THEATRE REVIEW: Tristan & Yseult ★★★★

Tristan & Yseult
Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Monday 19th June 2017

Originally co-commissioned alongside Nottingham County Stages and performed in Cornwall and Nottinghamshire in 2003, Kneehigh’s production of Tristan and Yseult has kept returning throughout the years to delight audiences across the whole world, notably at The National Theatre in 2005, and especially in their 2014-15 US tour. Now in 2017, the production returns to wow new audiences alike, and as an avid follower of Kneehigh's previous creations, I was very much intrigued to watch this version of a show to which I performed in a couple of years back.

First off, sat on the right hand side as you face the stage, the seating was of a restricted view, meaning that I missed all the action from the front but had a side view of the whole action on stage; this to me had no worries as I could still clearly hear everything and see everyone, just not knowing the facial expressions as such. Due to this though, I will be planning to see the production again as it lands at Bristol Old Vic in July. I should say though that even though I did have a side view of the action, this didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the piece, especially with all the physical fight sequences and scenes which took place amongst the audience in the yard, and I believe this is a real credit to director Emma Rice and the whole Kneehigh team for constantly reinventing the way audiences come and enjoy theatre, especially with the further audience participation later in the production when the audience were asked to blow up and let go of balloons for a certain celebration, and further when King Mark’s brutes handed out sheets of proclamation throughout those standing in the yard.

I feel as though I constantly repeat myself in previous reviews of Kneehigh’s productions when I talk about the balance of comedy and serious themes, but that’s just because they are so consist with finding that middle group, and I would be lying if I said that they didn’t manage to continue that streak with Tristan & Yseult, especially with the character of Branigan (Niall Ashdown), who for me completely owned all the scenes to which he appeared in with his perfect comedy timing throughout, weather that was him commenting on the ‘quick change’ from being an Unloved to a central character, or how Tristain (Dominic Marsh) and Yseult (Hannah Vassallo) kept speaking french, to which he would have to remind them that they were performing to a majority English speaking audience.

Overall, this revival of Tristan and Yseult is further testament to the brilliant work that Kneehigh constantly continue to produce, especially with a production originally created for the stage 14 years ago and still resonating with audiences today!


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