Review: Shakespeare Triple Bill

The Taming of the Shrew (touring production – The Globe)

We did two Shakespeare’s in one day. Oh my! I hear you cry. It was actually quite excellent. For The Taming of the Shrew we were groundlings and stood in the stalls. I was nervous about this, as I’m quite small and do not enjoy standing for long periods, but it was actually great! I’ve sat in a few different areas of the Globe and we had the best view and the cheapest tickets! The only thing that could have made it better was if we’d arrived a bit earlier so that I could have stood at the front (ah, short person problems). In the interval, everyone just sat down, which I’m sure is a terrible safety hazard, but it had a bit of a festival vibe which was lovely.

The play itself was great. It’s not one I’d ever seen before, and I only knew the basics of the story (most of which I’d learnt from Ten Things I Hate About You). It was an all girl troupe, and there were only seven of them playing all the parts. That’s actually a method I enjoy, when done well. It was lovely to note how they did the costumes. It was so well timed, that an actress would disappear back stage and return moments later as a completely different character. This was achieved by, for instance – her wearing shorts as one character, and then pulling a dress on over the top for the next one, or wearing leggings and pulling on a boiler suit. It must have been terribly warm and uncomfortable for them in some scenes when they’d effectively be wearing three layers of clothing, but it was very effective.

I thought the play was a peculiar choice for a female troupe, as though it is a comedy, it is essentially the tale of spousal abuse in which the perpetrator never gets his comeuppance. I am told the last scene has been interpreted in several different ways (i.e. sarcasm to show Kate still has a backbone) but I felt that this one was played straight – Kate was broken by the end of it. But perhaps I am misreading it, and their depiction of Kate and Petrucio’s relationship is supposed to bring out this horrified reaction in me. Afterall, their portrayal is more representative of reality, where the abuser rarely does suffer punishment, and I suppose following a feminist interpretation, it represents the domination of the patriarchy. I think I’m thinking about this too much.

Summary: Hilarious, but thought provoking.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We were seated for our second performance. A much more expensive view but quite a restricted view (an extra pillar in front of us). I appreciate that every seat in The Globe has a restricted view, and I love the theatre, but after our wholly unrestricted first performance, it was disappointing to be paying £30 more just to be sitting down.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is certainly among my favourite of the bard’s work. I’ve seen it once before, performed by Headlong Theatre at the Citz in Glasgow. I can safely say I’d never laughed so much at a play in my life. However, it seems I’d either entirely forgotten the last half of the play, or they hadn’t performed it. We arrived at the interval, and I was sure that was where the play ended. But my memory has never been great.

The cast were superb – particularly Bottom’s comedic tone and Oberon and Puck’s physical deterity. I do love when a show is as much about the physical aspects of the show as it is about the script. Because Shakespeare is so popular, troupe run the risk of relying on the script rather than themselves, but fortunately, none of the shows I’ve seen have done this.

Summary: Sensationally hilarious but poor view.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

This is another of the Bard’s work that I had never seen before. I believe at some point the Kenneth Branagh film was on tv, but I wasn’t particularly interested at the time and the five minute I watched did nothing to dissuade me of that notion. This version, however, I was excited about purely because it is Joss Whedon and I have a lifelong love of his work. One of these days, he will probably do something terrible and I will still rave about it.

We laughed ourselves silly all the way through. Again, there was a lot of physical humour to accompany the terribly witty dialogue. This was enhanced by the fact that the majority of the cast were people I recognised from Whedon’s other work. It was lovely to see a lot of them back together again and in such different roles. We’re not sure whether the film would have been as enjoyable had it not been this particular cast, as the humour was emphasized because these we were viewing it through the history of each actor, and not just that particular story. Cheering as Phil Coulson came on screen, laughing when Phil Coulson gets drunk, though it is not Phil Coulson, but Leonato.

The only thing that bugged me was Alexis Denisof/ Benedick’s American accent… but I have a feeling this may well be his real accent and I was just confused because I’ve always thought of him as British. I’m such a shallow critic.

Having talked to a colleague who’s rather enamoured with Shakespeare, it emerged this the concept for this film, where each character is drunk or stoned or both through most of the film, actually makes it more coherent that productions which are played straight. The plot is so ridiculous at points, but if the characters are inebriated then it actually kinda makes sense that they would act the way they do.

As far as the filming is concerned, it felt like a reality show, but was shot in black and white. The latter sought to create an intimate feel while the black and white served to detach the viewer. It was a slightly disconcerting technique. Whedon has been quoted as saying that he had wanted to shoot it on his phone – I’m glad he didn’t – unless it was a very, very advanced phone where you couldn’t tell it was a phone.

Summary: Disconcerting film style, but filled with nostalgia for the actors and the physical acting that always enhances Shakespeare’s words.


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