Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 195. Thursday, 15 Aug 1991.
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1991 07:41:54 -0400
Subject: 2.0193 Stratford Festival Announcements
Comment: Re: SHK 2.0193 Stratford Festival Announcements
The announcement of the '92 Stratford, Ontario productions brings to
mind the combination of scholarly joy and theatrical laceration that was
offered to those of us at the Waterloo conference. I heard some of the
most interesting papers on "Women and the Elizabethan Theatre,"
beginning with Leeds Barroll's delicious weaving of the human energies
that made up Queen Anna's court during the early years of James's reign.
But then there were the plays. First let me say that Brian Bedford,
Nicholas Pennell, and a company of masterly and confident players
directed by Michael Langham invented this new play, this piece no one
had ever read or seen, this exciting trans-historical vision of
decadence, rage, and revenge, called TIMON OF ATHENS. It is worth the
trip. Hitch up your wagon or unlimber your credit-card to arrange a
quick Stratford visit before this one vanishes. But do not stay to see
one of the stupidest HAMLETs ever, and arrange for an ambulance with
brain-function jump-starters if you get caught, as I did, in TWELFTH
NIGHT. You know HAMLET, that long dull thing many of us learned to hate
for its monotonous speeches, its pretentious diction, and its caricature
characters? The one we read in Mr Bloom's high school English class,
his unmoving, unwavering, uninflected voice intoning pompous
unintelligible expressions over the polite but snoozing student-heads?
Yeah, that turkey. It's in full gobble. Want to learn why a good
number of students groan when you say, "We're going to read HAMLET
next"? Then, and only then, drift into this disaster. (I know this
isn't "responsible reviewing," but for the moment I have to vent some
steam.) The TWELFTH NIGHT, or rather the first half of the TWELFTH
NIGHT, demonstrated once again that it is possible for a fool-proof
playscript to be destroyed in production by a very determined fool.
At the Bed-and-Breakfast where I stayed, a very sincere lady from Chicago
asked me if Sir Toby wasn't suppoosed to be funny. "I told a friend
back home that I was seeing TWELFTH NIGHT, and she said I'd really
enjoy Sir Toby. But last night he wasn't funny," she said. I feel sorry
for a generation of young actors, pleased as punch to have gotten into
the Canadian national company, bent into frantic dullness by vicious
directors. Young audiences may be of less concern: at least when I
was there, no young people were present. Shakespeare as church, a
polite occupation for folks with little else to do who may be offended
by the daring of television so they go to a play . . .
Back in NYC I was able to catch the last performance of an AS YOU LIKE IT
done by the British Cheek by Jowl company. It's currently in Brazil,
then returns to England, and then hops upside-down to New Zealand,
Australia, and Japan during the next eight months. Now, this all male
production is worth the trip to any of the proposed venues. Want to
understand stage-portrayals of gender-creation? You have to be there
to feel the sexual energies and tonally delicate music possible when these
scores are played by a masterful ensemble "on original instruments."
(The same company will be doing an all-female MAN OF MODE, I believe.
Go know!) Have other people seen things worth knowing about? Are there
other "readings" of the Stratford productions that might ease my sadness
over squandered riches out of a Timonic cave?
From the back of the auditorium,
Steve Urkowitz (SURCC@CUNYVM)