Reviews - 2012 shows
Jo Rothery, Chichester Observer reviews The Taming of the Shrew
The Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel castle formed
the perfect historic backdrop for an absolutely faultless and gripping
performance, the company having decided to treat one of the Bard’s favourite
comedies in traditional style.
The production flowed effortlessly, superbly acted throughout
and with the humorous elements delivered with immaculate timing for maximum
effect. And while the superb open-air setting added to the atmosphere,
keeping the audience enthralled from start to finish, the voices were crystal
clear and not a word was lost.
It’s difficult to pick out any individual performances
among a cast where everyone played their part to perfection, but company
manager David Davies was a superb Petuchio, as was Lucia
McAnespie as Katherine, an absolute delight as the Shrew.
Equally impressive were Tom Kay as Hortensio
and Peter Dineen as the hilarious Christopher Sly, while Daniel
Dingsdale displayed splendid comic timing.
Well done, GB Theatre Company for bringing Shakespeare
to life for a very appreciative audience. It was good to see so many youngsters
there, all realising how great a playwright the Bard was and how his work
remains as enjoyable as ever.
Nick Le Mesurier, Leamington Courier reviews The Tempest:
"Theatrical delight is marvelous to behold"
As the shadows grew and the eerie cries of peacocks echoed
through the trees, Caliban's magical isle came to life in an evening of
pure theatrical delight. The GB Theatre Company specialises
in outdoor theatre productions in splendid ancestral settings. But one
should not see them and their work only as summer spectacles. They are
worthy of merit on artistic grounds alone.
So let me begin with the cast. Some actors have the power
to draw the audience to them, no matter what they do. Sarah Middleton as
Miranda is one such. Tom Kay's muscular and linguistic
contortions evoked the power and humiliation of the poor monster. Daniel
Dingsdale played the flighty spirit with fierce energy; Dermot
Canavan gave a virtuoso performance as the drunken Stephano; and Gwilym
Lloyd as the wronged magician was dignity incarnate.
The natural environment could have been tailor made for
the show, and the cast made free and imaginative use of it. But in Shakespeare
it is how the language is treated and the way every aspect of the performance
is brought to bear on it. This company understood that fact and succeeded
brilliantly without the use of gimmicks.
Let us hope the GB Theatre Company will play again here,
for longer and often, for they deliver the spirit of Shakespeare simply
and directly in ways that are marvelous to behold.
James Holden, DigYorkshire reviews The Tempest:
This play sometimes has a reputation for being ethereal,
fantastical and even whimsical. This was not the case in this particular
production, directed by Jack Shepherd – a man probably
best known for his screen role as Wycliffe.
Shepherd and his actors presented a powerfully physical
Shakespeare. Take for instance, the most airy of characters – Ariel himself.
In his performance of this role, Daniel Dingsdale is constantly
up on his toes, pulled this way and that as though by Prospero’s unseen
magic. He was obsequious at times and downright menacing at others, particularly
when enchanting the lords of Naples and Milan.
It was, though, Tom Kay’s muscular presentation
of Caliban that held the eye and the imagination. The actor clambered over
the Sheffield ground, arching, crawling and bounding in a manner that captured
the strangeness of this character. By the end, Kay’s movements had begun
to seem almost dancerly in their execution. The distortion of his voice
also contributed to the otherworldliness without ever causing the dialogue
to become unintelligible.
The popular comic scene when first Trinculo (played by Peter
Dineen) and then a drunken Stephano (Dermot Canavan)
come across Caliban was performed expertly by all concerned. Again, the
effect was produced by the physicality of the comedy as much as anything
– legs wobbled, staggered and wrapped themselves around each other.
Gwilym Lloyd’s Prospero conveyed the
lost and lonely nobility of the wronged Duke in exile, his dangerous power
suggested by the wielding of his magician’s staff. And, at the end, Lloyd
also transmitted something of the role’s human frailty.
Rosa Mcmahon, EDP reviews The Taming of the Shrew:
Shakespeare’s most outrageous, and controversial comedy
was dynamic, funny and engaging. Directed by Jenny Stephens,
director of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the actors and the historic backdrop
had the audience bewitched and laughing all the way through.
The stage hosts the story of two wealthy, but very different,
sisters – who must wed. The wet and meek Bianca, played perfectly by the
small and sweet Sarah Middleton, is the modest and comparatively
shy sister who has a wealth of choice for suitors.
But Katherina, played by Lucia McAnespie,
is her shrewish and ungovernable sister with fewer men to choose from.
Just Petruchio, played by David Davies – a strong-willed
and maddening man who is able to charm, or rather bully, Katherina into
Shakespeare’s script is executed perfectly with the erratic
Katherina and Petruchio outwitting each other.
Tom Kay, the pompous Hortensio Padua,
who wishes to marry Bianca, was certainly a highlight of the performance.
His flamboyant and almost camp take on Hortensio was both funny and hugely
Natalie Burns, Guide2Bristol reviews The Tempest:
"Theirs was the best production I have seen by a
modern Shakespeare company..."
The GB Theatre Company breathed new
life into the well-known tale of mirth, magic, revenge, love and forgiveness,
and theirs was a performance that will please both seasoned Shakespeare
lovers and those new to the play. With traditional costume and language,
their wonderfully professional performances made The Tempest accessible
The play tells the story of Prospero and his daughter
Miranda (Sarah Middleton) washed up on, and now ruling
a remote and distant isle with the help of magical sprite Ariel (Daniel
Dingsdale). Prospero raises a storm, The Tempest, to shipwreck
King Alonso (Christopher Dingli) and his enemies. However,
when Miranda falls in love with King Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Simon
Yadoo) Prospero finally forgives them and ends his magical reign,
breaking his staff and with it the spell, to return to rule Milan.
The staging of the play was beautiful and well executed;
Ashton Court is the perfect setting for some summer Shakespearian theatre,
but in addition the performers used the space brilliantly. Ariel makes
his mischief hiding and appearing out of the hedges around the stage and
enchanting notes from Miranda’s flute drift in from unseen corners of the
beautiful gardens. The props were few and wonderfully used to great imaginative
affect, and all the performances without exception were brilliant.
Gwilym Lloyd’s Prospero and Tom
Kay’s Caliban were perfect and all the performers were very
well cast. They were energetic but the characters never overplayed. The
lighting, the setting, the summers evening, the passion of the players
and the beautiful use of scenery made the production a really enjoyable
The GB Theatre Company’s performance was, in this case,
more comedy than tragedy, and Caliban is more mischievous rogue than vicious
savage, but their telling works brilliantly without detracting from the
magic and imagination of the story.
All the actors brought a real electricity and life to
their performances and added enough of a modern twist to make the tale
translate to a modern audience without losing any of the wit or nuance
of the original language. Their movement and timing also brought out the
buoyancy and humour of the characters without being over-the-top, which
can be a tricky feat at an open-air performance.
Dermot Canavan played a very convincing
drunken Stephano and brought great comedy to the performance especially
in his scenes with the untamed Caliban.
Overall, the GB Theatre Company brought enough energy
and understated style to the performance to make it appealing even to those
who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and the whole performance, setting,
costume and timing were wonderful.
Theirs was the best production I have seen by a modern
Shakespeare company, and the whole performance was a real treat. A great
new energy brought to a familiar tale. I hope they can hold The Tempest
up through the wily British weather for the rest of their run!
The Bristol Post review of The Taming of the Shrew:
Open air theatre always adds an extra bit of charm to
a Shakespeare performance, and the setting worked wonders here. Padua was
set within the glorious grounds of the Ashton Court Estate, which, despite
the torrential rain, made for a great setting and added to the atmosphere
of the production.
The actors were all fantastic – incredibly eloquent
and dynamic – darting around the boggy stage set with bounds of energy
The physicality between the shrewish and savage Kate,
played beautifully by Lucia McAnespie and the drunken rogue Petruchio,
played outstandingly by David Davies, was excellent throughout and provided
moments of heightened comic genius.
Tom Kay was great as the pompous and
wealth-seeking Hortensio and made good use of his puffed pantalons, which
he tugged outward at all the right moments, creating a rumble of warming
and much needed laughter across the soaked audience.
This was a great performance
and the GB Theatre Company are clearly a group to watch over the coming
years. Hats off to the entire cast, who really embodied the slogan "The
show must go on" and we are all incredibly grateful that it did.
Gordon Richardson, Exeter Express & Echo reviews The
Weather did not stop a real castle treat
"Enter mariners wet", goes the stage direction,
and it looked for a while as if everyone else might be in for a soaking
too as actors and audience alike braved the English summer for this outdoor
performance of The Tempest. But though the clouds threatened, they were
And GB Theatre Company's quality ensemble - who had also
performed The Taming of the Shrew at Exeter Castle earlier in the week
- ensured a treat for those who turned out to see Shakespeare's tale set
on an enchanted island.
Jack Shepherd's absorbing production did not shy away
from some of the darker aspects of Prospero's use of magic to compel Caliban
and Ariel to do his bidding as he seizes his opportunity to regain the
dukedom of Milan from his usurping brother Antonio, before realising that "The
rarer action is in the virtue than in vengeance".
The complex relationships
between Prospero (Gwilym Lloyd) and his spirit servant Ariel and the half-man,
half-beast Caliban came to the fore through captivating performances from
Daniel Dingsdale and Tom Kay respectively, both relying on movement rather
than make-up or costume to capture the not-quite-human nature of their
Other outstanding performances came from Lennox
Greaves as Gonzalo and the elfin Sarah Middleton as Miranda.
All in all, the cast
succeeded in drawing out the comedy in the drunken exploits of Trinculo
and Stephano and the pathos of the reunion and reconciliation in the closing
GB Theatre Company plans to return to Exeter next summer
with The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and on this
evidence they will be well worth looking out for.