It’s been six months since The Man in the Grand Circle has sat in a grand circle, or indeed any kind of theatre seating. Happily, that period of enforced abstinence came to an end tonight in the beautiful, floodlit courtyard of Oxford Castle.
Starting with Richard III’s “Winter of our discontent” and ending with Puck’s epilogue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Monologues offers 16 of Shakespeare’s best-loved speeches in quick succession, presented with few frills but plenty of gusto by actors from Oxford’s BMH Productions and Siege Theatre.
It’s an evening brimming with powerhouse performances – including Kieran Donnelly’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” from Julius Caesar, Craig Finlay and Martha Ibbotson’s “Get thee to a nunnery” scene from Hamlet, and Alex Lushington and Amber-Anne Allen’s sizzling pre-murder pep talk from Macbeth.
I also enjoyed Rachel Wilmshurst’s feminist take on Henry V’s “Once more into the breach” speech, which she performs amid scattered #MeToo placards.
Crucially, each segment left me wanting more – and I’d love to see some of these performances in a complete version of the play. Hopefully that’s all to come.
The whole socially-distanced show was engagingly hosted by Ed Blagrove, who put each scene into context and even managed to include a timely quarantine joke about the Greek islands in his introduction to The Comedy of Errors.
Frankly, I couldn’t have wished for a better reintroduction to live theatre than this.
Monologues is at Oxford Castle & Prison until 5 September