Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Quote #007

BEATRICE: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you.
BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

'Much Ado About Nothing, Act I, scene 1


7 - Much Ado About Nothing

This is possibly my second favourite Shakespeare play – at least for now as I’m only seven down and have thirty-one to go. Anything could happen! Regardless, this play stands out for two very good reasons. I speak of courses of the Bard’s brace of bickering badinage boasters; Beatrice and Benedick. With the excellent jibes, quips and put-downs theirs must be some of the best dialogue in the whole ‘folio’ portfolio! For me they easily snatch the ‘Best Shakespearean Lovers’ award away from Romeo and Juliet

Robert Lindsay and Cheri Lunghi
Mention the tiff-tastic twosome and most people will no doubt think of Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh from the film adaptation. But I prefer the pairing of Cherie Lunghi and Robert Lindsay in the BBC Shakespeare version. Although, going on the comic chemistry shown in Doctor Who, I’m betting the Catherine Tate and David Tennant production last year would have been well worth a look-see. But my all time favourite pairing has to be that of my lovely wife and myself, who got to perform one scene from the play back in our student days. (Biased I know but it’s my Blog, so there!)

Final Thoughts - Claudio at one point exclaims: “What men daily do, not knowing what they do!” Personally I know all too well what I daily do and so do my family (but they just open a window or light a match!) 


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

'The Kids from Fame' do Shakespeare

Quote #006

"I kissed thee ere I killed thee, no way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss"

Othello - 'Othello', Act V, scene 2 


6 - Othello

I so very nearly saw a full production of this by the possibly little known 'Southend Shakespeare Company' back in the late Eighties. I was supporting a couple of tutors from my college who, as well as taking part in some student productions, also 'AmDram'ed it up with the SSC.

It started well enough and was in a modern dress (so no ill-fitting tights!) Unfortunately someone in our group became convinced that the titular Moor (being played by one of the tutors in question) was getting progressively 'darker' as the evening drew on. By darker I don't mean his mood, which would be in character, but rather his 'skin tone' - as inevitably he was white. I would hope that today no one would dare think of blacking up to play Othello (but I could be wrong).

Sadly, once pointed out it was hard not to test the theory with each new entrance. Consequently much of the plot was lost on me and, being a student, the call of the pub finally proved too great. Some of us ducked out at the interval to misuse a pound-a-pint Budweiser promotion elsewhere in town instead. Those that stayed joined us later but with no further tales of make-up misuse. They did, however, tell us that Desdemona had died showing a tad too much leg for her own liking and was noted trying to pull her skirt down during the rest of the final scene. Yes, like Yorick before her, she too had been prone to "flashes of merriment"!

Final thoughts - My main Moor seemed to read too much into the misplacing of one small handkerchief! Is this therefore where we get the phrase 'hanky-panky'?


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Quote #005

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
 King Richard - 'King Richard II', Act V, scene 5 


5 - King Richard II

It was always the Histories which previously put me off reading the complete works. But this time I intend to gird my loins and persevere. Plus, although reading them in order, I'm not going to attempt them back to back. There is after all only so many times you can hear of Worcester going to Gloucester, Surrey to Salisbury, and Westmerland to Northumberland before it starts to sound like some kind of Dr Seuss Sat-Nav!

I was actually in two minds about starting with Richard II and instead reading Edward III first. And so began the whole turmoil about which plays did Shakespeare actually write, which did he partially write and even "Who is this Shakespeare person anyway?". The debate is far too highbrow for me. I just let the scholars fight it out with their pipes and folios, waiting for the dust and cobwebs to settle.

Arden Shakespeare
I have at home a single volume 'Complete Works' but it's far too cumbersome to carry around. In fact if I were to fall asleep while reading it in bed there is a danger of crushing my rib cage! Instead I've decided that as most of the copies I currently own as single plays come from the Arden Shakespeare collection I would take their version of the complete works as my yard stick. So 38 plays in total and those which didn't make it to boot- camp include aforementioned 'Eddie 3', 'Double Falsehood' and 'Ophelia's Dot-to-Dotty Book of Flower Fun'!

This also means that while I'm reading the things I can supplement another great passion of mine - buying second-hand books! At present I have ten Arden editions and I will see what else I can pick up as the year progresses. 

Final thought - John of Gaunt's  rousing "This royal throne of kings" speech carries on after "this England" and ends up essentially saying that the country was great once but now it's all gone a bit shit...


Friday, 10 February 2012

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Quote #004

PETRUCHIO: Pray have you not a daughter call’d Katherina, fair and virtuous?
BAPTISTA: I have a daughter, sir, call’d Katherina.
'The Taming of the Shrew', Act II, scene 1


4 - The Taming of the Shrew

It was only when I started reading the play this time that I realised I’ve never seen a production before. There is nothing particularly incredible in this as there will be plenty of plays on this list that I haven't seen. The difference here is that I was convinced I had seen it because my memory is clouded with numerous viewing of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (1953). Although an excellent movie it is not quite up to the Bard's bar. 

As an ex-actor I can tell you that any strong performance of Shakespeare is likely to influence you're own - look at any ham doing Richard III and tell me you don't see the ghost of Larry Olivier. But an even stronger will is required when trying to deliver the lines “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.” without doing it in a Howard Keel stylee!

Jonathan Pryce as Petruchio
I remember as a child going to stay the weekend with my grandparents while Mum and Dad went on a trip to Stratford upon Avon to see Jonathan Pryce in the RSC production of 'The Taming of the Shrew' (1978). They came back with tales of actors driving around the stage on motorbikes and of Petruchio's outrageous wedding attire. You have to read Biondello's full description in Act 3 to imagine just how mad he looks but it is summed up succinctly with his final line of being “a very monster in apparel." 

Years later, while at sixth form college, I took a trip to Stratford myself and looking round their displays of past productions found photos from just that show. Somewhat sacrilegiously I never saw one Shakespeare play myself while I was there, opting instead for 'The Revenger's Tragedy' with Antony Sher and another called 'Hyde Park'. I must go back again sometime soon and this time see a play by the man himself in the Bard's backyard.

Final thoughts – What is the point of introducing the Christopher Sly sub-plot if he disappears after only a few scenes? Very peculiar... 


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Quote #003

"The crickets sing, and man's o'er-labour'd sense
Repairs itself by rest."
Iachimo - 'Cymbeline', Act II, scene 2 


3 - Cymbeline

This was a completetely new one on me, although I had somehow heard about the old 'Trunk in the bedroom like the Trojen horse' trick. However, to say this has a convoluted group of plot-strands would be an understatement. The last scene has everyone chipping in to fill in the gaps and explain what had gone on. I know Shakespeare likes to mix things up but this is a twist too far for me.

It was also the second play so far to have someone parading around with a severed head - first Philip with Austria's in 'King John' and now Guiderius with Cloten's. Is this to be another regular along with the multiple Bastards? I can see I'll have to keep a head count (sorry, couldn't resist).

I was amazed to see the word ‘brogues’ turn up in this play.
"I thought he slept, and put
My clouted brogues from off my feet."
Arviragus - 'Cymbeline, Act IV, scene 2

Turns out a brogue was originally a leather shoe worn in boggy areas with holes in it to let the water run out. (I got that from Wikipedia so it must be true). Shakespeare himself wore them but preferred them without the perforations - hence the expression "No Holes Bard" (I'm sorry! Really sorry! I'll stop now)

Final thoughts – What’s with Posthumus’ acid-trip dream sequence? Is this the Bard putting the E in E-lizabethan?