Saturday, December 20, 2008

"‘A careful reading of the text ...."

Children as young as eight were among the audience at the performance of The Comedy of Errors at The Old Laundry Theatre, in Bowness, Cumbria.

Actors from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) took part in the show.

It featured one of the play's characters Dromio guarding a door when a man dressed as a woman walked up to him, pulled down his pants and Dromio's pants, before the pair simulated sex.



Not tebbily surprising.

Peter James, LAMDA principal, said: ‘A careful reading of the text would demonstrate that we did nothing that was uncalled for by the Bard'.


It's all in the interpretation - and these days the interpretation is likely to be one that Thomas Bowdler would be uneasy with. Even Cymbeline at the Swan last year featured a few single-entendres - and as I said at the time, I hadn't realised what a huge influence on modern drama Benny Hill and the Carry Ons were.

We took the kids to A Midsummer Night's Dream at Stratford a month or so back, where as ill-fortune and a dodgy wall would have it, the famous lovers Pyramus and Thisbe were forced to communicate through the legs of the Wall (who sported a fetching pair of red Y-fronts) - and, golly, if Pyramus doesn't accidentally kiss the Wall's bottom in time for the line "I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all". Thirteen year old boys find that kind of stuff hilarious.

Now you could argue that the baying mob in the pits of Shakespeare's day would have expected - nay, demanded such toilet stuff. But you can't tell what some transgressive director will come up with next. We considered another trip to Macbeth at Stratford, and while I know the play comes with its drunken porter you do have to check out first whether the director has given the text 'a careful reading'.

"The way I read it is this. Lady M is desperate to get hubby's courage screwed up to the sticking place. Given the position of women in medieval Scottish society, her sexual hold over him is one of the few levers of power available to her. Lady M is a strong, ambitious and determined woman. Surely in such a circumstance she would use all her wiles - including ..." we get a radical new interpretation of 'sticking place' and the play is sold out for months. But it's art, darling !


After all, the then artistic director of the Globe, one Mark Rylance, read Macbeth so carefully that Lady M, in the form of the delightful Jane Horrocks, wet herself on stage every night in a perfomance that sold out every mackintosh within ten miles of the theatre. There wasn't a dry seat on the stage ...


(btw, I do love the bit in Macbeth where the murderers are waiting for their quarry and discuss the beautiful evening ... 'the west yet glimmers with some streaks of day ..')


(I'm sure David Duff will have views on this .. he usually does !)

2 comments:

David Duff said...

Indeed I do, but in general terms rather than particular, because I try not to comment on any production which I haven't seen for myself. However, I can still remember, vividly, driving 3 hours to Stratford to see "Twelfth Night" and leaving at the interval. The unfortunate doorman probably remembers it as well because, in the absence of any other ranking member of the RSC hierarchy, he received a long, sustained, foam-flecked rant from me on the fact that my taxes had just gone down the drain wasted on the most knuckle-dragging production I had ever experienced in which every possible, or even conceivable, double entendre had been rammed, or hammed, down our throats with constant crutch-thrusting, or crutch-clutching, lest we miss the joke. At the end of my rant, this admirably phlegmatic man simply said, "I take it you didn't enjoy it, Sir?"

You could choose all manner of words to sum up Shakespeare's genius but one of them would certainly be 'subtlety'. He had to be subtle because he lived in dangerous times and quite apart from political and/or religious matters which had to be handled with extreme caution, there were also laws against overt lewdness. Yes, of course he threw a 'funny' bone or three to the groundlings, and no doubt Will Kemp played them up for all they were worth, particularly in the early, apprentice plays (like 'CofE') when Shakespeare was trying to earn a reputation, but that is no excuse for the sort of gross mummery that assumes the audience are either ignorant or brain-dead.

Incidentally, I have only just found out, via Bill Bryson's excellent 'biography' of Shakespeare, that Mark Rylance is a 'doubter', although who he favours as the author of the plays I do not know. How Shakespeare would have relished the delicious irony of choosing him to be the first director of The Globe!

(And having risen to your bait, Laban, you naughty agent-provocateur, I shall now subside, muttering to myself ...)

Dr Cromarty said...

After all, the then artistic director of the Globe, one Mark Rylance, read Macbeth so carefully that Lady M, in the form of the delightful Jane Horrocks, wet herself on stage every night in a perfomance that sold out every mackintosh within ten miles of the theatre. There wasn't a dry seat on the stage ...

So...pinching ideas from Little Britain, too, eh?