Monday, 11 February 2008

REVIEW: "Sweet William"

There are two kinds of theatre fans in this world: those who are fans of Shakespeare and those who do not exist in the eyes of the former. Indeed, how could one fail to be charmed by the language, the sweeping epics, and the legacy left behind by the Bard? To be completely honest, the RZ finds it pretty easy. He would rather sit through a repeat visit to An Audience with the Mafia than go to a production of Shakespeare, and the only time he has ever found himself engaged at all by the master was watching Slings & Arrows - and even then it was the acting and the set-up rather than the words which blew him away.

That said, classical actor Michael Pennington had an entirely different and wholehearted appreciation for the man, leading him to devise and perform the new one-man show Sweet William, now running at the home of the Dyson 2.

Pennington’s tale is an intertwined blend of his own life and experience with the material with that of Shakespeare’s. From his first visit to Macbeth to forming a politically charged troupe, Pennington relates to and through the great texts, coming in and out of characters related to the times and events in the discussed lives.

And that’s about it, really. It’s hard to go into great detail about such a simple show, other than to point out that it’s obvious from beginning to end how passionate Pennington is about his source material. Despite his age, he maintains an approachable warmth and vigour through two acts with only a chair to accompany him.

And because there’s so little to comment on, it’s a rather easy judgement to call to make. Shakespeare enthusiasts will feel at home with this production, and while non-enthusiasts are unlikely to be converted (the RZ wasn’t), it’s a more entertaining lecture than the far more sensationalised pap mentioned above.

Both groups, however, should be outraged at the Ambassador Theatre Group for having the gall to charge £27.50 for this production. One man, a chair, and a single lighting preset doth not such a high price justify, and as one of the RZ’s companions pointed out, one could see a musical for that (or two or three fringe productions elsewhere). The show is touring, however, and will undoubtedly be cheaper at the Kingston Rose or Greenwich Theatre (it’s playing one of them....)

Where: Trafalgar Studios 2
When: M-Sa @ 19:45, Th/Sa @ 15:00 until 16 Feb.
How Much: £20 Mon. Eve, £27.50 all other performances
Concessions: Book by phone and mention “ATG Email Offer” to get £20 tickets. Students and usual suspects can likely get day seats as well.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £12.50. It would be worth top price at a smaller venue with a more reasonable price.
RZ Other Notes: Readers who have not seen the brilliance that is Slings & Arrows (a Canadian TV series about a Shakespeare festival) are deprived and should rush to the nearest R1 DVD store of their choice to pick up the new and highly affordable boxset. Also, both of the RZ’s companions commented on Trafalgar’s use of Dyson Airblade hand driers, officially making Trafalgar Studios the trendy place to use the loo in the West End.

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