Monday, 21 October 2019

Having a hard Bard time

“Shakespeare is a drunken savage, whose plays please only those in London and Canada.” - Voltaire

I have finally caught up with a screening of the NT Live (or, in my case, not particularly live) broadcast of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' from the Bridge Theatre. It was excellent, well worth the five star reviews it got, and I say that as someone completely over whose head sailed various pop cultural references as diverse as television talent shows and Game of Thrones. Among the things that critics raved over were the fairies portrayed by gymnasts dangling from ropes, and the fact that in a reversal of gender roles it was Oberon who was duped into falling in love with an ass. Last year at the pop-up Shakespeare's Rose Theatre in York they put on a production of the piece in which one of the fairies was a gymnast swinging about on ropes (and incidentally very impressively performing the plank on the balustrade of a balcony) while Oberon was played by a woman and Titania by a man. Like all four shows there that summer it got few reviews and those that it did receive weren't very good. Are the press biased towards the capital? [That's not a rhetorical question; it's one with a bloody obvious answer] Or perhaps it's because the Rose was quite openly a profit-making venture rather than being part of the subsidised sector. I have to tell you that the Rose have had the last laugh regarding that latter point: they have lost so much money on their second season that they have gone bust.

Audiences were significantly down year on year (as anyone who lives in the UK knows, the weather in 2018 was belting and in 2019 it wasn't), but one punter remained faithful and again saw all four plays performed throughout the summer. Actually make that two because the elder Miss Epictetus, having graduated with a 2:1, was able to join the ageing parent for 'Twelfth Night'. We both enjoyed it very much, with its fine female Malvolio, as is de rigueur these days. Hamlet (female Horatio obviously) and the Tempest were done straightish, and were all the better for that. The latter was directed by Philip Franks, a man who used to get paid to kiss Catherine Zeta Jones and whose career has, inevitably really, been on a downward spiral ever since. The play with the most obvious production twist was Henry V, which had the warrior king played by a woman. That worked fine, but the costume choices were a bit odd. Everyone was in modern dress except Maggie Bain in the title role. She started in medieval garb, moved on to be - apparently - dressed as Nelson before ending up in modern dress uniform. Presumably they were making some sort of point, but whatever it was ended up being undermined by the fact that she looked disturbingly like Michael Jackson.

Anyway, unless someone else picks up the idea and has a plan to draw in bigger crowds to an open air venue at the mercy of the Yorkshire weather, I'm afraid it's probably run its course; which I, and apparently only I, regard as a great shame.

"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" - Hamlet

No comments:

Post a Comment