WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Donmar at King’s Cross
WHEN: 30/9, runs to 15/10
Q: How many of Shakespeare’s characters were female? A: 16 per cent.
- Read on for details of a production which includes torches for the audience to shine
The lack of female characters could be a problem for repertory companies in particular with the result that women were underrepresented in their casts, perhaps making up a third of those on stage. How to address such disparity?
Welcome to the Donmar at King’s Cross Shakespeare Trilogy consisting of a prison-set The Tempest (reviewed here), Julius Caesar and Henry IV with an all-female cast led by Harriet Walter and directed by Phyllida Lloyd.
We were last at King’s Cross Theatre last year for In the Heights and the temporary building has been extended towards the station to house both this trilogy and Bowie musical Lazarus which opens later this month.
We’re in the theatre bar pre-show with audience members including Andrew Marr when a prison siren sounds and cast members dressed as guards escort the cast in jumpsuit costumes through the venue. We’re ushered into the theatrical space surrounded on all four sides by raked seating allowing the cast to enter and exit in the aisles leading to the prison bars we are all behind, leading to doors and aerial walkways.
The strength in depth of the cast is what most impresses. Jade Anouka (who we last saw with Kit Harrington in Doctor Faustus and is pictured above right with Walter) has most fun as Ariel, including rapping and singing. Jackie Clune and Karen Dunbar give us comedy as a very English Stefano and Scottish Trinculo respectively. Sheila Atim and Leah Harvey convince as the young lovers.
Joan Armatrading’s music covers many bases and there are even steel drums and brass instruments played on stage, a snatch of 80s classic I Know Him So Well making the most of Clune’s fine singing voice and torches under seats for the audience to join in with a particularly effective moment.
This Tempest is abridged, the redemption theme works in the prison setting and the novelty of an all-female cast becomes far less notable when the production is so remarkable for its quality, exuberance and invention. Can’t wait to see the remaining two parts of this trilogy.