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Monday, 26 January 2015

Our Marketing Intern, Hannah Goodwin, went along to a production of Love’s Labour’s Won at the RSC and discovered, with her BP £5 ticket, the unbelievable value that being a RSC Key member can bring!

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production of Love’s Labour’s Won (Or Much Ado About Nothing) is full of fun and festivities with the heart-warming notion that love can often show itself in the most unlikely of couples. Its post-World War One backdrop provides the perfect setting for a story of gender battles, sibling rivalry and love conquering all.

Set in Autumn 1918, with the memories of war slowly fading into the past, soldiers Benedick and Claudio return from the trenches to find themselves reacquainted with Beatrice and introduced to her cousin, Hero. As they settle into their post-war lives, Love’s Labour’s Won follows the highs and lows of a whirlwind romance for Claudio and Hero, with their passion being encouraged by most and yet plotted for downfall by others.

Despite Claudio and Hero’s relationship being the focal point of suspense and tension in the play, their engagement is upstaged by the fiery and quick-witted exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice. Their constant challenges of wit and smart remarks not only set up for some hilarious comedy but provides a will they/won’t they situation that completely captivates the audience. With them both confirming their planned lives of solitude and bachelorhood, it only takes a little interference from their friends before battles of wit meet with a ceasefire of love.

Although both relationships are met with challenges, love ultimately wins overall with peace and joy falling over this post-war household just in time for Christmas festivities to commence!

Christopher Luscombe’s production of Love's Labour's Won (Or Much Ado About Nothing) makes a welcome break from the winter chill with a warmth that flows from the stage and into the hearts of its audiences. It is playing in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at the RSC Stratford until 14 March 2015. With BP £5 tickets available for RSC Key Members, there are really no excuses to miss such a fantastic show!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

RSC Key member, Beth Sharrock, has written a review on Love's Labour's Lost.  BP £5 tickets are available for this comic verve. 
Love's Labour's Lost is showing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until the 14th of March. 

The RSC has mastered in Love’s Labour’s Lost a play which unapologetically mocks people in love. To their faces. Were Shakespeare alive today, his problematic, comedic masterpiece may be encapsulated in an ironic ‘like’ for one of those detestably cringeworthy “Me and My Girl #theone #loveher” updates.

On the page, Shakespeare’s lesser performed comedy reads like the Bard’s sonneteering run-through. No less than five lovers in the plays pen odes to their mistresses, which makes the play read more like an anthology than a piece of drama. And indeed, the lover’s action shows itself as much on paper as it does between people.

The power of the penned verse in this play is, like forerunner to Malvolio’s blundering interpretation skills, the production’s biggest gag. Picture this; four young academic Edwardian gentlemen reclining in their library walled parlour, vowing to sign their lives and desires in favour of strict study. Freedom of food, sleep, and most importantly – women – are all forsworn by the gallants for three years. 

Now picture these litigiously bound men in their dressing gowns, weeping and pining and waxing positively rhetorical for four beautiful strangers who have taken their fortified court, and even more impregnable vows, by storm. What’s more? In what feels like an unspoken jeer of “Berowne and Rosaline sitting-in-a-tree”, their odes of painful love are all overheard by each other. What’s even more? The scene stealing comedy is provided by Luscombe in the form of a teddy bear.
that's right, a teddy bear. 

"For your fair sakes have we neglected time,
Play'd foul play with our oaths: your beauty, ladies,
Hath much deform'd us"
Berowne, V.ii

The sonnet scene is one which threatens to be a laborious wade through the mud of the inaccessible, superfluous, verbose, grandiloquent sophistry (see where I’m going with this?) that has built itself into a harmful skeleton in the closet of ‘Shakespearephobia’. This production side steps this landmine as smoothly as an Edwardian slick comb ‘do. Our love sick brotherhood have just as great a laugh at each other’s attempts at poetry as we do, with their awkward half rhymes and (more than slightly) tearful deliveries.

The relationship between the forsworn men is beautifully crafted by Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville), Edward Bennett (Berowne) and Tunji Kasim (Dumaine). The group so naturally navigate a convincing, if not naive, devotion to learning astray into the murkier waters of unrequited love; which is so artfully acted that one truly believes the feeling is a new, and threatening, experience. Bennett courts Berowne’s monologues with all the joyful angst of a reluctant lover. Perhaps even more skilful is the group’s tackling of one of Shakespeare’s greatest unwritten scenes – an all-singing, all-dancing, all-bearded Muscovite serenade. 

"We are wise girls to mock our lovers so."
Princess, V.iii.

The play’s female temptations are played with a measure of flirtation, modesty and downright girlish giggles by Frances McNee (Maria), Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine), Michelle Terry (Rosaline) and Leah Whitaker (the confident Princess of France). The Princess and her women are a perfectly choreographed, commanding hand to mould the putty mess of unrequited lovers. Measured touches of a more paternal relationship are embraced beautifully by the baby-faced Peter McGovern (Moth) and John Hodgkinson (Don Armado). 

These stunning performances are not without an original score by Nigel Hess so powerful and emotive it seems to inhabit the stage like an extra character. A funny, sad, reflective one. Think Shakespeare’s perfect wise fool expressed in strains of violin.

"Our wooing doth not end like an old play"
Berowne, V.ii
The beauty of this play is in its promises. Or rather, it’s broken ones. The stunning Edwardian interiors and idyllic rural exteriors promise us blossoming romance. The strength and conviction with which our lovers spar, as only Shakespearean ones can, with wits and disguise and each other’s pride promises an amorous resolution. The farcically bombastic play-within-a-play promises a parade of heroes who will be uninterruptedly hilarious. What we see in the play’s concluding scenes is our own hopeful optimism interrupted with a French messenger ringing the death of a beloved father, who also happens to be the King of France, with this news the play’s vows begin to tragically unravel. Gregory Doran and Christopher Luscombe’s choice to stage this scene as a precedent to the Great War is an insightful and painful light thrown upon some of our own broken promises to each other as nations and as people. Glimmering performances, artfully playful direction by Luscombe and an aesthetic itself to fall head over heels for promise a display of how Shakespeare’s comedy should be executed. 
On this, it delivers. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Behind the Scenes Tour

Attention all RSC Key members! A new discount is now available, with the ever popular Behind the Scenes Tour of our unique theatres reduced to £3.50 exclusively for Key members! This is a chance to go behind the curtain and discover the intricacies of backstage goings-on, with all the knowledge of our experienced Tour Guides at your disposal. We recently sent Kathryn, one of our Marketing Interns, round the theatres in order to give you an insider’s experience of a typical tour.

A trip behind the scenes is undoubtedly a treat for any theatre-lover, but this one hour tour of both the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre is definitely worth experiencing. Following the transformation of the theatres in 2010, the new Front of House (where the tour begins) now boasts some rather special features that could easily be missed without the tour, such as the old stage flooring that ensures you quite literally tread the same boards as many famous actors and actresses.

The first section of the tour takes you up to the third floor, where floor to ceiling windows provide a fabulous view over Stratford-upon-Avon and the RSC estate. From this vantage point it is possible to appreciate the eclectic architectural style of theatres, from the gothic Swan Theatre to the newer and more Art Deco RST. A further fascinating factor of this area includes the strategically placed theatre seats high up on the wall of the rooftop restaurant, giving you an idea of the height of the very back row of the upper circle before the theatre’s transformation.

Moving into the backstage area of the RST, the tour allows you to become privy to aspects such as the speaker layout of the entire theatre and even the RST control room. The control room provides a particularly great insight into the way a theatre like ours works. Home to the automation and lighting controls, as well as the immensely important deputy stage manager’s desk, this room overlooks the 1,040 seats of the RST auditorium – the best view in the house, unless you have a fear of heights!

The maze of backstage corridors connects the two theatres together, so the tour takes you directly from the RST into the Swan. It is in these areas that you get to see the outstations used by actors during performances – these are used both by the actors to confirm they are in position and by the deputy stage manager to cue their entrances. It is often these elements that get forgotten when you are swept up in watching a performance, but of course without these the show would quite simply not go on.

If you’re lucky, and there are no rehearsals or events taking place, you may also get to go into the Swan auditorium. For fans of the theatre’s history, this point of the tour is a great opportunity to vocalise any and all questions about the Swan’s background (such as the story of how it was funded, or its use as a wartime canteen).

Returning to the labyrinth of corridors and rooms that make up the backstage areas, the tour takes you past the dressing rooms that serve both theatres, giving you a further glimpse into the actors’ surroundings. It must be said, with warm floors and balconies overlooking the river, these rooms banish all preconceptions of cold and draughty changing rooms stuck unceremoniously in a basement area.

Throughout the tour there are always plenty of opportunities to ask questions about the current and upcoming productions, and it is guaranteed that no two tours will be the same. Without access to this kind of tour, visitors to the RSC would definitely miss out on an all-round experience of the theatres, and one that is both fascinating and educational. I urge you to take this opportunity whilst you can!

Please note: as the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon has two working theatres, tour destinations may vary. For more information about our tours please click here.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Hello RSC Key members! This newest blog post – a synopsis of Thomas Dekker’s city comedy The Shoemaker’s Holiday – is written by Kathryn Piekarski, one of our current Marketing Interns. The Shoemaker’s Holiday will show in the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 11 December 2014 to 7 March 2015.

Rowland Lacy (an aristocrat) and Rose Oateley (daughter of the Mayor of London) are young, in love, and desperate to marry, but social class and disapproving relatives stand in the way of their plans for the future. In an attempt to separate the young lovers, Lacy is ordered to serve in the war in France whilst Rose’s father contrives to match her with a more ‘suitable’ gentleman, Master Hammon. However they are not the only couple fated to be torn apart – shoemaker Ralph is also to be dispatched to the war, much to the despair of his loving wife Jane. Although Ralph dutifully sets off across the sea, leaving a parting gift of new shoes for Jane, Lacy decides to take some drastic steps in order to remain behind in London.

Simon Eyre, known as the mad shoemaker of Tower Street, and his wife Margery are on their way from rags to riches when Lacy – now disguised as Dutch cobbler Hans – joins his company of shoemakers. Lacy uses his new position, along with the help of his fellow journeymen and Rose’s maid Sybil, to visit Rose and continue with their marriage plans. Eyre’s journey of good fortune sees him first made Sheriff and then the new Mayor of London, and festivities are arranged to commemorate Eyre’s social ascension.

Meanwhile, Master Hammon – following a rejection by Rose – courts Jane and misinforms her of Ralph’s death in the war in order to persuade her to marry him instead. Ralph arrives home injured but alive, and is dismayed to be unable to find Jane waiting for him on his return. However, as chance would have it, Ralph is commissioned to make a pair of wedding shoes for Hammon’s new bride, to be modelled on the very pair he gave to Jane on his departure for the war. Along with the brotherhood of shoemakers Ralph invades the wedding in order to reclaim his wife from Hammon, who attempts to turn the ceremony into a twisted commercial exchange for Jane’s person.

Lacy’s disguise is eventually discerned by his uncle the Earl of Lincoln and Rose’s father, but following some lucky misdirection they are manoeuvred to invade Hammon’s wedding by mistake, whilst Lacy and Rose escape to marry with the support of the Eyres. The King attends the shoemakers’ celebrations and simultaneously pardons Lacy for abandoning his war duties and blesses the young couple’s marriage. In response to further protests from Lincoln and Oateley, the King knights Lacy and so renders Rose a Lady, finally silencing the arguments against her lower social standing. The celebratory banquet concludes the events, the King attending alongside all the shoemakers of London. 

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