Happy 30th birthday to us!

15th June 2012

We are 30 years old today!! Illuminations was incorporated on 15 June 1982. We were sort of aware of that but could not quite remember the exact date. But my colleague Linda Zuck has just looked out the paperwork and there it is in black and white. I’m a little overwhelmed, but I will try to blog some birthday thoughts later this evening… after a glass of something fizzy.

‘ ‘Tis but the time’

15th June 2012

We are thrilled to confirm that our television film of the RSC’s production of Julius Caesar, directed by Greg Doran, will be broadcast on BBC Four at 8pm on Sunday 24 June. As you can imagine we will be blogging throughout next week in the run-up to transmission. The BBC Four programme page is here and this – which I hope is something of a treat – is a three minute clip from the BBC web site. The conspirators have just murdered Caesar. Do let us know what you think…

Image: Calpurnia (Ann Ogbomo) and Caesar (Jeffery Kissoon) on the morning of the Ides of March. Photograph by Ellie Kurttz, taken on the set of the film; © Illuminations/Royal Shakespeare Company.

After you’ve gone

12th June 2012

The emerald-green grass is sodden from the rain that has fallen through the day. But the sky shows a patch or two of bright blue. Richly pungent from a wealth of flowers, the air is full of noises from unseen birds and insects. During a break in the downpours, thirty of us cluster by a wonderfully weathered wall in a corner of the rural churchyard of St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale (above). Standing by a small hole dug to receive the ashes of John Read, the vicar invites us to recall for ourselves the man we have come to celebrate. Alive to everything about this glorious corner of Yorkshire and of England, I close my eyes and think of John’s kindness, his warmth and his chuckle, of his documentaries, of the significance of his films and, yes, of the frustrating lack of recognition for his work. But there will be time for this last, and now is not that moment. read more »

‘And the first motion…’ [Updated]

7th June 2012

Reviews of and responses to the stage production of Julius Caesar are appearing – an initial list is here, with extracts from a number of the articles across the jump:

Michael Billington’s 4 star piece for the Guardian
• another 4 star review from Charles Spencer for The Telegraph
• 4 stars too from Quentin Letts, Mail Online
• … and 4 stars from Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
Moya Hughes for What’sOnStage.com agrees: 4 stars
• for the Financial Times Ian Shuttleworth is less convinced: 3 stars
• no star ratings from Ian Hughes for the Stratford Observer (but he likes it)
• stars are out for Michael Coveney at The Stage too, but he too is enthusiastic
• more fulsome praise from Kate Bassett in the Independent
Andy Richards for the Birmingham Mail is positive, but with some reservations
• for the Oxford Times, Christopher Gray is very enthusiastic
Gordon Parsons for the Morning Star says the production is ‘not to be missed’
• 5 stars from Kieran James at The Good Review
Chloe Stopa-Hunt at The Oxonian Review also likes the production a lot
• plus, Christopher Hart gives it 5 stars in the Sunday Times (but it’s behind the paywall – extracts below)

• Radio 3’s Nightwaves discussion is online (from 08:24 to 16:11)
• Radio 4’s Saturday Review item is also available (from 23:08 to 30:40) – Deborah Moggach and Dreda Say Mitchell absolutely love it, Paul Morley is a little more reserved
• BBC News has a video report online (with a contribution from me that lasts all of 4 seconds!)
Stratford Herald online has a short interview with director Greg Doran
• Paul Edmondson chairs a short discussion (4:09) with three students from University of Vermont about the production

read more »

All Greek at BFI Southbank

5th June 2012

Thursday sees the start of a season of BFI Southbank screenings of rarely seen television productions of theatre plays from ancient Greece. The season is curated by Amanda Wrigley and has been organised with the research project Screen Plays, in which Illuminations is a partner. The nine Greek tragedies plus one quasi-satyr play offer a fascinating range of approaches to the foundational plays of Western drama and the screen presentation of ancient Greece (including an Electra, above, shown unsubtitled on ITV in 1962). Together they illuminate the richly interesting variety of ways that British television has experimented with capturing the force of these ancient tales from the late 1950s to 1990. One of the events is already sold out, and tickets for the others are going fast: to book go to the website for BFI Southbank or call 020 7928 3232. read more »

Shot in Stratford… thirty-four years ago

4th June 2012

Today on the Screen Plays blog I discussed the new Network DVD release of the 1978 television presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors. I tend not to replicate copy  between the blogs, but this version of the theatre production that premiered in 1976 reveals both stage and television versions as curious – and in many ways unsatisfying – hybrids. And given that over this weekend we have been in Stratford filming a hybrid version of the RSC’s Julius Caesar, it feels timely to review the disc – and to post my thoughts here as well. read more »

‘For this time I will leave you’

3rd June 2012

We left Stratford today having completed all our filming for our Royal Shakespeare Company Julius Caesar. And now we have a quite extraordinarily short time to bring it all together in the edit. I can’t confirm exactly when the BBC Four transmission will be, but it is highly likely to be before the end of this month. As you may already know, we filmed most of this new Royal Shakespeare Company production on location a month or so ago. Then for the last few days we set up camp in the backstage right of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to film just two main scenes, together with the very end of the play, from the stage. We did a camera rehearsal on Friday, and then yesterday we shot the relevant parts of both the matinee and the evening performance – and pretty remarkable it was too. read more »

Today’s ten Julius Caesar thoughts

2nd June 2012

Apologies (and how familiar is this) for the lack of posts. We have been preparing the final part of the filming of the RSC’s new Julius Caesar, which we are doing this weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I’ll try to draw together here a bunch – well, ten, or nearly so – of bits and pieces about the production, with additional links and suggestions. And let’s start with my sense of how extraordinarily disconcerting it was to watch the first stage preview in Stratford on Monday… read more »

The Space: 21 days later

21st May 2012

Time for another update on the pop-up arts offering The Space (go here and here for earlier bulletins). This is the Arts Council England initiative with the BBC which I gather is likely – after its six month trial – to become a permanent fixture of our media world. Three weeks in, what’s hot on The Space and what’s most definitely not? Well, it still feels like an online broadcaster, with next-to-no capability for engagement, comment, dialogue or personalisation. And given its genesis, that feels like a missed opportunity. But the range of elements is wider than at launch and – pleasingly – many are weirder. There is one out and out triumph, plus some stuff that is intriguing or interesting, one or two irritating things, and then one or two more that have not come off but which were definitely worth trying. At day 21, you can feel that it is beginning to deserve more (and occasionally less) than that fence-sitting adjective, ‘promising’. Across the jump are ten reasons why. read more »

‘A tongue shriller than all the music’

19th May 2012

This is the RSC’s neat and punchy new trailer for the stage production of Julius Caesar:

How odd – and interesting – it is to see a trailer for something with which, through the film version, we are so closely associated, and yet which comes as a complete surprise. Our edit is going well and on Monday morning we are sitting down with director Greg Doran to watch something close to the final cut from end to end. Meanwhile, take a look also at the engaging blog post Julius Caesar visits Lambeth College and at a great set of rehearsal photographs by Kwame Lestrade, on of which with Cyril Nri (Cassius) is above.