Thursday, 5 March 2015

Much Ado About Theatre. . .

I salute the genius who came up several years ago with the brilliant idea of broadcasting live theatre to cinemas around the world; I absolutely love it.  

Last night I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Much Ado, which they were calling Love's Labour's Won.  They used the same cast as in Love's Labour's Lost which I saw last month.  Lost was set in the summer of 1914 and at the end when the four men in uniform marched away to war, I couldn't help but think of the four men in Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth.  The men do come back however in Won which is set in 1918.  The stately home has been turned into a hospital where Beatrice has been nursing, and instead of hiding amidst the garden foliage, Benedick scampers behind first a curtain and then a large Christmas tree to great comic effect.  Overall, the whole modern concept worked very well - the two leads, Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry were sharp and witty, and the sets and costumes were gorgeous, as was the music by Nigel Hess.  I may need to purchase the CD as I do love a good Noel Coward pastiche and wouldn't it be grand to end every Shakespearean comedy with a Charleston?

On the darker side, I thought it was intriguing to suggest that Dogberry was suffering from shellshock; it made more sense of his character's language idiosyncrasies and nervous tics and Nick Haverson gave a very poignant portrayal. It was so moving at times however, that I couldn't laugh at the humour and felt very uncomfortable when the audience did.  Don John also had war injuries and walked with a crutch, which perhaps added to his envy of Claudio but this could have been further developed. 

But overall,  a very interesting idea that I think the RSC pulled off splendidly.

I'm certainly spoiled for live theatre in Liverpool too.  Last month I saw Willy Russell's Educating Rita at the Playhouse. This has to be the quintessential Liverpool play and I was quite proud to get all the local references although I only caught about 90% of the words in Leanne Best's Scouse accent.  

Next up is some Beckett at the Unity Theatre

And then more theatre on the big screen - two National Theatre productions that I'm really excited about.  Mark Strong is getting great reviews in Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. . .

. . . and if I'm going to sit through the full version of Shaw's Man and Superman, it needs to be with a mesmerizing lead.  Ralph Fiennes should fit the bill.

Returning to Shakespeare - this project looks intriguing.  Contemporary novelists will be retelling Shakespeare's plays in novel form.   The pairings are quite good.  Jeanette Winterson (The Winter's Tale), Margaret Atwood (The Tempest), Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew), Harold Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice), Jo Nesbo (Macbeth - that should be quite intense!), Gillian Flynn (Hamlet - hmmm, not sure about that one),  Tracy Chevalier (Othello) and Edward St. Aubyn (King Lear).

I'm still trying to catch up with the recent Austen retellings.

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