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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: January ::
RSC Season
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 19. Tuesday, 22 Jan 1991.
 
Date:   Mon, 21 Jan 91 11:09:03 EST
From:   
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Subject:  [RSC Season]
 
                                       21 January 1991
 
     A few more details of the Royal Shakspeare Company season
emerged at their press conference last week:  The Stratford
plans will be as I suggested on 15 Jan with the additional
word that after being entirely rebuilt, The Other Place
theatre will open this summer with two productions to be
directed by Trevor Nunn.  These have not yet been announced
except that one will be a new play, the other by Shakespeare.
 
     The RSC's Barbican theatre in London will reopen in two
months on 21 March with the Terry Hands production of *Love's
Labour's Lost* from last season.  It will be followed by last
season's *Much Ado*, *Lear* and *The Seagull*.  Transfers from
Stratford to the Pit in London include *The Last Days of Don
Juan*, Marlowe's *Edward II* and *Troilus*.  There are more details
on directors and casting if somebody is curious.
 
     This past RSC season has been considered generally
successful.  The *Troilus* and *Lear*, which I saw early in the
season, seemed particularly fine to me.  The frequently-seen
Simon Russell Beale was particularly fine as Thersites.  He
was also seen to good advantage as the King in *Edward II* and
*Love's Labour's Lost*.  John Wood's Lear I found very moving
though people who saw it later were less affected; he
apparently strained his back and was unable to carry on
Cordelia.  The *Comedy of Errors* production tried the
distracting gimmick of having two sets of twins played by only
two actors rather than the usual four.
 
     More recently at Stratford, over the holidays, I saw
*Richard II* and the new play, *Two Shakespearean Actors*, by the
American playwright Richard Nelson.  A few notes --
 
*RICHARD II*    Dir: Ron Daniels; Richard: Alex Jennings; Henry
Bullingbrook: Anton Lesser; Isabella: Yolanda Vazquez
 
     The Richard II of Alex Jennings seemed an unsympathetic
character from the start right up until his death in his gray
prisoner-of-war pyjamas and short haircut (mercifully
replacing a red wig).  Though at first I was not displeased
with the slow, careful delivery of the speeches, it became
wearing.  Jennings struck me as a clear but monotonous speaker
whereas Lesser holds the ear.  The play was set in what
resembled 17th century Spain or Italy in very somber mood with
the English nobles frequently resembling priests dressed in
black gowns.
 
     Never had I been more aware of the financial awareness
and rapacity of Richard.  Not misled by caterpillars, he
selects with relish the choicest leaves for himself.  In
deposition he seems only vain and self-pitying.  The
overwrought emotionalism of the acting of his final scene with
his wife made me turn aside in embarrassment.  Nevertheless,
for me, the play worked despite my surpise that Richard
stirred so little sympathy.
 
*TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS*     Dir: Roger Michell; Edwin
Forrest: Anton Lesser; William Charles Macready: John
Carlisle; Dion Boucicault: Ciaran Hinds
 
     Is is hard to think of a sadder page in Shakespearean
theatre history than the horrific riots in New York in May
1849 supposedly occasioned by the rivalry between English
Shakespearian Macready and the American actor Edwin Forrest in
which more than 30 were reported killed.  (Can that number be
right?)  If you wonder how Americans could come to take live
theatre so seriously, do not expect an answer from this piece,
which is stylishly acted by Lesser, Carlisle and company but
seems unambitious.  As an American, it has set me wondering
what happened.
 
     Near the end, Richard Nelson brings on Forrest and
Macready reminiscing in a deserted theatre.  They debate the
reading of lines in *Othello* while outside "fans" are
expressing their critical insights by slaying one another.
Earlier, we have seen slices of American *Macbeth* served
between slices of the English variety.  As well, and this
fascinates me, we are treated to a few minutes of Forrest in
his famous role of Metamora revealing that 19th century
American audiences trooped in eagerly to weep at noble
American Indians defending themselves from the Europeans.
Would somebody please revive that piece?
 
     Finally, a puzzle for Lawrence Schimel compiling his list
of spinoffs.  Nelson shows Dion Boucicault, the Irish
playwright of the last century (enjoying something of a
comeback with a long run of *The Shaugraun* last year at the
National Theatre in London), describing a play of his in which
Shakespeare is visited by Romeo, Hamlet and other former
characters.  Does such a piece survive?  In Robert Hogard's
book - Dion Boucicault - I find listed: Shakespeare in London,
an unpublished piece "acted somewhere in London in 1846."  Are
Boucicault's comments in Nelson's play simply imaginative
creation, or does more information about such a piece survive?
 
                                   Sincerely yours,
                                   Stephen Miller
                                   JANET: <
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