Stratford Upon Avon
Timon of Athens , William Shakespeare
RSC, The Swan
Runs 2h 30m, one interval, till 22 February 2019
www.rsc.org.uk 22 February
Review: Rod Dungate, 21 December 2018
The play lives!
Simon Godwin has enabled the troublesome Timon to find a home, to find itself. The result if a fascinating viewing of one of Shakespeare’s oddities.
Timon is tricky. It is hard to see it in its own right. Not quite a morality play, nor parable, not really a revenge play, not one of the big Classically set plays. So what is it? On the evidence of this production, the combination of the intimate Swan space (deterring any desire to declaim) and gender changing the Timon role (Kathryn Hunter is marvellous) renders the play as a domestic, personal tragedy. And, importantly, we are enabled to empathise with many of the characters.
Timon is a wealthy member of the Establishment; for love of her friends she gives away her wealth on gifts and good turns. When she becomes destitute, she asks them to help her, but they refuse. This evident hypocrisy within the ruling classes becomes a metaphor for that society’s corruption. When the ruling establishment endeavour to enlist Timon’s help to save their city from being conquered, it is to no avail. Their City is overrun and a new broom appears to sweep the society clean.
Hunter fits in well with the ensemble to start with. But as she becomes isolated she grows in stature. She handles the language of her isolation with great skill setting up a thrilling tension between her physical vulnerability and her tragic hero status. Hunter’s Timon is not a distanced tragic hero, but a human being in greet torment, and one we can hold dear. Her performance is engrossing.
Patrick Drury creates a warm Flavius, her steward; Flavius stands as a bright beacon in this dark world.
Godwin has achieved much to bring this play to life. There are longeurs in the second half, but not much can be done about those. He has made some ingenious directorial-editorial decisions in the production. The result is a production which holds our interest in a way I had not thought possible, and has much to say to us today.
Production image: Simon Annand (c) RSC
(Full credit’s will follow)