At the beginning of the summer, it was announced that a temporary third theatre would be built in King’s Cross as a performance space for a trilogy of Shakespeare plays performed entirely by women. This project was made in conjunction with another theatre in London – the Donmar Warehouse. Back in 2012 the Donmar Warehouse was home to an all female production of Henry IV directed by Phyllida Lloyd which was the start of the Trilogy project. The project continued with an all female production of Julius Caesar, which was also at the Donmar Warehouse. And the third show to complete the trilogy is The Tempest, which plays in repertory with the productions of Henry IV & Julius Caesar.
Other than the theatre being in the same area where I work, I was particularly interested in the Young+Free scheme that the project had started. This allowed 25% of all tickets to be available for free for those who are 25 and under! As a twenty year old I’m definitely glad that this scheme is available for those who can’t even afford that. Yes, I go to the theatre a lot, but I go cheap most of the time and I realise how lucky I am to do that!
I didn’t see all three shows, I only managed to snag one of the last remaining tickets for The Tempest. I was really intrigued to see how Phyllida Lloyd took a play about a shipwreck to set it into a women’s prison. The same cast of actors perform in all three shows in the Shakespeare Trilogy, which must be an incredible stretch, especially when some days they perform all three shows in one day!
So before the show even started, the theatre helps you get into the atmosphere. A loud horn blared and declared the inmates were coming through. And the entire company were taken into the auditorium through the foyer of the theatre. And I found it to be so unbelievably cool.
But in terms of the overall show, I found The Tempest to be in the middle for me. I didn’t absolutely hate it but I didn’t absolutely love it either. Because of the setting, the production often switched from scenes in the original Shakespeare text to scenes in modern day. And it was in those moments where I felt really disconnected. Harriet Walter leads the cast of The Tempest as Prospero and she does an incredible job. But at the start of the play she’s introduced as a woman in the prison called Hannah. And she’s only ever referred to as Hannah at the end when the other prisoners leave. Maybe I missed something in terms of plot but I think she did a brilliant job leading a fantastic company, including stand out performers like Jade Anouka as Ariel.
Overall, it was brilliant to see theatre that bends the rules but I think I may have benefited more from this production if I had read the play first; not unusual for me with other Shakespeare plays I have seen before.
The Shakespeare Trilogy is running at the King’s Cross Theatre until 17th December. You can find more information at http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/donmar-kings-cross/2016/shakespeare-trilogy