Monday, May 11, 2015

May 2015

What a month. 
Pre-London was filled with work on Shakespeare Calling – the book, on finishing Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary (I’ll continue reporting on it though, until the end), and a variety of Shakespeare sightings.  
London itself – see ‘The Globe x 2: The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet, April 2015’ under Ruby’s Reflections. 
Post London – well, we just got home a few days ago, having also spent a week in wonderful Penzance in Cornwall, so there hasn’t been so much time for Shakespeare things to happen but the days have been filled with proofreading Shakespeare Calling – the book, and in the June report I hope to be able to tell you that it’s available. Or soon to be.
For now, this monthly report.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Time plays, unsurprisingly, an important role on many of Shakespeare’s plays and D&F write that the personification of Time on stage can be guessed from the emblems and drawings of the period that show Time ‘as winged, old, bald and carrying an hourglass and a scythe, little different from how he [he!] is usually represented now.’
  • Toledo is a town southwest of Madrid. As a crossroads of the Muslim and Christian worlds it was an important cultural and intellectual centre in Shakespeare’s day and it was also a big part of the religious, economic and political power of Europe. 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Hustle Season 3 one of the villains is reported to have stolen an original of a 17th century Shakespeare folio.
  • Elizabeth George, in her Lynley novel Believing the Lie, evokes Hamlet and protesting too much and hiding Polonius, compares a father and daughter to Lear and Cordelia, mentions Lady Anne being seduced by Richard III and Barbara Havers notes that avoidance can be the better part of valour.
  • In the sci-fi novel Polaris by Jack McDevitt the captain of the mysteriously abandoned spaceship Polaris, Madeleine English, had as a teenager played Tabitha, who in the play Desperado, ‘loved, alas, too well.’
  • In the TV series Fortitude, Michael Gambon’s character tells Stanley Tucci’s that he knows a hawk from a handsaw.  It went by so quickly that I’m not absolutely sure he quoted it accurately but close anyway.
  • Stephen Greenblatt, in his Renaissance Self-Fashioning From More to Shakespeare, refers to Shakespeare in writing about his literary predecessors:
    • Tyndale’s ‘obedience’ is compared to presence and identity in Hamlet.
    • The selfless loyalty of Kent to Lear makes that used by Wyatt seem ‘pallid and abstract’.
    • Wyatt’s ‘manipulation of…manly honesty affords glimpses of a bad faith that receives its definite depiction in honest Iago.’
    • Spenser’s The Faerie Queen is compared to Falstaff’s banishment and Othello’s suicide speech as ‘one of the great cruxes of English Renaissance literature.’
    • ‘Embodiment of reality’ is called great in Marlowe but supreme in Shakespeare, and comparisons between to the two playwrights are many in the chapter about Marlowe.
    • The next and last chapter is about Shakespeare, so more next time!
  • In a small notice Dagens Nyheter tells us that Professors Ryan L Boyd and James W Pennebaker claim to have proved that Shakespeare wrote the play Double Falsehood. Very exciting if true.
  • Sightings in London:
    • On the TV quiz show The Tipping Point (I love British quiz shows!) the question was ‘West Side Story is based on which Shakespeare play?’ The contestant got it right.
    • At a small theatre near Waterloo Station Henry IV Parts 1&2 were performed in April, ending a couple of days before we arrived in London
    • Time Out of April 21-27 tells us that Kenneth Branagh is back and will be doing The Winter’s Tale with Judi Dench at the Garrick Theatre in the West End in October. Oh, oh, oh, I would so like to be there. He will also direct Romeo and Juliet May – August 2016. Welcome back, Sir Kenneth! Was it reading my open letter to you that helped you make these decisions?
    • At the Lyceum Pub there were photos of actors in early productions of Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline and Hamlet. The food was good too!
    • An IKEA advert for beds on TV tells us that ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
    • The Times of May 6 has two articles mentioning Shakespeare:
      • One on how hip-hop did more for music than the Beatles according to recent research. Kanye West is quoted: ‘I am Shakespeare in the flesh’.
      • The other a long article about Anthony Sher in playing Falstaff and about his long-term Shakespearean work with his partner Gregory Doran, another Shakespearean who has figured large on this blog.
  • In the novel recommended by the nice young man at the Foyles on the Thames when I asked him for a novel about London, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, two Shakespeare references appear:
    • One of the minor characters Isis is also known as Anna Maria de Burgh Coppinger, live-in lover of the famous Shakespearean scholar Henry Ireland.
    • In the main character PC Peter Grant’s time travel he swishes through Shakespeare’s time.
  • In the program from Merlin Cinemas we picked up when we went to see Tin in Penzance we saw that the performance of Antony and Cleopatra that we saw at the Globe last summer will be shown in these cinemas.
  • In How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran, the protagonist Johanna watched Withnail and I and cried her eyes out over Withnail’s Hamlet recitation at the end. 

Further since last time:
  • Received and started proofreading: the proofs of Shakespeare Calling – the book.
  • Watched:  The Shakespeare Sessions in which ‘ Legendary directors and founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company John Barton and Sir Peter Hall travel to America to work with’ Keven Kline, Dustin Hoffman, Cynthia Nixon, Liev Schreiber, Charles S. Dutton, Harriet Walter and many others on interpreting Shakespeare. Absolutely fascinating! See it if you can.
  • Continued reading: Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning from More to Shakespeare.
  • Seen at the Globe: The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet.

Posted this month
  • This report
  • ‘The Globe x 2: The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet in Ruby’s Reflections

Posted May 11, 2015

The Globe x 2 April 2015 The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet, April 2015

               It’s like coming home, returning to the Globe. Sadly our hotel was farther away this time so we didn’t have the opportunity to pop in five or ten times a day as we did the two previous times but we were there often.  And we saw two plays, this time with friends from Sweden. What an immense pleasure it was to share our love of the Globe with them.  Some of them had never been to the Globe and I’m pleased to report that they all enjoyed it immensely. I hope we can do it again.
            Already I’m longing to return and my heart yearns to the plays we won’t be seeing this year but I’m glad we saw the two we did.
So here is my report:

  • Directed by: Dominic Dromgoole
  • Cast: Shylock – Jonathan Pryce; Antonio – Dominic Mafham; Portia – Rachel Pickup; Bassanio – Daniel Lapaine; Launcelot Gobbo – Stefan Adegbola; Jessica – Phoebe Pryce; Nerissa – Dorothea Myer-Bennett; Prince of Morocco – Scott Karim; Lorenzo – Ben Lamb; Gratiano – Daniel Sturzaker; Prince of Arragon – Christopher Logan
  • Seen: April 26, 2015 

Ah, the Globe. I’m as much in love with it as always. The Merchant of Venice is our sixth play here and as with all the others I’m curious about how they are going to do it.
Quite straightforwardly, as it turns out.  That’s fine with me.
It’s a great privilege to see Jonathan Pryce as Shylock. He fulfils my high expectations but unfortunately he’s not given his full role.  Several vital lines are cut from his two important monologs – or else I miss them because his back is turned to where we are sitting.  Bad stage direction. Jonathan Pryce and Shylock deserve better.
Portia is a disappointment with her pale hamminess and somewhat unsubtle nastiness as the learned doctor. Bassanio is a bit of a bore but then so he is as a character. He’s one of Shakespeare’s prat romantic lads. Antonio is, well, he’s middle-of-the-road here. He does nasty and piteous as he should.
But what do all of these complaints matter in the midst of the brilliant Launcelot, the loveable Prince of Morocco, the hilarious Prince of Arragon, the burlesque Gratiano and the excellent Nerissa?  A better cast of secondary characters is hard to imagine.  They all have us roaring with laughter through much of the play.
The laughter dies abruptly at the end with the grieving Jessica singing mournfully in Hebrew as Shylock is marched out on stage, stripped of everything but a white robe, to be christened. None of it is in Shakespeare’s original but it’s really not possible to do this play nowadays without making this statement.  Father and daughter Pryce-Shylock-Jessica are magnificent and the ending is very, very strong.
  • Directed by: Dominic Dromgoole and Tim Hoare
  • Cast: Romeo – Samuel Valentine; Juliet – Cassie Layton; Nurse/Lady Montague/Balthazar – Sarah Higgins: Friar Laurence/Benvolio – Tom Kanji; Mercutio/Prince/Apothecary – Steffan Donnelly; Paris/Tybalt/Montague/Peter – Matt Doherty
  • Seen: April 27, 2015 

The cast prance onto the stage, each with a musical instrument, playing a lively tune. The audience, already in fine high spirit, applaud wildly.
Is that Juliet playing the saxophone? It is, indeed.
How to do this most renowned romantic comedy/tragedy?  Again Dromgoole chooses the simple approach.  Early 20th century beige trousers and braces, white shirts. Renaissance robes, ruffs and single puffed sleeves donned and removed as needed to indicate festivities or a different character.
Everyone has large elaborate tattoos. Do they really? Or is it part of the d├ęcor? I don’t know but never mind.  I like tattoos.
You know the play.  It’s lucky I do because many of the actors are so hard to hear and the Nurse’s dialect is thick enough to cut with a knife. No matter. The play itself has far too many words in it anyway so understanding half is about enough.
Romeo is ginger-haired, very non-Latin-pretty-boy, and is a most charming Romeo.  Juliet, though hard to hear at times, is perhaps the best Juliet I have ever seen. She’s cheeky, earnest, utterly devastated by the tragedies.
This performance is one of the previews and the cast are in boisterous spirits.  They are really having fun.
It must be difficult to make this play fresh. They succeed very nicely.