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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
RSC Dream; Comparative Lepidus; Re: Soliloquies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0044.  Tuesday, 16 January 1996.

(1)     From:   John Chapot <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jan 1996 16:22:40 -0500
        Subj:   RSC Dream opens in SF

(2)     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jan 1996 18:34:09 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Comparative Lepidus

(3)     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 1996 10:06:37 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0041  Re: Soliloquies; "to the people"


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Chapot <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jan 1996 16:22:40 -0500
Subject:        RSC Dream opens in SF

The Royal Shakespeare Company's touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
opened last Tuesday at the Golden Gate Theatre here in San Francisco. It will
play three other cities over the next four months.

It was favorable reviewed in both major dailies here (the SF Examiner and
Chronicle). You can access those reviews on their joint net site at
http://www.sfgate.com.

Production info and press releases are available from the presenter,
Shorenstein-Nederlander at their web site, http://www.bwaytheatresf.com .

As for my own response to this 'Matisse' production directed by Adrian Noble:

The production had a gorgeous design which produced one breathtaking moment at
the end of Act III. The use of suspended umbrellas and a swing were a pale echo
of Peter Brook's famous production, but the direction and casting fell short of
that masterpiece. Lots of mounting and humping all around, somehow out of sync
in the refined environment (no earth tones or barky fingers of the elm here).
Considerable doubling made the fairy and court crowd scenes rather
underpopulated. A sour and low-key Puck was all wrong at the final preview I
saw. Alex Jenning's Oberon brilliant in voice, but too young in appearance (for
this graybeard!). The lovers were uneven, but rallied in the second part; Emily
Raymond's Helena a standout. The rustics were wonderful.

To my surprise, at the end, I was thoroughly transported. Somehow my many small
objections - a line reading here, a gesture there - were made insignificant by
the brilliance of the script and the experience of the performance. Kudos to
Carole Shorenstein for instigating the tour, and best wishes for success at the
box office.

For a humorous essay about the dread of having to sit through yet another
production of Dream, see Jon Carroll's column today, Monday Jan. 15 in the SF
Chronicle at the web site noted above.

John Chapot
San Francisco

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jan 1996 18:34:09 +0000 (HELP)
Subject:        Comparative Lepidus

Lepidus has the misfortune, in a 90's production, of being burdened with an
ornamented statement as his first utterance. I am playing the role at the
Centaur Theatre in Montreal, with Scott Wentworth and Seana McKenna as the
famous lovers, fresh from their other pair, the Macbeths at Stratford Ontario
this past season. The brilliant young actor Peter Farbridge, playing Octavius
Caesar, no sooner completes a very accessible rant about Antony's
lasciviousness and drunkenness than I have to say the following, which I know,
despite my own clarity of voice and attitude, has the audience unable to focus
on the end of my speech for puzzlement about the third line, and I can
understand their intellectual confusion.

                     I must not think there are
                           [terrific line-break, giving
                           me certain clues about
                           interpretation]
     Evils enow to darken all his goodness.
                           [so far so good]
     His faults, in him, seem as the spots of heaven,
     More fiery by night's blackness, hereditary
                           [another gifted, organic
                           line-break]
     Rather than purchased; what he cannot change,
     Than what he chooses.

"The spots of heaven" are Shakespeare on a bad day. He hasn't mentioned NIGHT
yet. By the time the public hears "night's blackness", they MIGHT just cotton
on to the spots as stars, but in thinking about that they miss my main points
about Antony's weaknesses being not entirely of his own choosing, but in his
blood.

My first instinct was to substitute "stars", but the director looked as if he
was about to lose consciousness, so it never got changed.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how the remaining four weeks of the run
might be marginally more pleasurable for me by my first of so few entrances
being made totally accessible?

Harry Hill

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 1996 10:06:37 +0200
Subject: 7.0041  Re: Soliloquies; "to the people"
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0041  Re: Soliloquies; "to the people"

To David Reed,

The next question becomes whether Shakespeare would have wanted to exploit the
soliloqy in a direct application to the audience making that instance a kind of
theatre of the absurd experience. Here is an example of where I think he wanted
to do just that:  Lancelot Gabbo's discussion with himself about the fiend or
as it turns out "fiends". (M.V.,II,10-24)

The Jew my master who - God bless the mark! - is a kind of devil. What mark?
His circumcision? God blessed. What kind of devil? The devil of theatrical
tradition, of local anti-Semitism, of the Pope's bull  or is  it the devilish
expediency that Shylock has assumed for his own purposes? (another discussion)
After all Gabo has been Shylock's servant for some time and only just now does
he feel that he must move on. "to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by
the fiend who-saving your reverence-is the devil himself" This is a direct
address to "your reverence" - the audience. Lancelot is saying that to desert
the Jew He does a Satanic thing which is to be ruled by a fiend who is not
Shylock, the more common fiend of Venice in the wake of the Pope's  bull and
the inquisition, and the fiend in the minds of an indoctrinated, audience
except for and not only for sake of politeness, "your reverence", the
exceptional viewer. "Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation". Here
Lancelot beholds the assumed role, the Purim-like, red glowing devil that is
now Shylock. Shylock's provocations and the recinding of his Talmudic shield
has centered attention upon himself. He is behaving as a member of a persecuted
minority dare not behave although the dominate culture audience has these very
expectations  which seem so very dangerous. "and in my conscience, my
conscience is but a kind of hard conscience" to justfy this new, unfamiliar
Shylock is to have an inflexible "hard" conscience. Yet it is the conscience of
the viewer that he is addressing. It is precisely their conscience for it never
recognized the real Jew under the Purim mask at all. A conscience which would
counsel Lancelot to stay when the climax of Shylock's actions approches is also
a hard conscience. There may be a pogram. "The fiend gives the more friendly
counsel" Again , which fiend? The anti-semite fiend has always counseled to
abandon the Jew. More in keeping with events is Shylock, now fiend, sending
Lancelot to a safe haven. "I will run, fiend, my heels are at your commandment,
I will run"  Lancelot leaves to serve the family under new circumstances while
his heels, a term  of contempt are at the commandment of the public "fiend".

I think that Gabbo is calling the audience hard, fiend and lacking in
conscience. He is doing this in a mock confrontation with the audience to echo
Shylock's fictional confrontation. Shakespeare knew that the real drama was in
living at that time for the Jews; the stage could but present a myth. So
history books is where we find our motives for the "Merchant of Venice".

Since the idea of avoiding confrontation in the wake of insult is stranger to
members of the audience in a dominate culture than their tendency to react in a
spirit of revenge,  Shakespeare had to deal with a psycological dillema which
is truly fiendish. The audience tends to identify with Shylock for precisely
the wrong reasons. (which of course, Shylock exploits in order to get his plan
accomplished. Desperate times require desperate measures.) But from our point
of view it is regretable. Our theatrical tradition has never really recovered
its ballance, has never presumed that another Shylock is under the fiendish
mask. When ever it does it will need Lancelot Gabbo for the assistance that
Shakespeare put him there to give.

                                               Florence Amit
 

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