Cambridge, Autumn 2003.

Michael Grosvenor Myer

Grosvenor Myer, Michael. "Cambridge Autumn 2003." Early Modern Literary Studies 9.3 / Special Issue 12 (January, 2004): 17.1-2<URL:>.


  1. Third Party Productions are real old-fashioned barnstormers. Their tour of Richard III went to over 50 venues nationwide, Alnwick to Guernsey, with a beautiful, serviceable travelling set based mainly on a big cart (“To Hell On A Handcart”, the production was subtitled), inscribed “The York Brothers Freak Show” in fancy curlicue lettering, storming our village hall on its way past. Occasionally the freakshow aspects threatened to get out of hand -- Gloucester as a gleeful, huge-bellied Mr Punch, Lady Anne a big fat flouncing brat in spoilt- Victorian-child costume, murderers certified psychos bursting out of straitjackets; but they showed they could cool it and do serious when necessary, varying the grotesqueries enough to keep interest and effectiveness alive. In an entirely competent cast of half-a dozen under John Wright’s able direction, Nicholas Collett’s insidious clown of a Gloucester was dominant, with particular support from Neil Haigh’s matter-of-fact Clarence, and Leah Fletcher’s Lady Anne, sailor-suited Little Prince hornpiping to penny-whistle and poignantly suffering Elizabeth. For all the variety of odd accents (Yorkshire [what else?] for the Yorks, cockney for Hastings, parody-posh for the Mayor), the verse speaking was exemplary throughout. If this lot ever come storming your barn, don’t miss.

  2. My heart sank as that ever-otiose dry-ice smoke cleared to reveal a Capulet servant pretending to piss against the back wall. Oh, no; not another of those trendy political-commentary-for-the-twentieth-century R&Js (yes, I do mean twentieth -- 1950s costumes one of the few bright spots). But this wasn’t callow students in a college studio out to make their impact: it was Stephen Unwin’s usually reliable English Touring Theatre, who brought us that magnificent Tim West Lear only a few months ago, at the Arts Theatre. What could have gone wrong? I suspect it was the status of the play as permanent public exam set-book that led the distinguished Mr Unwin astray this time, tempting him to succumb to the trendy blandishments of teen titillation. The auditorium was predictably full of school parties, who obligingly giggled to cue, if perhaps a little self-consciously, at Samson’s (or was it Gregory’s) urination, and, a little later, at the more of a pain-in-the-arse even than usual Mercutio’s obscene penis and vagina gestures. Romeo, true to the style, incessantly twitched and fidgeted, mowed and girned. Marjorie Yates’ garrulously affectionate Nurse wasn’t too bad, nor Robert Styles’ saturnine Tybalt; but they didn’t get much of a look-in; little chance to shine in the enveloping gloom, or to achieve much dignity among the posturing Mercutio and piddling Gregory (or was it Samson?). The only one really to teach the torches to burn bright was Davies Grey’s quiet, still, dignified Juliet, an oasis of calm amongst the overwrought fuss; the more praiseworthy as she was acting as stand-in for the indisposed Laura Rees. I expect Ms Grey’s death scene will have been well worth seeing; but, alas, I shall never know -- I only made it to the interval.

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