Olivier Assayas's film on the aftermath of May 1968 is infantile ultra-leftism
LIKE I say, I get around. Sometimes, though, I even surprise myself.
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
This RSC trilogy of Shakespeare's "shipwreck" plays, imaginative and unevenly successful, was unforgettably marked at the press-night opening of Twelfth Night.
There was a gentle but pointed protest against BP, the productions' sponsors, by two male singers from the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, who tellingly echoed the play's language: "When I hear that BP story/Green and Yellow Melancholy/Deep water despair."
They reminded the audience of the theatre's responsibilities to a world facing the threat of ecological "shipwreck" outside its walls.
Yet apart from the shipwreck linkage in the season, there is little other connection between Shakespeare's early farce, one of his richest mid-career romantic comedies and perhaps his final unassisted drama.
The Comedy of Errors is built around an extended running gag which winds up the confused spring of the mistaken identities of two sets of identical twins.Twelfth Night explores the nature of love and loss enriched by some of Shakespeare's most moving dramatic poetry. The Tempest ranges more widely over human relationships and poses questions about freedom, revenge, forgiveness and the illusory reality of life itself - "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."
All the plays have characters cast into strange and alien lands so the umbrella heading What Country Friends Is This shapes the three productions to a certain degree.
Palestinian director Amir Nizar Zuabi's production of The Comedy Of Errors is set in the dockyard of some unspecified Middle Eastern country where illegal immigrants emerge from packing cases and a version of water-boarding seems to be prevalent politically and socially.
John Bausor's set - he designs all three productions - is here dominated by a huge overhead gantry which delivers buildings and people to the stage.
The knock-about, pratfall-filled action contrasts with the ever-present menace of a police state and, when the two finally merge in the final chaotic resolution of the mixed identities, we have Nicholas Day's elderly Egeon awaiting imminent execution while dangling interminably high in the flies.
Among a cast that maintain and increase the manic pace throughout the two put-upon servant-twin Dromios (Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon), as so often in this play, win the audience's plaudits.
David Farr's production of Twelfth Night finds Emily Taaffe's schoolboyish Viola cast up from her wreck into what appears to be the shabby lobby of some antiquated hotel with an ancient lift and skew-whiff revolving doors.
Both the ensuing love-tangled trio - Jonathan McGuinness's lovelorn Count Orsino, Kirsty Bushell's Countess Olivia and Viola now disguised as the page Cesario - and the comic "gulling" subplot are not comfortably accommodated in this odd world.
The weasel-spirited formality of the steward Malvolio (Jonathan Slinger) is hilariously punctured when, tricked into believing that Olivia has the hots for him, he acquires blood-restricting, thigh-length cross-gartered yellow stockings, a rictus grin and very little else to win her approval.
The Tempest is a play short on dramatic action but Farr's production scores in two areas which often fall flat. It is difficult to extract a comic response around a man being mistaken for a fish but Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon as Trinculo and Stephano, a couple of scallywag shipwrecked drunks, reprise their comic-duo success from The Comedy Of Errors.
David Farr, moreover, brings a startlingly beautiful visual impact to the masque scene where Prospero's spirits manipulate the marriage-celebrating goddesses like puppets on invisible strings.
Moving on from his comic triumph in Twelfth Night Jonathan Slinger's Prospero is a figure almost self-destructing with suppressed anger whether informing his daughter Miranda (Taaffe) of the usurpation of his dukedom and their subsequent exile to this island which Bausor's set now transmutes into a shell-shocked landscape, or savagely berating his slave Caliban.
In the concluding scenes when he has finally reached the peace of reconciliation, Slinger's superb handling of some of Shakespeare most memorably haunting language makes this a Tempest to be treasured.
Run in repertoire until October. Box office: (0844) 800-1110.