My Weekly Geekery | Episode 26

In this week’s episode of My Weekly Geekery I talk about The Fault in Our Stars, Doctor Who, the National Television Awards, Fortitude, and Suits.

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Review: The Duchess of Malfi at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Last night I visited the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (the new indoor theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe) for the first time, to see The Duchess of Malfi.

First, the theatre. The playhouse felt very different to the Globe. For a start, it is tiny; it had one of the smallest stages I’ve ever seen in a professional theatre. The audience are very close to the action, and very close to each other. It has bench seating; I was in the Pit, the little area right in front of the stage, and our seats were carpeted, which helped a lot and meant that for me, at least, the actual seat wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, it was just the lack of back rests which will cause a lot of people problems. But then, like the Globe, you don’t really come to this theatre for comfort, you come for the experience, and to see a great play.

The odd thing about the Pit is that the seats are perpendicular to the stage, which took me a while to get used to. At the start it felt like the production was happening near me, but not for me. I got over that pretty quickly, and I did really enjoy being that close to the stage. I’ll go for Pit seats again I think.

The main difference to the Globe is the atmosphere. The Globe is kind of unruly and relaxed, whereas here the audience has to be on their best behaviour. More like a normal theatre. No sweet paper rustling. No wandering around the Yard when your back gives up. And the actors don’t need to battle against the element and the helicopters, which encourages a different style of performance.

The theatre is lit entirely by candles; there are large chandeliers suspended from the ceiling, which give about as much light as day, but when the chandeliers are raised to the roof (as far from the action as possible), or extinguished, and the main light source is a candle held by an actor, or a candelabra placed on the side of the stage, the difference is really interesting, and it was fascinating to watch a production lit in such a way. There is one scene which takes place in complete darkness, which I found utterly disorienting, and pretty unique. I hope to see many, many more candle-lit productions at this Playhouse in coming years.

Anyway, onto the show. I did The Duchess of Malfi for A Level, and, like with anything you have had to study for a long time, it spoils it a little. Too much revision. Too many essays. But I was excited to see the play performed, since there hadn’t been a production on at the time (in fact I have had to wait nine years).

The cast were great; I’d seen most of them before at the Globe, and it was fun watching them explore the new space. Gemma Arterton plays the Duchess; she is one of my favourite actresses but she doesn’t often get the chance to really show what she can do; it was great to see her in a big, meaty role. David Dawson was Ferdinand; I’d never seen him on stage before. He was fantastic, very creepy and unstable. James Garnon played the Cardinal; as we know from previous experience, given the chance he will steal the show. He had many chances in the second half. And took them. Plus, I think this is the only time I have ever seen a character die with their eyes open; I don’t think he blinked for like two minutes. That’s maybe an odd thing to mention, but when you’re three feet away it sticks in the memory.

Sean Gilder played Bosola. Bosola is one of my favourite things about The Duchess of Malfi; he’s just such an interesting character. Gilder played him really well. I found him quite understated a lot of the time, (I want to say more TV acting than theatre acting, although it’s not exactly what I mean). I found a similar thing with Denise Gough as Julia, and Alex Waldmann as Antonio; they were pretty natural. Their performances might have got a bit lost in a large space (the Globe, for example), but they suited the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse really well. Interesting. And exciting, I think.

The costumes were fantastic, especially those worn by the Duchess. There was one particular dress, which I want to call the salmon dress, which glittered spectacularly in the candlelight. Good work by the costume department with that one. The music was also great; in such a small space acoustics must be interesting to work with (a drum, for instance, would drown out everything, and I don’t even want to think about what a trumpet could do), but the use of string instruments and the cast’s voices worked really well, and added to the atmosphere.

Overall, I think this was a really good production. There was plenty of humour, which balanced out all the violence (this is a revenge tragedy; I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say there is quite a lot of death). The cast coped well with the new space, and the play was a great introduction to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I am excited to see what Shakespeare’s Globe does with their new theatre in the future.

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My Weekly Geekery | Episode 25

In this week’s episode I talk about the Oscars, Under the Dome, new E4 show ALT, Natalie Dormer’s fantastic new hair, and the National Television Awards.

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My Weekly Geekery | Episode 24

In this week’s episode I talk about the Golden Globes, Game of Thrones, Groundhog Day, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sherlock, and The Musketeers.

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Raw

A quick lil video. The calm after the storm.

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My Weekly Geekery | Episode 23

In this week’s episode I talk about the BAFTA film awards, Doctor Who Series 8, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Sherlock Series 3.

My Weekly Geekery | Episode 22

In this week’s episode I talk about the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Sherlock, Atlantis, The Musketeers and my Christmas TV picks (The Tractate Middoth, The Whale, Death Comes to Pemberley, and The Thirteenth Tale).

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