Godot at the New Vic

There are many myths surrounding Samuel Beckett and his work. He is famously reported as telling a reporter that if knew what a play had meant, he would have put it in the play. A theatre critic also described Godot as a play in which nothing happens. Twice. His is an enigmatic presence in 20th century theatre; just google a picture of him and you’ll see what I mean – what a face!

You can see what the critic meant. Vladimir and Estragon are two tramps who meet by a tree for two days running to wait for the mysterious Godot. Each day a message is brought by a boy to say that Godot can’t come today, but he is sure to come tomorrow. A conceited land-owner, Pozzi, and his slave, Lucky (a slave called Lucky?), also cross the stage in each half. Beckett plays with our expectations of time and chronology (everything happens twice, challenging us to examine the notion of causality in narrative development), plot, character, and even what it means to be an audience (there are a number of meta-theatrical moments when the central characters gaze in to the crowd and question who we are – as we question who they are). The play is at once a slapstick exchange between two tramps about sore feet and boots, and an existential meditation on life, death and the possibility of being rescued from the insignificance of life by a greater power.

London Classic Theatre’s production is a fantastic interpretation of a play which has changed the way we think about theatre.

Norther Broadsides’ The Winter’s Tale

Staff and students were at the New Vic to see Northern Broadsides interpretation of The Winter’s Tale. It was, as ever, a seductive experience of precision acting and innovative staging. It would be unfair to single out one performance from a faultless cast, but I’m going to anyway. Conrad Nelson as the king, Leontes, was magnificent in his brooding, introspective delusion. I’m sure he’s a lovely guy in real life, but he plays a baddie very well (his Iago, played opposite Lennie Henry’s Othello, was a study in malevolence). The rest of the cast were just magnificent.
Broadsides are well known for mixing drama and music in inventive ways and the turn from tragedy to romance, the ‘problem’ of this problem play, signaled the setting of Shakespeare’s verse to many musical genres, including Bob Dylan, and a folk/hippy design. There can’t been many interpretations of Shakespeare which include Irish dancing, but there should be.
We all departed stage left, pursued by a bear. Next stop Godot!
Broadsides’ trailer for the production can be found here

The RSC’s ‘Death of a Salesman’

I was in that London at the weekend to see the RSC’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (which we study in Make it New: American writing 1900-1950). During the day we took in the London Eye and the new cable car across the Thames at Greenwich. We separated these panoptical pursuits with lunch at the Tate and  some contemplative time with Rothko’s magnificent explorations of colour, shade and shape.

Continue reading

Dracula at the Vic

Review from 1st Year student, Danny Collard

Theresa Heskins’ production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was, undoubtedly, one of the more inventive adaptations of this well told tale. Performed at the New Vic Theatre in Stoke ‘in the round’, each audience member left with plenty to discuss on the journey home, regardless of their enjoyment of the show.
The performance stayed remarkably true to the original plot, and it may be said that many of the issues taken (for those that took them) came from its adherence to Stoker’s work, which, especially with age, Continue reading

Recent publication


Professor Douglas Burnham has just published The Nietzsche Dictionary, latest in the Bloomsbury series of philosophy dictionaries. A herculean task for the author, who has been described as ‘a subtle and incisive reader of Nietzsche’ providing the reader with ‘a comprehensive understanding of Nietzsche’s ideas’ – no mean feat.

The Nietzsche Dictionaryhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Nietzsche-Dictionary-Bloomsbury-Philosophy-Dictionaries/dp/1441160752

Out in time for Christmas!


Maxine Peake in Hamlet

I was at the Manchester Royal Exchange (just 45 minutes up the West Coast Mainline) to see Maxine Peake play Shakespeare’s Danish prince. Peake was mesmerizing as she strode the stage, at once sinister in her madness and profound in her insights. The run is extended, and sold out.

The production was very special, but I have yet to arrive at a satisfactory explanation for the translation of Polonius into the female counselor, Polonia, while Peake’s Hamlet remained a Prince. The reverence to tradition is neatly complemented by some neat contemporary gestures (such as the Liverpudlian gravedigger with an ipod), but I’m not convinced by the play-within-a-play scene.

Ibsen’s Ghost at the New Vic

Students from all years joined staff at the New Vic theatre near the uni for a staging of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts (1881). A revival of Richard Eyre’s excellent production explored issues of generational conflict, rapidly changing social conventions, and moral hypocrisy at the end of the 19th century (http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/sep/20/richard-eyre-spirit-ibsen-ghosts). A few of us then had a bite to eat and a pint at the Polite Vicar next door, and caught the 2nd half of Stoke City v Newcastle (which was a lot less exciting than Ibsen).

We’ll be taking in the excellent Northern Broadside’s production of Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer at the Vic in November (http://newvictheatre.org.uk/she-stoops-to-conquer).