Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh enters ‘hibernation’ period

Having closed its doors on March 16th this year, The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh is now postponing all shows until at least Spring 2021. Making it clear they would not announce their season until they secure information for when audiences will able to safely attend. Suffering a loss of £700,000 in income due to the pandemic, with evident measures of social distancing likely to last until the year’s end, the theatre is facing the dire choice of entering redundancy discussions with unions, losing members of its theatrical family, or complete closure before Winter.

An icon of the city, The Lyceum is a lifeblood for the arts community and has been since 1883. Home for much of the Edinburgh International Theatre’s productions, with massive support from locals, it has endeavoured to sustain itself through austerity – where a vast number of its increasing income is earned through ticket sales. As a grant-aided company, this, unfortunately, means that as steady income halts there is no longer an inbound revenue. Sustaining itself thus far thanks to generous donations from the public, and continuing support from Creative Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, the theatre’s board have made financial projections that, without intervention, the Lyceum will empty its funds in November this year.

Speaking directly on the issue, the Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig said:

To protect The Lyceum from closure we have to act now to preserve the theatre company and our ability to create theatre in Edinburgh in the future. Sadly, to do this we have to reduce the wage costs which make up the vast majority of our expenditure…

…This will mean losing friends from our theatre family – people I am in awe of, who make the magic happen on our stage and who are much loved and valued. Very sadly, with our principal income stream removed during this epidemic, the stark choice we face is between a redundancy process now to reduce our expenditure, or total closure before Christmas – an alternative that would leave the Lyceum shut long after the pandemic has passed.

Entering this period of hibernation will allow us to conserve the limited resource we have through the dark winter of Covid-19 and emerge, hopefully in the spring, with enough capacity to make theatre again with the brilliant theatre-makers of Scotland for the people of Edinburgh”.

Previous high-selling shows, such as the theatre’s annual Christmas production will be pushed back until 2021. Ticket holders for rescheduled shows will be contacted in due course. Meanwhile, it has been made clear that there will be continuing support for the city, as the Lyceum will maintain to operate community engagement and creative learnings.

With glimmers of hope, and re-schedules occurring, the theatre is working with producers and artists for a re-opening, but as of right now the focus is to conserve the minimal resources remaining. Our thoughts go to staff, colleagues, producers and cherished friends working towards a dawning era of post-COVID 19 theatre for the people of Scotland.

Further information, donations and contact details can be found on The Royal Lyceum’s website:https://lyceum.org.uk/

Photo credit & copyright – Royal Lyceum Theatre

Anthony & Cleopatra – National Theatre At Home

Adapted from the works of William Shakespeare

Directed by Simon Godwin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As part of their continuing ‘At Home’ series, providing theatre to the masses, The National Theatre serves disturbing illusions of love and war, set against the surging dynasty of Octavian Caesar. This surface of grand ideas, complex yet gorgeous lyrical language conceals a lacerating political drama where the tones of integrity, loyalty and devotion fall at the corruptive hands of obsession. An ancient love story, which declines to limit itself to a singular genre, Shakespeare’s Anthony & Cleopatra (loosely) accounts the relationship between the Ruler of Plotemic Egypt and occupant of Mark Anthony’s thoughts. Chartering their relationship from infatuation, dogmatic declarations and eventually, succumbing to fixation.

The epitome of a conqueror, demonstrating equal control of spoken word and physicality in his performance, Ralph Fiennes is every bit the Anthony one would expect. At first bold, seemingly uncomfortable in his baggy, Oriental trousers, is thriving for a return to action, a purpose. His bolstering against the continuation of Caesar’s inevitable rise oozes machismo in the manner in which Fiennes lifts, grapples, and grinds against the men, dominating them. Yet, behind this bravado, Fiennes measure of the performance is not in the brash piss-taker, but a distraught man who faces desolation at the hands of a younger foe. Though initially capturing the achievements of a man of war, and intimately twisted chemistry with Okonedo, it is this fall into the abyss where Fiennes ensnares us. What is Anthony though, without a resolute, commendable force to command his affections? What is Anthony without Cleopatra?

Poignant, playful, and persuasive, Sophie Okonedo is the visceral power behind the production. Mercurial, almost flippant in eruptions of sensation, Okonedo’s Cleopatra is less a temptress than a tigress, a calculating beast which belays an underestimated strength. She is, despite what others possibly interpret, not solely a figurehead of femininity but the deconstruction of gender, the smashing of normality which is thrust upon her in Shakespeare’s language. Her embodiment of Egypt, to be as ‘abundant, leaky and changeable as the Nile’ may characterise the sentiment of the country as the feminine, and Rome as the masculine, but Okonedo carries a unique approach which transcends the obvious. Both cities conduct themselves like the other, and Godwin’s manipulation of pretence allows for Okonedo to run with the part. She is a breathing paradox; petulant yet controlled, arrogant but all the while self-conscious.

As the wistful toying of words plays out across Alexandria, Egypt, the delivery of severity contrasts Rome. Notably, the productions key line deliveries are not solely on the parts of Fiennes or Okonedo, but in the supporting cast, chiefly from Tim McMullan playing Enobarbus, Anthony’s loyalist confidant. McMullan is controlled, jesting on occasion, bouncing to-and-fro off of Fiennes in perfect pacing where Godwin’s direction marries surreptitiously with Shakespeare’s language. Anthony & Cleopatra is by far at its most successful when Fiennes or Okonedo have the toys of supporting characters to play with, to manipulate. Allowing for dynamics in culture, as the men of Rome conduct themselves characteristically different to Cleopatra’s handmaidens, Gloria Obianyo and Georgia Landers (Charmian & Iras) who’s reverence for their ruler carry in a softer, but by no means less significant voice than the sycophants of Anthony or Caesar. 

Godwin maintains this allegory, traditional in adaptations to decipher the differences between Rome and Egypt, allowing for subtle (or blunt) commentary. It’s seen in the performances, the costuming, but more often than not, and no different here, the staging and set design illustrate the differences in the clean, opulent Egypt against the streaming, technology-infused war-rooms of Rome. Catapulting the modernist political drama aesthetic, Hildegard Bechtler captures the intensity, and arguable futility, of men playing at war. The semi-circular staging juts into the audience allows for intimacy, and though the revolving stage extends the already steep running time, the ingenuity behind the construct is unmistakable. Particularly when coupled with Christopher Shutt’s sound design as the ‘submarine’ emerges from the depths of the stage.

This length takes a substantial toll on the production’s rhythm, which is paramount to forgiving Shakespeare’s dashed conclusion. There are ample nap opportunities for the weary, as the difficulty in translating forty-two scenes into a single production. It impedes, where regardless of potency of poetic language, audience’s will be drawn away from the moment, particularly with supporting cast who simply cannot convey the delivery required. Shakespeare’s work is notorious for words ring hollow when spoken without conviction. Recitations begin to develop where performers are merely going through the motions, as opposed to breathing the language, tying it into the character.

Anthony & Cleopatra is a tragedy. It is also notable for its comedy, its loose historical context, its romance and political commentary. It is by no means a single genre, and by no means speaking with one voice. Godwin’s production, his intention, to demonstrate the corrosive capabilities of obsession is where The National Theatre’s recent performance excels, lead by two of the country’s prominent theatrical performers. It may feel like a slog in parts, but similar to Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra, this is theatre of “infinite variety”, a lesson we must not neglect in these times.

Anthony & Cleopatra is available to stream from Youtube until May 14th at 7:00pm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWc6_aCTqI0

Information, and vitallly donations, can be provided from The National Theatre website: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/nt-at-home-antony-and-cleopatra

All images & video are the property of The National Theatre

White – Traverse Theatre

Creator: Andy Manley

Director: Gill Robertson

Profoundly simplistic, though magnanimous in spiritual creativity, White may label itself as a show for the youngest theatregoers, but its aesthetics, humour and sharp imagery are of a timeless piece. Pitching itself towards the younger crowd, but refraining from simplicity, cooing or pander. Its narrative follows Cotton and Wrinkle, two chaps who task themselves as egg-carers. As these precious parcels arrive, they are cleaned, given homes and sung to sleep. That is, of course, assuming the egg is white. With the arrival of a crimson egg, starkly contrasting the bleached backdrops, Wrinkle wants to toss it into the bin where all colour belongs, Cotton, on the other hand, has another idea.

With sophistication, Andy Manley projects the difficulties we overcome in acceptance, transforming White into a rather splendid piece of family theatre. Carrying this, Michael Dylan & Ian Cameron frolic amidst this medley of textures, levels and fabrics all stitched together into this immaculate world. Rich in humour, Dylan & Cameron expresses a range facially, the easiest way of communication with not only a younger audience but those without voices, hearing impairment and non-English speakers. It’s accessible, if a little reliant on words, where a deal of movement could communicate effectively.

Catherine Wheels have a purity to their theatrical creations, which are sublime to look at, you’ll often find yourself gazing at the smallest of details in the background, wondering what this gizmo could be leading towards. As one may imagine, the set is devoid of colour, in its absence, varying shades of white, from cotton to ivory. It’s gorgeous to see designer Shona Reppe sculpt such clean, pleasing theatre despite the age range of the audience.

Lifting the performance, Reppe’s design plays an even more staggering role as the production’s infection of colour pervades against this white canvas. A warmth is tangible, as these bursts of inclusivity, from the noxious yellows to the royalist purple, are met with great cheers from the children. It’s enchanting, with a wide number of tricks, transformations and effects concealing themselves away from curious children’s prying eyes.

As these eyes soak in a rainbow of colour, a subtle composition has been pleasing the ears for some time. It’s an understated score, courtesy of Danny Krass, which compliments the production, without attempting to steer attention away. Lifting where required, specifically for an explosive finale where the final message is clear, to take the colours you see, keep them close and let your life be bright, inclusive and include every shade imaginable.

This all concocts a magical production, which seeds the idea of acceptance, regardless of colour, from an early age. White manifests a spectrum of sentiments, in such a short space of time, that it’s a wonder to think about long after the little, and not so little ones, have left the theatre.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/white-traverse-theatre-edinburgh/

Photo Credit: HAM, courtesy ASK