Theatre review: Twelfth Night – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday July 13 2021

THREE STARS

Spontaneous applause breaks out at the announcement welcoming everyone to the new season of Bard in the Botanics. It has been nearly two years since audiences last gathered on the grassy rise behind the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for the venerated Shakespeare festival.

As a specialist in outdoor performance, this company, led by Gordon Barr, the artistic director, may have an advantage over its contemporaries as theatre in Scotland slowly emerges from its Covid-era hibernation.

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Review: Antony and Cleopatra – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday June 25 2018

Four Stars

“Star-cross’d lovers” is the theme of this year’s Bard in the Botanics, and in its pair of opening productions, the annual Shakespeare festival offers up the perfect complement of innocence and experience in tragic love.

 

Jennifer Dick’s production of Romeo and Juliet features a 13-strong cast performing against an al fresco backdrop while, at the other end of the botanical gardens, Gordon Barr stages Antony and Cleopatra beneath the glass roof of the Kibble Palace. It is an instructive pairing, reminding us of Shakespeare’s delight in recycling patterns of events in his plays. The latter couple may steal a march on the former in terms of erotic and worldly experience, yet both pairs of lovers die by their own hands, believing death infinitely preferable to life without their soul mate.

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Review: Measure for Measure – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday July 16 2017

Four Stars

There is always an element of suspense for audiences to any production of Measure for Measure – even for those who have seen Shakespeare’s most problematic play many times. How will the director and company reconcile the pessimistic depiction of corrupted power, sexuality and relationships with the play’s supposedly comedic elements, including the final flurry of marriages, two of which are meted out as punishments?

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Review: Twelfth Night – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday June 30 2016

Three Stars

While cross-dressing is central to the plot and resolution of a number of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night occupies its own league as a comment on gender construction and elastic sexuality. The female protagonist spends most of the play dressed as a pageboy, inadvertently stirring the passions of a woman who has forsworn all male suitors while simultaneously harbouring a secret love for a nobleman. Talk about progressive.

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Review: Richard II – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Friday July 24 2015

Four Stars

In recent years, Bard in the Botanics, Scotland’s annual summer Shakespeare festival, has complemented its programme of full-scale outdoor productions with one radically pared-down adaptation, performed by a handful of actors in the Kibble Palace glasshouse. Last year’s ambitious reworking of Henry IV Parts I and II, performed by a cast of just three, was a powerful, drum-tight account of Prince Hal’s relationships with his two parental guides, his father the king and feckless Falstaff.

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