Review: Henry V

A satisfying seasonal finale: a clear, engaging, visceral production with nothing vital lost. It’s as straight-down-the-martial line as outdoor productions of Henry V need to be.

Review: The Comedy of Errors

One of the most vivid, aesthetically cogent, certainly funniest OFS productions

Review: Storming!

Stands alone, a wholly original twist to a growing alarm-bell of ethics.

Review: The Tempest

Café Voltaire in ruffs invokes a magical Tempest.

Review: Richard II

One of OFS’s strongest productions, it’s also a return to roots.

Review: Branching Out

Three very fine and one outstanding work, Scratches – the best kind of play on depression, self-harm, black holes. Because it’s screamingly funny and deeply connected to why we do theatre.

Review: Living Newspaper #7

Like all the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper series, we need this. Watch a group of young dramatists take on the future

Review: Living Newspaper #6

Like all the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper series, we need this. Watch what this does with the future

Review: Living Newspaper #5

Like all the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper series, we need this. Watch.

Review: Henry IV Part 2

An alert, dark-hued production. We have heard the chimes at midnight

Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor

A joyful fleet production, a more-than-rough magic. What renders OFS unique is their fearlessness: a humour and zest to tear into buried Shakespeare, read the entrails.

Review: Henry IV Part 1

Here the shadows fall the more convincingly to join with those chimes at midnight in Henry IV/2.

Review: Troilus and Cressida

We’re privileged to see this rarely-performed work moulded by OFS. A play for our times.

Review: As You Like It

Heartwarming, giddyingly vital yet clear with its own truth.

Review: Macbeth

A stylishly visceral production.

Review: The Spanish Tragedy

The OFS are taking flight with the best scratch nights the Elizabethans never had.

Review: The Merchant of Venice

A fleet traversal memorable for insights the company bring during and after their performance of it

Review: King John

A tedious brief tragedy? King John is fun… It’s been said.

Review: The Dutch Lady

A consummate production of a memorably dark comedy

Review: Edward I

Could this be staged any more convincingly? Superb.

Review: The Wits

Exhilarating and fresh, this comedy shows just how singular Davenant is, deserving full-scale revival. You’d go far to find as spirited and sure-footed a cast as this.

Review: The Leading Man

Doyen has the kernel of something excellent, disturbing and playable.

Review: Believe As You List

A work rich in a few characters and poignant recognitions touching some of Massinger’s greatest. It’s the larky stoic Berecinthius though, who adds a dimension to the Caroline stage.

Review: Sir Thomas More

This the second RND this year easily maintains the bar set so high by Eastward Ho! It’s fleet, superbly characterised in major parts but inevitably John Hopkins takes the palm for centring a superbly-realized portrayal.

Review: Eastward Ho!

This is one of the most exuberant and superbly orchestrated Read Not Deads I’ve seen.

Review: The Bashful Lover

What this production enjoys in particular is a fizzing energy: nothing sags in Eastop’s expert cut and parry of Massinger’s final flight. The actors’ cracking pace reflects the martial tang of the play. Finally it’s the mutual understatement and mobile intelligence - etched on their faces – of Wicks and Eyre that make this already crackling reading treasurable.

Review: The Great Duke of Florence

This is one of the very finest RNDs and with the consummate cast and minimal props, Morell makes more than an embryo production of this extraordinarily fine play. It’s like a brilliant, vividly realised sketch of something that could run.

Review: The Unnatural Combat

To experience this play in these surroundings is a special occasion. It’s certainly graced by one of Massinger’s most remarkable plays, and with Frances bestriding his part and leading the company, it’s a winning combination.

Review: The Custom of the Country

Like the recently-mounted The Elder Brother, though far more complex, The Custom of the Country is a work crying out for production. It’s had one or two, though this spirited, superbly idiomatic, wacky and unfailingly inventive company ought to be proud their efforts lifted this heavy-texted work to the pitch of laughter. Even when occasionally it wasn’t at first intended, they made sure it soon was.

Review: The Elder Brother

Like Shakespeare and as we now know with Middleton in Measure for Measure, Fletcher and Massinger enjoyed a posthumous collaboration. It’s powerful, stellar in imagery and reach, something rare in comedy and perhaps only found in Shakespeare.

Review: Sappho and Phao

It’s the conversations that make this courtly piece delectable. It’s Selina Cadell though who seals the quality of this revival. Her magically inflected words occasion a running benediction; it’s fitting she centres the curtain-call.

Review: Fedele and Fortunio

One of the funniest, uniformly excellent productions of RND I’ve seen, it shows that Mullins enjoys a keen sense of pace, superb comic improvisation in scenes with a few props, and does what this pre-Shakespearean series claims: makes new what is in effect new to us, recreating plays from rags and patches of performing history.

Review: The Terrors of the Night

Nashe’s 1594 The Terrors of the Night directed by Jason Morell is a stunning one-off. This imaginative enterprise should be developed perhaps with at least one more actor, and certainly enjoy a niche run. It’s a triumph (both early modern and modern senses!) viscerally realized here with music and floating candles. Let it again feast our horrors, curiosity and uneasy laughter.

Review: The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune

The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune of 1582 (published 1589) is a crackingly-paced romp starting with disputing goddesses and Jupiter’s hopeless arbitration. This is one of the very liveliest Read Not Dead performances with a remarkably detailed sort of propos, with two performances almost off the script altogether.

Review: The False One

Morell relishes Fletcher and Massinger’s 1620 The False One, paces with an alacrity and eddy of detail that anchor memorable scenes. That’s enough in an uneven drama skewing Caesar and Cleopatra from the core of the theme, ‘false’ Septimius. There’s Fletcherian flashes of poetry throughout (all smoky arrows). Perhaps trimmed this play might still provide the period’s one essay on this subject, whose theme of loyalty trimmed, suborned and occasionally redeemed must strike us as horribly perennial.

Review: The Duke of Milan

A fine curtain-raiser to a year of Massinger, a later Jacobean whose career took a while to fly, was always poor and eleven of whose plays ended as pie-liners. There’s fifteen solo-authored and many collaborations to discover, several in this year’s RND. Frances Marshall ensures a superbly spirited ensemble piece, with apposite small props and a freshness you can smell. Though three hours with a break this never once even falters; it’s as realized a performance as you could ever wish, touched with scenic brilliance.

Review: The White Devil

The towering gender-slashing part of Vittoria demands venom and defiance as well as passion in verse. Peak delivers these with the kind of nuance in extremis that makes one wonder what more she could do with the part. As her brother Flamineo, the flame-voiced Bennett has great potential as a verse speaker, based on the rationale and clarity he brings here. The great lines at the end comprise the finest number of exits in drama.

Review: The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck

This Wannamaker Read Not Dead performance of The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck seals the proof that T. S. Eliot was right: it’s the finest non-Shakespearean history play of the whole Elizabethan-to-Caroline canon.

Review: The Coxcomb

Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Coxcomb is one of their finest, a sparkling yoke of two love-plots involving feminism and sexual freedom unparalleled in the period’s comedy.