RSC – The Seven Acts of Mercy and The Rover

As expected I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Stratford-upon-avon to watch The Seven Acts of Mercy and The Rover in The Swan theatre. I like the wooden and brick interiors of The Swan that makes it interesting and I’m sure also challenging to design for. It must be a blessing to not have a gaudy facade or safety curtain to worry about as in other theatres such as Theatre Royal in Nottingham or The Lyceum in Sheffield.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first production, The Seven Acts of Mercy, as I didn’t know how they’d create a piece about the painter Caravaggio. Cleverly the production was split between Caravaggio’s workspace in Naples 1606 and the home of a liverpudlian boy and his grandad who tries to educate him about art leading the boy to follow out the seven acts of mercy. I liked the content of this play because it looked at current social and political problems in the UK such as poverty and housing shortage. The design involved a large canvas and a stepladder that created caravaggio’s workspace and as he painted images of his work were projected around the balcony area on gauze. I was sat in gallery two which will always be the short straw in my eyes as no matter how a designer tries, sitting at that level doesn’t provide a clear view to the stage and so the paintings projected were faint meaning the content of the play was less engaging during these scenes. I did however like the shabby, minimal living room that made up the Liverpool set.

I preferred watching The Rover in the evening, probably because I had a front row seat this time! The play follows the antics of three cavaliers and three women looking for love amongst the setting of a South American carnival. I really liked the costume design as in true RSC style they had merged the traditional 17th Century design with contemporary style. I particularly like the red boots, jeans and corset that the character Hellena, played by Faye Castelow, wore as I thought the modernisation supported her bold characteristics and was empowering. I also liked the use of masks which worked well for the wild, dancing carnival scenes and I especially liked the animalistic masks.

The iron-like balcony and stairs designed by Lez Brotherston allowed the performers alternative exits/entrances than the wings and has helped me to consider the space in the Swan for my own design project this term for The Beggar’s Opera.