Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kingdom Come at the RSC

R and I haven't been to Stratford as often as we generally do this year (though we're making up for it with two visits in 5 days here), that's mostly because the theme has been Rome which hasn't captured our joint imaginations as much as some other seasons have. But then her parents turned up with glowing reports of how good 'Kingdom Come' was so we compared diaries, realised we were both free 2 days later, booked tickets and went.

It's the first time I've been in 'The Other Place' since it was reopened last year - and very nice it is too. The foyer is one big Café and feels particularly welcoming. The ticket price was also welcoming, £10, for which I'm more than happy to take a chance on something that says it's immersive and features nudity. 

The year is 1640, parliament is rebellious, and King Charles 1 is playing a god in a court masque. We know how this ends. One of the things I really liked about The Other Place is the way it feels like a box, the chairs we sat in were divided from the stage space by a row of lights on the floor about 2 feet in front of us - it makes it very easy to pull the audience into the play, or push them out, with a few props or bits of scenery. 

The Masque ends with Charles on trial, and then the audience is urged to follow the cast through the building (into the scene dock) to witness his execution. I imagine the mood of the audience makes a considerable difference here, our audience was muted, which contributed to a specific mood, change the audience and I guess you change the mood with it (I'd happily go back to test that theory). Anyway, huddled in a dark room, surrounded by scaffold, jostling for a view, whilst also trying to hang back a bit (just in case), and movement around the room that you could hear rather than see was very effectively immersive. 

The third act deals with the reality of puritan rule, mostly through the eyes of a troop of actors, and has the most obvious parallels to contemporary issues  (such as religious tolerance, and intolerance, attitudes towards gender, personal freedom, PTSD), although all things considered it's done with a light touch. There are also a series of beautifully lit (chiaroscuro that Caravaggio would have been proud of) tableaux that recall seventeenth century genre paintings. It really made me wish that I could have taken pictures - it was mesmerising (I'd also have liked to see if I could match some of those tableaux to actual paintings). The effect echoed both the carefully created images of a world seen through Instagram, but also to suggest a nostalgic longing for good old days. 

The FT described this as an honours failure, the Guardian gave itva more enthusiastic 4 stars. I'm with the Gaurdian. It was thought provoking, visually and orally delightful, unexpectedly exciting to be able to move around the building, and altogether invigorating. We both came out feeling deeply enthusiastic, and ready to take a chance on pretty much anything the Other Place decides to put on. 

Kingdom Come is on until the 30th of September and is absolutely worth taking a chance on if you're  in or near Stratford between now and then. 


  1. Having seen some very cliché ridden productions at The Other Place since it reopened I didn't bother to book for this. Maybe that was a mistake but I do feel that the company is not making the same good use of the space that they originally did. Perhaps there isn't the money for the sort of full season of new and classic work that they used to offer.

  2. That's interesting- we really weren't impressed with the 7 acts of Mercy at the Swan last year. New work that we thought was well enough acted, but badly written in that it was full of lazy cliches, and overly obvious points about the strain on the welfare system. It's not that these things shouldn't be discussed, orctgat the theatre isn't the place to discuss them, it just needs to be done better than that one was. We didn't think much of Salome either, I understand why the choice was made to have a man play the part, but felt that it took away almost everything that's interesting about the play and didn't give much back in return.

    I liked this one though, I thought it was interesting and ambitious, and if some of those ambitions didn't quite come off, most did - and I definitely think it's worth seeing.

    What I meant to say when i started this comment is that even at the RSC it's hit and miss. Nothing at the other place had really appealed to me before but I'd take a chance now. If I'd had your experience I'd be more wary.

  3. I saw the Titus broadcast - and it was excellent... I haven't made it to Stratford for ages - must try harder.

  4. This was good, a bit different, and very good value (money wise) went to se Dido Queen of Carthage on Monday night though, and thatvwas just extraordinary. Well worth making the effort to see. Chipo Chung who played Dido was amazing.