It shows you that young people want to see theatre (and want £5 tickets!) and who knows, hopefully we will be celebrating our 20,000th Key member soon.

If you have friends that are aged 16-25 and are still not a member of the RSC Key then what are you waiting for?! Get them to join online for FREE today - and read the published article in the Stratford Herald here.

Ryan Brown

Friday, 3 January 2014

Happy New Year from the RSC Key

We'd like to wish all of our RSC Key members a Happy New Year and to say thank you to those of you who came to our Christmas Pub Quiz in December. It was wonderful to see so many of you there enjoying yourselves and, although it was extremely close, we’d like to give a huge congratulations to the winning team The Tiny Foxes! Our latest blog post comes from one of our Marketing Interns, Sian Bateman, who gives us the lowdown on the event.

As an intern in the Marketing Department at the RSC, you wouldn’t believe the variety of tasks and experiences I encounter week on week. As part of my individual project with The RSC Key, I was invited to attend the pub quiz at The Dirty Duck - an exclusive event for RSC Key members! The thought of drink, free nibbles and some challenging trivia was something I just couldn’t resist - oh, the hard life of an intern!

Some last minute equipment testing and the placement of some RSC Key sweets (Tutti Fruity) upon the tables meant we were raring to go; now all we needed was some theatre enthusiasts. Within about a minute the empty Duck was filled with Shakespeare supporters and pub quiz lovers alike, great start! The thing I enjoyed most about this event was the atmosphere created with just a few RSC staff, a microphone and plenty of RSC Key members. The cheer when the ‘Shakespeare Round’ was announced just proved how relevant Shakespeare’s theatre is, even now, and I was encouraged to see how much enjoyment can be gained from a shared interest.

Now I must apologise to the RSC Key members for the 200+ photos I took that evening, I got a little snap happy when handed a very nifty piece of equipment (oops).

In addition to the pub quiz, some of our members took part in vox pops and were interviewed about their thoughts on the RSC Key. It was amazing to hear all the positive reviews and feedback on a scheme I’ve been assisting with for the last month, which, for me, makes it so much more worth my effort.

I’d like to thank everyone that attended our event as I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you did too, I can’t wait for the next RSC Key event to be announced! In the meantime, check out our gallery of photos from the evening.

Until next time!

Sian Bateman

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Intern? Our turn!

Here in the RSC Marketing department, our current set of fantastic interns are coming to the end of their time with us, so we thought it would be a good idea for each of them to write a blog post giving an insight into the nitty gritty life of an RSC Marketing Intern. Intern? Our turn! comes from Eve Parker.

Eve Parker

I’m nearing the end of my internship with the Marketing Department here at the RSC and still busy as ever! For those that aren’t sure quite what marketing entails, you’d be surprised how much we do! Right now I am in the middle of updating our Pinterest site, sending off mail to our new RSC Key members, and writing an application for The Industry Wedding Awards. That, of course, is only one afternoon out of many over the course of my internship, and the experiences I have had have been varied. From the glamorous and exciting (think free lunches to ‘greet’ the new acting companies once they arrive in Stratford, or sneak previews of sets for upcoming shows featuring a certain Mr Tennant), to the everyday chores (rehanging 7ft posters in the freezing cold and rain, and LOTS of carrying boxes!) I’m constantly learning more about the department and the company in general.

The Marketing internship is great because you are in the office once a week for 6 months, meaning that you get to see how things run over a full season. There’s a certain thrill from seeing work you’ve done come to life. It was somewhat surreal to finally see the costumes worn by the actors onstage in ‘A Mad World My Masters’ after uploading the designs onto the website a few months previously!

As well as assisting with the day-to-day running of the department, each intern is given their own project to work on over the course of the internship. I am a bit of a wedding nerd so was handed over to Lucy our Hires Manager, and have had great fun helping her come up with new ways to promote our Wedding & Civil Ceremonies service. It was a complete pleasure and honour to then help out on a couple’s Big Day, you can definitely see all the hard work pay off!

I’ll be sad to end my time here in our Chapel Lane offices, but I’ve still got a lot to do before I’m done and I’ll be sure to make the most of it. For now though I’m back to my to-do list, and it seems that I can tick off job number 4: ‘Write Blog Post’!

Eve Parker

Thursday, 2 May 2013

As You Like It
Directed by Maria Aberg
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Until 28th September
Reviewed on the 18th April 2013 by Luke Taylor age 18

Wrestling, lust, music! What’s not to love about Aberg’s As You Like It. A performance abounding in naughty references, Shakespeare’s As You Like It does not disappoint. The RSC’s bravura performance questions As You Like It’s reputation of being an uncompleted version of 12TH Night.  Aberg successfully modernises the traditional comedy but still maintains the sexual ambiguity in a haughty rendition, which leaves the audience falling in love with the idyllic forest of Arden.
From the tragedy-esque beginning that leaves the audience on the edge of their seat to the perfect party ending, As You Like It fires on all cylinders. This capricious court features a monotonous heartbeat thumping as the gallant Orlando finds himself successfully beating the wrestler Charles. In comparison to the idyllic forest of Arden where liberation occurs as they ‘fleet the time carelessly’, and through all of this Aberg’s directing is unmistakably successful.  Her interpretation of the capricious court in which Rosalind and Celia find themselves creates unnerving tension as the stage lights create an emphatic effect. This effect is used throughout the court scenes and creates an unnerving aura, making the audience relate to the protagonist’s want to escape Duke Fredrick’s despot. Heroine Rosalind is then banished by Duke Fredrick but not before she has stolen Orlando’s heart in what the audience determines as love at first sight. Rosalind and Celia then go in disguises of Ganymede and Aliena, apt names for the sexual antics that take place in forest. Love struck Orlando then follows suit after agreeing to take perennial servant Adam along with him. It is at this point that the stage is transformed from the repressive court to the magical, idyllic forest of Arden, where characters experience liberation.
The staging really is very impressive as the audience find themselves in a hippy camp where characters in essence compete against nature for survival. Celia from here on in takes much more of a back seat which is a shame as her quirky nature evokes much laughter. Orlando and Rosalind are then reunited, however with Rosalind dressed as Ganymede, which results in Rosalind being able to test her lover through wit, wordplay and repartee. Through this relationship both characters explore sexuality with continuous support from the clown Touchstone, much to the amusement of the audience.  We are then introduced to varying amounts of mis fit characters that each experience their own trials in the forest. The play, with out spoiling too much, ends, as is typical of a comedy endings, happily.

A special mention must be made to the director of the music Laura Marling. While the set design is incredible, it is complemented by the songs, which heavily feature the play.  Other productions that I have watched have interrupted the songs in a very rustic way with a single acoustic guitar and a sombre voice. Marling completely reinvents this tradition by having a full folk-like band performing songs, which the audience can’t help but join in with.  Marling’s melodies instil this idyllic view of the forest and further this feel good vibe that makes the play so enjoyable.
To conclude if you would like an easy watch, where your not afraid to laugh at the numerous sexual innuendos, that ends on an uplifting, happy note I couldn’t recommend a better play. Aberg has done an excellent interpretation of a play that has the potential to be quite repetitive and therefore deserves to be extolled.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Winter’s Tale reminds us how much we need Theatre

The Winter's Tale
Directed by Lucy Bailey
On UK tour from 13 March - 20 April

Review by Jake McBride

Things have certainly been quite wintry for the Arts lately as the cuts continue to bite and theatres across the country lose out on funding. The gap between rich and poor looks as wide as ever and with the highs of 2012 over, there doesn’t seem to be as much to celebrate.

What better opportunity, then, but to sit back and bask in The Winter’s Tale, a play that reminds us just how much we need stories and theatre, even more so when times are tough. What the government perhaps doesn’t realise is that the harder the times are, we need theatre more than ever, not less, and Shakespeare’s play provides the perfect lesson in teaching us how art is equally capable of creating life, as life is of making art. Resolutely defying the realistic and all barriers of time, it takes us into a world of magic and romance, music and dance, thunderous oracles and stormy seas, sheep-shearing and man-eating bears. It broadly opens up the possibilities of theatre, and in turn, the possibilities of our imagination, offering us the chance to meet “with things newborn”.

Director Lucy Bailey certainly rises to that challenge with the RSC’s latest production. She is all too aware that The Winter’s Tale is exactly the sort of theatre that’s needed for hard times, grounding her production in two kingdoms that are separated primarily by class. Set in the 1860’s, the play begins with the rich Pre-Raphaelite Sicilia, before moving to a Bohemia as an industrial Lancashire sea resort sixteen years later. But the luxurious veneer of Sicilia is deceiving; it’s not long before the colourful and exotic rugs that had warmed the stage during the first act are swept away and a stark, distinctly chilling atmosphere pervades the theatre, particularly through the screen that acts as the visual backdrop of the set. Prisoners bound and gagged are thrown down along the gangways while an executioner stands ominously, sword in hand, at the centre of the stage. Leontes (played by Jo Stone-Fewings), struck seemingly from nowhere by a deep suspicion that his wife (Tara Fitzgerald) is having an affair with his friend Polixenes (Adam Levy), lets his jealousy turn him into a tyrant, destroying his closest relationships and the idyllic lifestyle they had built and shared together.

It’s not among the rich that happiness and a passion for life is to be found. The shepherds (or rather, fishermen, as they are here) of Bohemia don’t have much but they certainly make the most of it. The stage comes alive with Morris dancing, accordion-playing and Pearce Quigley as the pedlar Autolycus, swindling as many laughs from the audience through his dry delivery as he does purses from unsuspecting pockets. It’s a place free from the bitterness and envy of government, and even when Polixenes temporarily spoils the fun, it’s only after he has been pushed through a sewer and had his clothes soiled. The harsh realities of the world are never completely brushed to one side – the penitential figure of Leontes remains visible throughout, stuck at the top of a magnificent tower rising out of the stage, brilliantly designed by William Dudley. Yet the figure of Perdita (Emma Noakes) brings him back down to earth and reconciles both worlds, rich and poor, restoring warmth to what was cold before. The play ends by quite literally bringing art to life before our eyes, showing us humanity in all its fullness and how important it is that, unlike Leontes, we never lose sight of that.

Like the holidaying shepherds, the play offers only a brief respite from the pressures of work and reality, but it brings a ray of sunshine back into our everyday lives to help dispel the wintry gloom and offer hope of new things. Even at a time when little money is going around, Bailey’s production of The Winter’s Tale in particular shows us that it’s not money we need in order to have a good time and to tell a great story. All you have to do, as Paulina says, is “awake your faith” and be prepared to resolve yourself “For more amazement”.

The Winter's Tale is on UK tour from 13 March 2013

Photos courtesy of RSC, Sheila Burnett