Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre.
Fresh off a three-month run at the Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Bath, a trio of Spanish plays have now found their temporary home at Dalston’s Arcola Theatre. Commencing the season is Don Gil of the Green Breeches directed by Arcola’s own, Mehmet Ergen. It is a comedy of mistaken identity, wavering affection and ruthless cunning, or so I believe. This is light entertainment led by a strong director and skilled cast with an overly complicated plot that, from the offset, seems fairly irrelevant. In fact, Ergen emphasises the chaos and utilises it for comedic effect. The result is a charming farce with an aptitude for fun. The play will likely draw comparisons to Shakespeare in its depiction of classic Elizabethan themes of jilted lovers and passionate enemies. These similarities are potentially unfavourable, marking Don Gil as the infant sibling of the Bard. There are moments when the humour succeeds with flawless precision, yet, at times, the familiarity of much of the material perhaps makes the play rather pedestrian.
A more innovative attitude from the creative team would have created more dynamic work, however, Don Gil is certainly a jovial play. The costumes are magnificent; ranging from vivid green to jubilant orange. The set is interesting, blocking is kinetic and the removal of props is executed with such choreographed precision that the rearrangement of the set becomes a charming part of the performance.
The result is a light-hearted play which rests comfortably in the shadow of more prolific 17th century playwrights but it does a solid job of entertaining the audience.
Much Ado About Nothing, The Old Vic
One of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, played at The Old Vic late in 2013 with some bold casting choices that challenge the typically youthful spirit associated with one of the Bard’s greatest known comedies. The lead actors, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones are much loved Theatre Darlings however, in this instance, they fail to inject Shakespeare’s words with any jovial spirit. Instead, they weigh the piece down, giving it a previously unknown lethargy that works against the vibrant, mischievous nature of the play.
Having worked together on Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy which showed on Broadway and the West End, this is the second time Redgrave and Jones have worked together. The former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Mark Rylance is at the helm of the misguided ship. He sets his rendition of Much Ado in 1944 rural England featuring an odd mixture of American troops, boy scouts and village bobbies. Redgrave and Jones play two sparring lovers, yet the fumbled words, sloth-like pace and unconvincing speeches fail to generate the interest that Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship deserves.
The accompaniments are also fairly clumsy; the set is gigantic and engulfs much of the action. The supporting cast are solid and provide much of the humour, yet they cannot divert attention away from the messiness of the overall production. Whilst not particularly successful, The Old Vic’s Much Ado About Nothing is an opportunity to watch two theatrical heavy weights on stage; If you are devout fans of Redgrave or Jones this production may have some merit for you. If not, Shakespeare is hardly in short supply, I would recommend holding off until a more worthy production comes along.
Ode To An Office
On the second floor resides the female lavatories. The world outside is accessed through the window of the third cubicle in the public bathroom. If you angle it right, you can hoist yourself up onto the ledge and prop open that glorious access point. With a wide swing, the framed glass slides to the left and a flood of air pours into the stale enclosure.
The viewpoint gives you access to a world that exists beyond the 9 – 5. On the concrete porch opposite are two children swinging round in circles while their mother professes her love of waffles to some confidant on the other line. Their elation grows with every completed spiral. Whizzing past one other with youthful jubilation that pales their mother’s adoration of waffles. A precious, delicate love that will evolve into dizzy trips that will mark their adolescence. Soon they will be strapped to a chair and made to sit there.
At that age all those the spirals must feel like an achievement. With each completed circle a feel of elation must occur.
Spin on little people.
With great resolve, you swing the framed glass shut and return back to the screen. There awaits your eleventh cup of Morrison’s breakfast tea.