Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Little Drama. . .

I've probably written this before, but it bears mentioning again - there is some really great theatre in Liverpool.  Today, I caught a matinee at the Playhouse of my favourite Moliere play, The Misanthrope. The translation is by renowned Liverpudlian poet and playwright Roger McGough ( he's to Liverpool what Dennis Lee is to Toronto) and in his very entertaining version, when Alceste decides to forsake flattery for plain speaking, he also stops speaking in verse unlike all the other characters who use couplets as a sign of their upper class:

From henceforth . . . No verse!
I will say it as I see it, I will say it like it is,
Plain prose, unadorned
No frills, no iambics, no alexandrines, no relentless rhythm, no fancy word juggling. No couplets with a rhyme bomb ticking away. Philinte, if I am to act according to what I believe I must speak as I live, truthfully, directly and a plague on those who would be discomforted.

This of course leads to several comic moments when he accidentally forgets, or he needs to stop and substitute a word because the best one to use is one that frustratingly does rhyme. It was a very clever and witty rendition (McGough has previously translated two Moliere plays) and a good, fast-paced production with a cheeky modern twist at the end, a sort of theatrical wink that I really loved.  It's on at the Playhouse until March 9th and I believe is touring the UK afterwards. It's well worth seeing.

There's a wonderful tradition in some British theatres (London's Royal Court does this as well), whereby the programme for a premiere also includes the entire play itself. It's a terrific idea; it serves both as a souvenir of the production, and allows you to own an affordable copy which in turn might encourage people to read more drama as literature in its own right, something I do regularly.  One of my favourite playwrights to both read and see performed is Alan Bennett, something of a national treasure in England and a writer I can always trust to make me laugh. He frequently explores a topic I'd not given much thought to and puts a deliciously cynical and intellectual twist on it.  I picked up a copy of his latest play People  which is a lovely antidote to the soap opera that is Downtown Abbey.  What happens to those huge historical manors when the families die out (or their wealth does) and they can't afford the upkeep?  Bennett posits a couple of options, from leaving it in the hands of the National Trust to renting it out to film crews involved in more sordid undertakings than what goes on at Highclere Castle.  And when a character called Brit is literally getting screwed in the background, well, the metaphoric possibilities are endless.

Currently on at the National Theatre in London, and starring Frances de la Tour and Linda Bassett, the production is one that will be broadcast live at cinemas around the world in April, including Liverpool's FACT.  And yes, I have booked my ticket - can't wait!

No comments: