The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0285 Friday, 7 June 2009
From: Louis Swilley <
Date: Monday, 1 Jun 2009 13:58:17 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Current at New Globe and Courtyard
Visitors to England will wisely avoid the New Globe's production of
Romeo and Juliet and the Courtyard (Stratford) production of Julius Caesar.
The former, Romeo and Juliet, is little better than a high-school
production - only the actor portraying Mercutio showed any real
competence on the stage. Characters constantly dashing about a large
stage, yelling like banshees, seemed the only direction/interpretation
of the play. (The usher who saw us to our seats was rich with praise for
the actress attempting Juliet, saying she has had NO training whatever!
The latter, Julius Caesar, offered a 15-minute pre-performance event of
an spiritless wrestling match between two youths in oversized diapers
played out before a projection of the statue of that wolf nurturing
Romulus and Remus. Then the play began with, again, little visible
evidence of a directorial IDEA shaping the presentation of the story.
Periodically, a large, dark sheet was quickly run diagonally across
the stage, to what intended effect was largely dark to me.
In neither play were all the voices of the principals sufficient to the
task. Juliet was virtually inaudible, Romeo little better, Cassius had
something of a voice, though Brutus did not; the best voice of all was
that of Decius Brutus, although his lines were so few. When one
remembers the magnificent tones of an Olivier, Gielgud, Scofield and
those far-carrying, lightly buzzing focies of a Dench, a Smith, an
Annis, one wonders what training these young actors, now assumed to be
ready for the stage, have had. (My lengthy conversation with a advanced
RADA student provided little enlightenment on this subject of projection.)
So many of today's directors seem to depend on spectacle at the expense
of overall conception of argument. It is as though puzzled by the
complexities of a great work, they take refuge in sets, lighting, and
"effects", evidently hoping their lack of command of character
interpretation will be overlooked. . But isn't it clear that where
conception of argument of a play is visibly and audibly foremost in the
director's direction, the performance sparkles and excites, though the
stage were totally bare of "effects"? (e.g., "Waiting for Godot" in
London and New York, with its simple, static set, but brilliant
interpretation and timing.)..
We have banished Stanislavsky and replaced him with Disney.
(Visitors to England should make every effort to see the wonderful
productions of "Doll's House," "The Cherry Orchard" and "Burnt by the
Sun" in London, and "An Inspector Calls" in Cambridge. But they should
be prepared to suffer in many British theaters the most pinched,
uncomfortable seating imaginable; in some cases, shoulders must be
tucked behind a neighbor's shoulders, and at the New Globe, authenticity
to the period has taken such preeminence as to insist an audience must
try to be comfortable on backless wooden benches with knees almost
embracing the heads of spectators on the lower row - as apparently was
required of their 16th century ancestors.)
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