There are many ways in which Shakespearian plays can be performed, for example, modern versions where action and stories are moved in time and location to reflect present day themes or concerns. Alternatively there are productions at The Globe where plays are presented pretty much in their original Elizabethan form. Over the next few days however, there is a third option available just around the corner from The Globe at The Rose Playhouse, Bankside where Winter’s Rages is providing Shakespeare in a combination of old and new styles. This three person show promises Shakespearean fragments with new material and classical song. Devised as a piece for Actress (Blioux Kirkby), Soprano (Sophie Kochanowska) and Piano (Hannah Yip) the audience spend an hour travelling through some of the many highlights of Shakespeare’s work interspersed with songs associated with the various plays such as the haunting “Drei Lieder der Ophelia” by Strauss and “Piangea cantando” by Verdi all sounding stunning in the cavernous space thanks in part to the sheer power of Sophie’s amazing voice.
Whilst the show didn’t follow any directly obvious thematic structure there was a wonderful plethora of plays showcased with Richard III, Othello, Romeo & Juliet to name but three. Although described as an actress, soprano and piano player, both Sophie and Blioux did both acting and singing at times and Hannah, a really wonderful keyboard player, came on stage a couple of times, most memorably as a drunken Sir Andrew in glittering gold shoes.
Of all the scenes we saw, my personal favourite was a wonderful scene from The Tempest with Sophie as Prospero talking with Blioux playing Ariel, initially as a disembodied voice and then coming on stage showing real emotion when confronting her ‘master’.
Sophie Kochanowska’s direction made fantastic use of the Rose Playhouse’s space, with action taking place both in the usual performance area and on the other side of the barrier within the original stage space of the theatre, leading to some really atmospheric moments as voices, mingled with the sounds of the theatre drifted almost dreamily across to the audience. The lighting was subtle and the costumes on the whole very simple meaning that we could concentrate on the delivery and words themselves.
All in all, this is a very unconventional show in non-standard surroundings. The Rose Playhouse is an archaeological site dating back to 1587. It is impossible to be there and not be moved by the thought of the history that has gone on around you and when combined with the amazing words of arguably the world’s greatest playwright, then it is a combination made in heaven. A few words of advice before I finish, it gets cold in The Rose so wrap up warm and say ‘yes please’ when one of the wonderful volunteers at the theatre offers you a blanket and make sure you go for a toilet-break before you get there. Finally, after the show, stay around and talk with the volunteers who will tell you all about the theatre, providing a fascinating end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening which really delivered on the promises it set out.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Rose Playhouse, Bankside presents:
Shakespeare in speech and song
Adapted and Directed by Sophie Kochanowska
Sophie Kochanowska – Sophie trained as a classical soprano at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and has performed in venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and Cheltenham Festival. She appears regularly in opera and recital in the UK and internationally.
Blioux Kirkby – Blioux trained at ArtsEd having been awarded a scholarship at the age of 17. Her work includes several productions for Secret Cinema.
Hannah Yip – Hannah trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where she studied piano with Joan Havill, Caroline Palmer and Martin Roscoe. She is currently reading for a Master of Studies in Literature and Arts at Exeter College, whilst maintaining a busy UK-wide performing schedule as a soloist and chamber musician.
Shakespeare fragments are fused with new material and classical song in this devised theatre piece for actress, soprano & piano which explores the blistering power of the human voice. The intimate stage of The Rose Playhouse with its cavernous backdrop and brooding expanse of water covering the remains of the original Elizabethan theatre provides the ideal setting for this work of stark contrasts in which characters play before the audience as apparitions of a fevered dream.
The piece takes each performer out of their traditional role encouraging a new level of engagement with these timeless scenes and illuminating the myriad differing approaches not only to interpreting Shakespeare, but to performing in general. These interpretations are added to and enriched by the music of Quilter, Warlock, Finzi, Strauss & Gounod performed live, as well as by Verdi & Adès incorporated into ambitious original sound design by Chris Bartholomew.
The Rose Playhouse, Bankside’s first theatre, 1587. The Rose is an indoor archaeological site, it is advisable to dress with an extra layer as there is no heating. There are also no toilets so please use Shakespeare’s Globe just a few hundred metres away.
Running time will be approximately 80 minutes, with no interval.
The Rose Playhouse, Bankside
56 Park Street, London, SE1 9AR
Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 14th December 2014
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm / Sunday matinee on 14th at 3pm only
No performances on Sunday 7th or Monday 8th
Ticket Prices: £12 / Concessions £10. Southwark residents £9 (with proof of address)
Box Office: 020 7261 9565 or email@example.com
Monday 8th December 2014