So last week, I ran away to New York and invaded loony_moony
's apartment and together, we fangirled MIGHTILY over the two productions over from the Globe- Richard III
and Twelfth Night
- WHY YES, THE SAME TWELFT NIGHT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE TEN YEARS AGO, HELLO, HOW ARE YOU.
I was more than a little terrified that the production wouldn't hold up- there were a number of cast changes and besides, how possible is it to REcapture lighting so many years on? Turns out, HIGHLY POSSIBLE. Twelfth Night was just as gorgeous this time around, plus there was added Sam Barnett as Viola and Stephen Fry as Malvolio. A and I stagedoored after the show and there was great swoonage.
I also managed to introduce myself to Sam Barnett as, "Hi! I'm the person who was talking about waxing your chest hair on Twitter today!".... which is NOT THE IDEAL WAY TO MEET SOMEONE. Luckily, he is a PEACH and only laughed and immediately reached out to shake my hand, because he is ALARMINGLY CHARMING. The shows only just had their official openings last night and the Times RAVED and I'm just so pleased for them all.
I did quite a lot of ranting today about original practices haters to arcadiaego
. At the end of the day, I think original practices is magical when it's done well, and heaven knows, this team of artists can Do It Well.
One of the things E and I talked about today was that no one ever advocates that we ONLY EVER SEE OP SHAKESPEARE; that's just silly. I had meant to write about a production I saw last month at STC here in town- a dark and delicious Measure for Measure
that was set in 1930s Berlin and opened with a 20-minute preshow cabaret filled with DELICIOUS transgression and music and dancing and genderfuckery and BDSM leiderhosen and you can't get further from OP than THAT but it was FAB. In fact, their dramaturg ended up convincing me to buy my own copy of one of his favorite research sources: Voluptuous Panic
. It looks delicious and I can't wait to read it.
One of my favorite aspects about this production was that it delighted in making things a little more complex than I'm used to seeing. From the start, Vienna was a fascist state. There's a moment in the cabaret when a soldier storm in and everything stops- before the soldier laughs and grabs a beer and starts enjoying the show. When Angelo takes over and starts enforcing the laws, we suddenly really are in a terrifying fascist state with a brutal police force enacting laws that seem unimaginable. But the best thing about this approach was how it changes the audience's perspective on familiar characters. Every single character we like to see as sympathetic is part of this same regime and when the Duke resumes power... well, he never actually changes
the law, does he? The best the audience can do is root for him as another man to step in and replace Angelo, and we can only hope the Duke doesn't likewise abuse the terrible power his position gives him. I find this FASCINATING. I love how emphasizing this aspect of the city threw everything for a loop by the end, made everything that little bit more uncomfortable. We're used to Angelo the Villain, but in this world, no one with any power is free from complicity.
I'm not as sold on one big choice the production made, largely because they ended up overselling it by the end. During the cabaret, we see a middle-aged dude come in, take a table, enjoy the show, and start a conversation with one of the waiters. A familiar proposition seems to be taking place, when the man violently changes his mind and throws the waiter down to the floor. He then takes a call... and this is our Duke speaking to Escalus, filled with self-loathing and unable to break free from his own repression. In fact, it seems like the entire reason he wants the crack down from the government is to remove the temptation he faces in the form of Mistress Overdone's club. It's a very interesting spin on the character (and makes his proposal to Isabella that much more selfish), but MAN- the director just kept reminding us by bringing out that damn waiter, reduced to a prison uniform, again and again. By the end I was rolling my eyes every time the poor actor came out.
But the best part? THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE PRODUCTION?
Final image of the show was Isabella joyfully running to the abbess. ISABELLA DID NOT SIGN UP FOR YOUR SHIT, DUKE. LADY WANTS TO BE A NUN, HOKAY. It's the first Measure
I've seen that actually had Isabella turn the Duke down, and I'm so glad to have seen it. It's totally possible for those two crazy kids to make it work, but I think that you do have to work hard for it and provide a lot of extra-textual moments (which is why we go to the theatre, after all). It's nice that, in a production filled with lots of whackadoo add-ons, in this one moment, they went in another direction.