Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare’s play is April 1611, when Simon Forman recorded seeing such a play at theGlobe Theatre. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book for a specific performance.

Shakespeare’s sources for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland, Macduff, and Duncan in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the story of Macbeth as told by Shakespeare bears no relation to real events in Scottish history as Macbeth was an admired and able monarch.

In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead by such names as “the Scottish play”. Over the centuries, the play has attracted some of the greatest actors in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, comic books, and other media.

The first act of the play opens amidst thunder and lightning with the Three Witches deciding that their next meeting shall be with Macbeth. In the following scene, a wounded sergeant reports to King Duncan of Scotland that his generals  – Macbeth, who is the Thane of Glamis, and Banquo – have just defeated the allied forces of Norway and Ireland, who were led by the traitor Macdonwald. Macbeth, the King’s kinsman, is praised for his bravery and fighting prowess.

The scene changes. Macbeth and Banquo enter, discussing the weather and their victory (“So foul and fair a day I have not seen”). As they wander onto a heath, the Three Witches enter, who have waited to greet them with prophecies. Read the rest of this entry

Royal National Theatre – London

Royal National Theatre – London

The Royal National Theatre (generally known as the National Theatre and commonly as The National) in London is one of the United Kingdom’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company. Internationally, it is styled the National Theatre of Great Britain.

From its foundation in 1963 until 1976, the company was based at the Old Vic theatre in Waterloo. The current building was designed by architects Sir Denys Lasdun and Peter Softley and contains three stages, which opened individually between 1976 and 1977.It is located next to the Thames in the South Bank area of central London.

Since 1988, the theatre has been permitted to call itself the Royal National Theatre, but the full title is rarely used. The theatre presents a varied programme, including Shakespeare and other international classic drama; and new plays by contemporary playwrights. Each auditorium in the theatre can run up to three shows in repertoire, thus further widening the number of plays which can be put on during any one season.

In the 2009-2010 season, the theatre began National Theatre Live (NTLive!), a program of simulcasts of live productions to movie theater venues in other cities, first in the United Kingdom and then internationally. The first season, it broadcast productions of three plays. Read the rest of this entry

Daly’s Theatre

Daly’s Theatre

Daly’s Theatre was a theatre in the City of Westminster. It was located at 2 Cranbourn Street, just off Leicester Square. It opened on 27 June 1893, and was demolished in 1937.

Early years

The theatre was originally built for American producer Augustin Daly by the English theatre manager George Edwardes. The architect was Spencer Chadwick, who was assisted by C. J. Phipps. The theatre was one of the first in London to be built using the cantilever system, and the Italian Renaissance and neo-classical facade was more elaborate than that of most London theatres. Likewise, the entrance hall and foyer were elaborately executed and decorated. The Victorian style to minimize colouring and design in the auditorium was abandoned, and instead bold designs and colours were used. It had a seating capacity of over 1,200 in three tiers.

The theatre opened with The Taming of the Shrew, with Daly’s star from his American company, Ada Rehan, playing Katharina. This was followed by Sheridan Knowles’s The Hunchback, with Violet Vanbrugh, and in 1894 by Twelfth Nightand As You Like It and the younger Dumas’s La Dame aux camélias, with Eleonora Duse.

Read the rest of this entry

Beginnings of Gaiety Theatre

Beginnings of Gaiety Theatre

The Gaiety Theatre, London was a West End theatre in London, England, located on Aldwych at the eastern end of the Strand. The theatre was established as the Strand Musick Hall(sic), in 1864 on the former site of the Lyceum Theatre. It was rebuilt several times, but closed from the beginning of World War II in 1939 and never reopened, having suffered bomb damage during the hostilities. The theatre, at first known for music hall and then musical burlesque, from 1868 to the early 1890s, had a major influence on the development of modern musical comedy during the late 19th century and the Edwardian period.

Beginnings

The theatre was financed by a joint stock company and built in 1864 as the Strand Musick Hall by Bassett and Keeling. This large theatre, with over 2,000 seats, was built at a time when many new theatres were being built in London.Unlike at many other music halls, the proprietors decided to ban smoking and drinking within the hall, and these activities were accommodated in the adjacent saloons. A novel gas lighting system was incorporated in the hall, using prisms and mirrors to create a soft light. Exhausting the heat of the gas jets drew fresh air into the building. The house was approached through an ambitious arcade, from the Strand. This was never successful and, with the theatre, was demolished to allow the building of the Aldwych.

In 1868, the theatre was sumptuously rebuilt by Read the rest of this entry

Development of musical comedy 19st

Development of musical comedy 19st

In America, the first original theatre piece in English that conforms to the modern conception of a musical, adding dance and original music that helped to tell the story, is generally considered to be The Black Crook, which premiered in New York on September 12, 1866. The production was a staggering five-and-a-half hours long, but despite its length, it ran for a record-breaking 474 performances.

The same year, The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post was the first show to call itself a “musical comedy.” Comedians Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart produced and starred in musicals on Broadway between 1878 (The Mulligan Guard Picnic) and 1885, with book and lyrics by Harrigan and music by his father-in-law David Braham. These musical comedies featured characters and situations taken from the everyday life of New York’s lower classes and represented a significant step from burletta, minstrel shows, music hall and burlesque, towards a more legitimate theatrical form. They starred high quality singers (Lillian Russell, Vivienne Segal, and Fay Templeton) instead of the ladies of questionable repute who had starred in earlier musical forms.

The length of runs in the theatre changed rapidly around the same time that the modern musical emerged. As transportation improved, poverty in London and New York diminished, and street lighting made for safer travel at night, the number of potential patrons for the growing number of theatres increased enormously. Plays could run longer and still draw in the audiences, leading to Read the rest of this entry