Hamlet comes to BBC Two

We are delighted to learn of the planned screening of Robert Icke’s Hamlet on BBC Two in 2018. As huge fans of Robert Icke‘s work and of this production, the screening – commissioned by Patrick Holland (Controller, BBC Two) and Emma Cahusac (Commissioning Editor) – gets two thumbs up from all of us at Oberon HQ. It’s always wonderful to see any steps taken to make great theatre more accessible for everyone, and this decision means people can now watch a stunning modern production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the comfort of home, wherever they are in the country!

This production – which transferred to the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre after its sell-out run at the Almeida earlier this year – stars Sherlock‘s Andrew Scott as Hamlet, Angus Wright as Claudius, Jessica Brown Findlay as the tragic Ophelia and Juliet Stevenson as Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. It has also cast Guildenstern as a woman (Madeline Appiah) which adds a new and really interesting dimension to Hamlet’s relationship with Guildenstern.

Robert Icke’s modern take remains faithful to the original Shakespearean text, but somehow manages to feel fresh, relatable and up-to-date. It has received unanimous praise, being called ‘thrilling’ (The Stage), ‘rich and beautiful’ (Evening Standard) and ‘masterly’ (Variety). You can read more reviews here.

Another exciting aspect of this TV adaptation is the potential for it to be used in classrooms, alongside the text, to help students appreciate and engage with the play. Reading a Shakespeare play on the page just cannot be compared with hearing and seeing it performed in real time, in terms of understanding the language and the characters. With such a star-studded cast, and a modern Danish setting, this is sure to be a popular choice for English and drama teachers and their pupils.

You can learn more about Robert Icke’s Hamlet, and buy your own copy HERE

Advertisements

New Awards, Nominations and Prizes

The winners of the 2016 Critic’s Circle Theatre Awards were announced on Tuesday 26th January at a ceremony held at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End.

Here at Oberon Books we were delighted to see so many of our wonderfully talented writers and their colleagues represented among the nominees and winners of the evening. 

pic1

Best Actress was given to Denise Gough for her incredible performace as ‘Emma’ in Duncan Macmillan‘s play about recovering addicts People, Places and Things. Denise said of its success; “I’m under no illusion: our play is transferring because of our amazing reviews as well as word of mouth. I’m very grateful for what it means for this play.”
The West End transfer of People, Places and Things is running at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 15th March – 4th June 2016.

Robert Icke was awarded Best Director for his epic 3 hour 40 minute adaptation of Oresteia, which was part of the Almeida Greek season, before transferring to Trafalgar studios.

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer went to David Moorst, for his portrayal of 17 year-old Liam in Gary Owen‘s play Violence and Son. Moorst also took home the Emerging Talent awards at the 2015 London Evening Standard Awards – clearly one to watch!

pic2

Elsewhere, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has also announced the finalists for its 2015–16 playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize given to female playwrights.

The ten finalists – narrowed down from over 150 – include Rachel Cusk for Medea, and fellow Oberon playwright Dominique Morisseau for Skeleton Crew. We’ll have our fingers firmly crossed for these two talented women! The winner will be announced at the Awards Presentation on 22nd February at the National Theatre in London.

The Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2015

Two Oberon authors were amongst the big winners at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday night.

9781783198085American Stephen Adly Guirgis took the prize for Best New Play, for his frenetic and foul-mouthed comedy The Motherfucker with the Hat.

Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, it was the only winning production to come from the National Theatre despite their seven nominations.

9781783199006Almeida Associate Director Robert Icke was named Best Director for his refreshingly modern take on the Oresteia. Originally part of the Almeida Greek season it subsequently transferred to Trafalgar Studios.

9781783199358Nicole Kidman brought a touch of Hollywood glamour, as she was recognised for her much-celebrated return to the stage. She claimed the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of pioneering DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin, in Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51 at the Noël Coward Theatre.

9781783198931At the opposite end of the career spectrum, newcomer David Moorst took home the Emerging Talent Award for his performance as the troubled teen Liam in Gary Owen’s Violence and Son, at the Royal Court.

Taking the Greeks out of the Attic

Rupert Goold is the Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre in Islington, and is currently at the helm of the ambitious Almeida Greeks season. Robert Icke’s adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, which runs until 18th July, has already received 4* and 5* reviews in the press, and brand new versions of Bakkhai and Medea are soon to follow. In this short introduction, Goold explains his attraction to Greek drama and invites us to enjoy the season.

“At the Almeida, we strive to create theatre that asks questions of its audiences, of who they are and the world they live in. We believe that the work we present must be alive and resonant, as far away as possible from being dusty cultural heritage.

So when we came to the writers of Ancient Greece, the founding fathers of theatre as we know it, we wanted to be true to their plays – staging them in full complexity, presenting their formal iconoclasm, their humour, musicality, politics, violence and unswerving drama.

These writers took society’s old myths and made them new: changed them, exploded them, set them loose as contemporary stories that spoke to their city. At the same time, they posed big, provocative, sometimes uncomfortable questions; ones which, two thousand years later, we still struggle to answer.

We want to follow their example. We are taking the Greeks out of the Attic.

Oresteia is the first of three major new productions of Greek tragedy roaring into our theatre from May to October 2015. Alongside these, inspired in form and spirit by the Greek Dionysia, we will also present a festival of other work in the theatre and off-site, including responses, talks, readings and panels. We hope you can join us.”

Rupert Goold,by Johan Persson, 2014,

Rupert Goold,by Johan Persson, 2014

Find out more about the Almeida Greeks season HERE
Browse more Greek drama HERE

Why Greeks Matter

This evening (Monday 8 June) Rupert Goold, Ivo Van Hove and Deborah Warner are in conversation to mark the launch of their Almeida Greeks season. As three of the world’s leading directors of classical work, Rupert, Ivo and Deborah will explore why these texts remain central to the ongoing practice of theatre makers, audiences and the wider theatrical ecology. In other words, Why Greeks Matter.

Oberon Books will publish all three of the Almeida Greek season plays: OresteiaMedea, and Bakkhai. These add to our growing collection of classic and new interpretations and translations of Greek plays, including the recent acclaimed Barbican production of Antigone, and the radical new Iphigenia in Splott.

Medea

Medea

Medea’s marriage is breaking up. And so is everything else. Testing the limits of revenge and liberty, Euripides’ seminal play cuts to the heart of gender politics and asks what it means to be a woman and a wife.
One of world drama’s most infamous characters is brought to controversial new life by award-winning feminist writer Rachel Cusk and Almeida Artistic Director Rupert Goold.

Bakkhai

Bakkhai

Pentheus has banned the wild, ritualistic worship of the god Dionysos. A stranger arrives to persuade him to change his mind. Euripides’ electrifying tragedy is a struggle to the death between freedom and restraint, the rational and the irrational, man and god. Using three actors and a chorus, James Macdonald returns to the Almeida to stage Euripides’ hedonistic tragedy in a visceral new version by Anne Carson. Ben Whishaw makes his Almeida debut as Dionysos.

Oresteia

Oresteia

Orestes’ parents are at war. A family drama spanning several decades, a huge, moving, bloody saga, Aeschylus’ greatest and final play asks whether justice can ever be done – and continues to resonate more than two millennia after it was written.
Following Mr Burns and 1984, Almeida Associate Director Robert Icke radically reimagines Oresteia for the modern stage, in its first major London production in more than a decade. Lia Williams returns to the Almeida as Klytemnestra.

Learn more about the Almeida Greeks season – HERE
Learn more about Oberon’s Greek publications – HERE
Book tickets for tonight’s discussions – HERE

That’s Entertainment: Or is it?

Are we living in the age of prescriptive documentary theatre? And will it ever pass? Playwrights must always respond to the world we are compelled to live in, but what does such forensic focus do for the art of the dramatist? Do new young dramatists feel pressured to expose and explore society’s problems at the expense of their art? One might well argue that it has always been so. But has it? In 1938 Brecht’s The Life of Galileo foreshadowed the horrors of nuclear war, five years before the first atom bombs were dropped in 1943 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet this is one of Brecht’s most accessible and entertaining plays. The eloquent speech for Galileo in Scene 14 has stuck in my memory since I witnessed Michael Gambon’s towering performance in the 1980 NT production, directed by John Dexter.

9781783190751

‘Tartuffe’ by Moliere

Molière’s Tartuffe which Oberon publishes in fine translations by Chris Campbell and Ranjit Bolt has proved to be one of the most entertaining plays in the repertory, revived again and again, laughter echoing down the ages, but it is also regarded as the seminal play on religious zealotry and hypocrisy. Could the subject be more relevant than it is today? And why not laugh at ridiculous extremes? Stoppard, Bennett, Bean and Brenton, among others, have entertained us gloriously for decades while still having plenty to say about the world or the state of the nation. Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice took us on a riotous journey through four waves of immigration in East London since the 17th Century. The thought police whined and wailed while the rest of us laughed. Brenton & Hare’s Pravda is a thrilling piece of theatre about the power of the press, and it might well have started to erode the walls of the Murdoch court of scandal, the News of the World, which fell in 2011 like the Berlin Wall. Who would have thought it possible that theatre has such power?

thark

‘Thark’ by Ben Travers

But there are still too many thumpingly turgid polemics playing to the converted. Worthy issues, earnestly documented, using actors as mechanical mouthpieces, rather than human characters. As John Whiting says in The Art of the Dramatist, theatre is not a public address system. Agreed, yet all too often I long to escape in the interval feeling overstuffed with noble thoughts but starved of wit, style and poetry. Oddly, it might seem, even radically minded fringe theatres are turning back the clock, well some of the time. Witness recent revivals at the Jermyn Street Theatre – The River Line (Charles Morgan 1952), On Approval (Frederick Lonsdale 1927); The Potsdam Quartet (David Pinner 1973).

'Cornelius' by J.B. Priestley

‘Cornelius’ by J.B. Priestley

The Finborough Theatre – London Wall (John van Druten 1931), Cornelius (JB Priestley 1935), Outward Bound (Sutton Vane 1923), The White Carnation (RC Sherriff 1953). In 1988 The Orange Tree produced Absolute Hell (Rodney Ackland 1952) which led to the NT and Channel 4 productions. The Almeida recently produced Ackland’s Before the Party. Even The Park, the flashy new theatre in Finsbury Park has just given us a revival of Thark (Ben Travers 1927). And these are just a few revivals published by Oberon, all now back in favour. I wonder why? Entertaining perhaps?

James Hogan, Oberon Books (November, 2013)