King John, RSC, Sept, 27

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King John is not often revived and I suspect that´s because it´s one of Shakespeare´s weaker efforts. But Rosie Sheehan´s female-focused  production currently at the RSC in Stratford is extraordinary. Bridgitta Roy plays King John, Katherine Pearce is a witty and sassy Cardinal Pearce. Male pronouns are kept, even though it´s women playing the roles. The costumes are all circa 1965. It has musical interludes at the beginning of scenes, accompanied by dances that echo that period just before hippies and Haight-Ashbury, that bring a shot of adrenaline to the whole production. The fight scenes are all staged as if in slow motion. And the tone of the show is a bit like Down with Love throughout — knowing, slightly camp, a winky play to the gallery –until the final descent into tragedy. All of this surrounds the language, which sometimes powerfully pierces through (“Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale). One of those productions were you run to buy the program at the intermission because you´re so excited by it you want to know who did what. I still couldn´t quite follow the plot, and this in spite of having seen the previous production at the RSC of a few years ago.  But that felt irrelevant.

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José Arroyo

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