The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0285  Friday, 7 June 2009

From:       Louis Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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! 
It showed.)

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.)

L. Swilley

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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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