Shakespeare reduced to a poor Spamalot - Harry Nicholls
13 Sep 12
As a complete novice to Shakespeare and theatre in general I couldn't have had a better or more fun introduction. While I expected and got the quality of acting the RSC's reputation demands, the splashes of dancing brought an unexpected sparkle of colour and Pippa Nixon (the Bastard)can actually sing. Thanks to the cast, director and all involved at the RSC for an excellent experience. - Troy McLachlan
08 Sep 12
A fantasy that has to come to an end, I want to jump back in! Will not forget Pippa Nixon's performance, a real eye opener and gruesome enough. - Alastair Frankland
07 Sep 12
Risks are taken (casting women as men) but the women rise to the challenge. The play is an example of Shakespeare integrating the personal with the political. This version has variety - modern dress,and a party atmosphere that turns bitter. Woem cast in male roles!? Well, Paola Dionisotti conveys the gravity and casuistry of Pandulph and Pippa Nixon portrays the Bastard's complexity - ironic commentary, bravery in action, loyalty to King John, but also empathy with Arthur - and she adds playfulness and rapport with the audience. She steals the show. - David Harries
30 Aug 12
Superb! Saw it yesterday, want to see it again!
26 Aug 12
The best evening I've spent in 3 seasons of RSC attendance; this performance reaffirms the joy of theatre. Thank you to a cast who gave a great ensemble performance. - Alex
24 Aug 12
just come back from the matinee and can safely say I haven't seen such a good production for many years. It was inspired, funny, very well acted by everyone - especially the main characters, and I was glued. I agree with the reviewer above - I'd watch it again now. - Annie Graham
09 Jun 12
One of the joys of our 21st century has been the late discovery of the Royal Shakespeare theatre in Stratford. After our first visit in 2002 to see an Richard Jones' odd (if enjoyable) version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" we have returned most years.
Like people who collect football league grounds I am (slowly) attempting to see all of Shakespeare's plays, so the appearance of this rarely seen play encouraged me to overcome a broken car and travel by train to see "King John".
You can see why this isn't performed more often as it doesn't easily fit into any obvious genre. It is one of his earlier plays and is a history story with John enjoying his coronation following the death of his brother Richard the Lionheart. Even the threat of war with France didn't deflect his arrogance having usurped Arthur, the son of John's brother Geoffrey.
But, having acquired the power he (and his dominant mother) wanted, he soon discovers it is harder to keep it. This is one of Shakespeare's wordy plays with the physical action occuring (conveniently) offstage. It is therefore essential that the director keeps an audience involved and here Maria Aberg is exceptional.
From the start, the Bastard (Shakespeare's name) arrives with an old-fashioned microphone to sing an uptempo version of " Land of Hope and Glory" which the audience join in with (rather impressively) and immediately we are part of a
The marriage of Lewis the Dauphin and Blanche is celebrated with a stunning wedding dinner celebration in their own style of " Dirty Dancing" with " The Time Of My Life" performed into front of a Strictly Come Dancing style audience. The second half commences with John's second coronation releasing a stage full of confetti and a huge number of huge balloons allowing the actors to kick them in anger as events get increasingly bad for them. One of the most beautiful moments occurs when Arthur nudges one of them slowly down the ramparts preceeding his suicide moments later.
Then, as King John is dying Alex Waldmann embarks one of the most challenging pieces of drama I have ever witnessed. He has to show us his forthcoming death by poisoning and his desperation to avoid his fate by dancing to the Four Seasons song "Beggin", centre-stage, all alone. That this succeeds is a testiment to the skill of the actor and the imagination of the director. Similarly, the choice of PJ Harvey's " Let England Shake" as we left the auditorium was a master-stroke.
This production is awash with ideas but some questions remained unanswered, how does John's mother die, why did Arthur kill himself, who was the monk who poisoned John etc? Perhaps this matters more to a modern audience brought up on endless detective shows and Scandinavian murder dramas than Shakespeare who is more concerned with intentions and consequences.
As always at Stratford the acting is of a high quality. In the title role Alex Waldmann perfectly shows the arrogance and contempt for the French and Arthur though I was less convinced of his emotional involvement when his crown is at stake in the second act.
Pippa Nixon as The Bastard steals the show, clearly relishing her unexpected advancement at the beginning of act one and the pace of the piece clearly picked up when she was on stage. John Stahl was an impressive Philip of France ( especially in the hysterical marriage sequence) with Susie Trayling providing most of the emotional drive as Arthur's mother.
This isn't an easy play to watch or perform but with thanks to an interesting perspective from the director this is a welcome addition to a Shakespeare watcher's portfolio.
- David Cox
27 May 12
Alex Waldman's agonised dancing to Frankie Valli's 'Beggin' is something that will stay with me for a long time. Genuinely moving. And the reworking of The Bastard worked brilliantly. I loved this production. - Jennie Crosby
13 May 12
King John Review
After the party, comes the hangover.
With its complex plot and political backdrop, “King John” could have been a difficult watch; one of those Shakespeare plays where you have to really pay attention. Yet Maria Aberg’s “King John”, with its contemporary and slightly cheesy wedding reception, pop music and wacky off-beat humour; was engaging and understandable throughout. The first half is all party-streamers, balloons and party hats with dislikeable but cool guests. Alex Waldmann’s King John - cocky, insolent and confident, and his bestest bud, the Bastard, played by Pippa Nixon - who, in her dock-trainers and leggings is funky, funny, down to earth and likeable - all add to an atmosphere of the party we all want to go to.
But after every good party is a hangover. And the after party is just that - sickly violence, gore, grief and head anguish. The likeable dock-martin girl, alien to our expectations, is the epitemy of violence - sadistic violence made more shocking by her gender. One half of the loved-up wedding couple pursues power to the point of love being replaced by oppression. Party dances are replaced by King John’s power dance which becomes forced, a desperate need to be all right, to be happy. Keep dancing. Keep happy. Keep alive. Only the mother of innocence, Arthur’s mother, well played by Susie Trayling, maintains a grip on reality; yet is considered mad. And then, on the grand and glitzy staircase, innocence meets its death.
A production that is over the top, full-on, wacky and unexpected - and suberb. And a warning for all those who pursue power. After the party, comes the hangover.
- Ness Tobin
27 Apr 12
Brilliant! I hope that the Arts Council will continue to subsidise productions that are as original and exciting as this one. - Chris Murray
25 Apr 12
What a ridiculous review. Almost as ridiculous as the production. This was not Shakespeare's King John - it was a pastiche by a Director anxious for admiration. Why does the Arts Council subsidise rubbish like this?? - Philip
24 Apr 12
It is the best thing I have seen anywhere for a long time. Pippa Nixon is amazing. Alex Waldman is amazing. I want to see it again. Now. - Mike Taylor
24 Apr 12
Yes, yes, yes! Long time since I saw something at Stratford that I want to see again - immediately. Didn't think that anyone could out-Goold Goold but whereas last year's Vegas themed Merchant strained the theme at times this production is pitch perfect. Some great performances and the changes made to the original are fiercely intelligent and illuminating with great respect being shown to the text. The gentleman I heard complaining that the tension was built up and then ruined by a song was, I'm afraid, missing the whole point. The moment he referred to directly related to the line "I didn't know death could dance" (or words to that effect). Nor did I but I do bow. Brilliant. - Peter Andrews
23 Apr 12
Thoroughly enjoyed it - Chris Leigh
23 Apr 12
I thought this was an absolutely wonderful production. It will divide opinion, of course, but that's OK. It's imaginative and mad, brings out brilliant nuances in the text, and is exactly the kind of risk the RSC should be taking at the moment. I totally agree with the WOS reviewer, and hope that people judge the production on its own merits, rather than comparing it to previous versions of the play. - Barry
22 Apr 12
If you haven't seen it yet you'll just have to take this reviewer at their word. This is a production with vision, provocation and creative talent in spades. And what an under-appreciated gem of a play. Don't miss! - Iheartshakespeare
22 Apr 12
nicely done and fun ..not perfect, some bits of gimmick too much for effect - but enjoyable nevertheless. a great way into an under-known play with some superb passaged - glynis powell
21 Apr 12
I got to see this play on Saturday last week and absolutely loved it. I've seen many RSC productions in the past few years and this stood out as one of the best. I have been waiting to see if the professional critics would agree with me and it's great to see that they do. King John is a fantastic night at the theatre. It is constantly moving and the direction is amazing. I cannot praise this production enough! There 'ain't no mountain wide enough' that could keep me from recommending this show!! - Jonathan Mace
Whatsonstage.com - Discount London theatre tickets, theatre news and reviews, Theatre videos, Theatre discussion, National Theatre Listings. Covering London's West End, all of Theatreland and all UK theatre. The best
for London Theatre Ticket Discounts.