RSC back in the USA

RSC back in the USA

These past few months I have spent a good deal of time in Stratford-upon-Avon, where I have been exploring further collaborations with the Royal Shakespeare Company. That’s how I know that many of the company’s leading lights, including artistic director Gregory Doran, have this week decamped to New York. The RSC opens its mega- successful musical Matilda on Broadway on Thursday, and the night before Greg’s production of Julius Caesar starts its run at BAM. (For background, see this Wall Street Journal piece.) I have also been reading Sally Beauman’s truly terrific The Royal Shakespeare Company: A History of Ten Decades, first published in 1982 (and which I can’t quite believe I haven’t encountered before). And that is how I came to realise that this year marks the centenary of the first visit to the USA by the company that much later became the RSC.
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Nice

Nice

A number of reviews have appeared in the past few weeks of two recent projects from Illuminations: the Royal Shakespeare Company Julius Caesar on DVD (above) and The Sonnets by William Shakespeare, our collaboration with Touch Press, Faber and The Arden Shakespeare. In case you need reminding, here is the trailer for the DVD of Julius Caesar, which is available for purchase here. After you have taken a look, click across the jump to read extracts from the glowing reviews.


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Links for the week [Updated]

Links for the week [Updated]

A time there was when I posted weekly a group of links to things that I recently read or watched online. Then I stopped for a while. And now – I think – I am going to start again. Maybe it’s just a sense of autumnal rain and the nights drawing in, but I also feel reconnected with the blog after some weeks away – in part because finally finally we have managed to get Google Analytics working (don’t ask) and everything here seems less imaginary and more, well, real. So let’s see how it goes. A first selection is across the jump –  - and since the weekend I have added additional links. But before that I might mention that on Tuesday evening there was a free screening of our RSC/BBC Julius Caesar film (above) at The British Museum. Despite it being outdoors, some three hundred turned up to watch, and many of them stayed to the end. The projection screen was several degrees too bright but it was definitely interesting to see the film in this way.
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Whitstable times

Whitstable times

You will have noticed that I have not been blogging much over the past two months. I have been planning posts, writing parts of them in my head, even jotting down drafts. There is one that I want to offer (and may well still) about listening to the audiobook of Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth. I should also draw together my ideas about my visit to Les Rencontres d’Arles for photography exhibitions. Until an hour or so ago, however, I wasn’t going to mention the talk about filming Shakespeare that I contributed on Saturday to the Whitstable Biennale.  In large part, I thought that I had written here all that I spoke there. But then Alice Hattrick’s blog about the event appears and she says much of the presentation was ‘a bit boring’. Which brought me straight back here – not (I hope) prompted by defensiveness, but because she makes some interesting points that I want to work through.


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From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

Grrrr! I know, I know that you should never respond to criticism, but today I can’t resist a little rant. I am also by disposition a retiring individual not much given to trumpeting Illuminations’ achievements. But take a look at the following from Peter Stanford’s admiring interview with Sir Richard Eyre in today’s Daily Telegraph, ‘The BBC “wasn’t taking Shakespeare seriously”. Sir Richard has directed Henry IV part 1 and 2 for The Hollow Crown, the second of which is broadcast tonight on BBC Two. Stanford asks him this question:

Why, though, has he been so very keen for so long to get “proper” Shakespeare back on the BBC (as opposed to the corporation’s more recent standby, filmed versions of stage plays broadcast on BBC Four)?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am enraged by the idea (which goes unchallenged by Sir Richard) that The Hollow Crown is “proper” Shakespeare and that our Royal Shakespeare Company Hamlet with David Tennant, our Rupert Goold-directed Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, and our recent Julius Caesar, again with the RSC and like Hamlet directed by the company’s new Artistic Director Greg Doran, are somehow “standby” – and inferior, not to mention not “proper” – productions. 
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‘I shall see thee again’ [Updated]

‘I shall see thee again’ [Updated]

So, friends, Julius Caesar is on BBC iPlayer. Available until 10.29pm on Sunday 1 July. Go here for my round-up of reactions, including links to reviews from the Guardian, The Independent and The Arts Desk, and here for my blog during last night’s broadcast. There is an interesting thread under the Guardian review, and I have posted a couple of the comments across the jump at the bottom. And now I have added a (lengthy) digest of the past 36 hours on Twitter. For me, one of the the most thoughtful responses so far is Peter Kirwan’s at The Bardathon blog which is really worth reading.
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‘Never till tonight, never till now’

‘Never till tonight, never till now’

06:20 (Monday morning): In fact, I didn’t add to the blog (see 22:23 below) after the end of the broadcast. In part this was because my two sons came back from the pub disappointed and dejected (no, they hadn’t been watching Julius Caesar) and in part because some very nice people rang and texted and mailed (with congrats). So I’ve had a night’s sleep to reflect – and I am still totally thrilled with the way the film looked and sounded and leapt off the screen. Greg and the whole cast and the art department under Michael Vale and DOP Steve Lawes and editor Trevor Waite and the sound team and everyone else who contributed have made something really pretty wonderful. A thousand thanks to one and all.
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‘Be thou my witness…’ [Updated]

‘Be thou my witness…’ [Updated]

As I have done previously with our productions of Hamlet (2009) and Macbeth (2010), I am using this page to draw together responses to our new film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar. The film is first broadcast by BBC Four on Sunday night, 24 June, at 8pm, and we very much hope that you will see it then or during the following week on BBC iPlayer. Over the coming days I will update this post with all of the reactions I can find – and your thoughts and questions will be very welcome in the Comments below. For the latest news, follow @Illuminations on  Twitter – and if you comment about the film there please use #JuliusCaesar. Across the jump you will find links to the key BBC resources, to articles, previews, reviews, blog posts and more, as well as an index of links to all the previous Illuminations posts about Julius Caesar.


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‘The order of the course’

‘The order of the course’

Today we started the grade for our film of the RSC’s Julius Caesar. The final sound mix is underway too. So it’s all a bit busy, and that’s without the other projects to finish off and the new ones to prepare. Here is how ‘the order of the course’ plays out over the next few days. Remember too that all of this is against the backdrop of continuing PR and marketing (my BBC blog post has just gone live, and Greg Doran’s Guardian feature has appeared). Oh, and a pile of paperwork is waiting back at the office, transmission notifications to send, and even this note to scratch out…
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