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From Macbeth to Matilda at the RSC

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre book series (PSBMT)

Abstract

This chapter explores the musicality of RSC productions and considers the relationship between those productions that are viewed fundamentally as plays with music, and those that openly embrace the identity of a musical. There are sections on vocal practice and training, on the functions of song, discussions of musicality and the poeticisation of space, before final case studies of Les Misérables and Matilda. Ultimately the chapter considers whether it is theoretically possible to link all the RSC productions—from Macbeth to Matilda—along a continuum of musical and dramatic practice.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-95222-2_6
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Notes

  1. 1.

    I note the issues raised in respect of this terminology by Richard Knowles, but use it here in referencing Berry’s and Rodenburg’s work with actors. The ideologies Knowles critiques are not really relevant to the discussion here that explores the relationship between spoken and sung texts rather than the practices of actor training. In any case, Lyn Darnley has mounted a strong defence of Berry’s terminology in her PhD thesis Artist Development and Training in the Royal Shakespeare Company (RHUL 2013).

  2. 2.

    It must be noted that all these references to the idea of a ‘total communication’ or the ‘echo’ of the play and the ‘life within a sound’ point to a certain ideological essentialism that I don’t have space to address here. The vocal practices created through the methods of these creative practitioners are the objects of my consideration rather than the ideologies of the language used to produce them.

  3. 3.

    One of the exceptions is Woolfenden’s adaptation of the songs of Cole Porter in Two Gentlemen of Verona directed by David Thacker in 1991.

  4. 4.

    A DVD is available produced by Granada Ventures in 2012.

  5. 5.

    My notes relate to the live performance of this production.

  6. 6.

    The Dyer’s Hand (London, 1962, 511, 522).

  7. 7.

    There are notable exceptions such as Mayor Shinn in The Music Man or Zach in A Chorus Line, and Rex Harrison famously performed a kind of speech/song as Professor Higgins in the film of My Fair Lady.

  8. 8.

    Although these are contested terms I use them here as shorthand in order to pursue the argument.

  9. 9.

    Steven Berkoff explored this type of alienation and intensity to great effect in such plays as East, Decadence, and The Greeks.

  10. 10.

    Carrie is the musical most often referred to as a flop, though it received only mixed reviews and in this was not substantially different from Les Misérables, though ultimately they have fared very differently. My own opinion of Les Misérables and Carrie is that the former is a far more musically coherent, developed, and satisfying musical than Carrie.

  11. 11.

    This discussion relies on the AV recording, the score, and the prompt book.

  12. 12.

    There are notes in the Production Records at the RSC archive about concerns relating to the number of chairs and lit music stands as this was the biggest musical production the company had mounted.

  13. 13.

    Klein was an original cast member.

  14. 14.

    Robert Gordon refers to her as a kind of Fairy Godmother in Gordon, Jubin and Taylor British Musical Theatre Since 1950 (London: Bloomsbury Methuen, 2016), 78.

  15. 15.

    Whereas it has been argued that Les Misérables is an anti-feminist musical it could be argued that Matilda is rather more feminist with its leading (young female) character saving everyone.

  16. 16.

    Sarah Llewellyn’s website contains information and a blog detailing some of the work she did during this attachment. It illustrates many of the practices outlined in the chapters above: http://www.tonal.org.uk/production/composer-residency-with-the-royal-shakespeare-company/ [Accessed 16.04.18].

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Taylor, M. (2018). From Macbeth to Matilda at the RSC. In: Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC. Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95222-2_6

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