Monday, 25 June 2012

Quote #019

"The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly"
Touchstone - 'As You Like It', Act I Scene 2


19 - As You Like It

Now this is just what was needed to mark the halfway point in my Bard loving challenge - an affable tale of love and wrestling!

Back in the Nineties I saw a production by the ‘Check by Jowl’ company which used an an all male cast. It  began with the whole cast on stage, dressed simply in white shirt and black trousers, while Jacques gave the start of the "All the worlds a stage" speech. At the mention of "all the men and women" the cast split so that all the male characters moved to one side and the two due to play the female leads moved to the other. 

Adrian Lester (centre) and Tom Hollander (right)
It was only when thinking again of this production that I remembered that these two were Tom Hollander (of 'Rev' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean' fame) as Celia and Adrian Lester (from among other things TV's 'Hustle') as Rosalind. The first gave a wonderful performance as a woman and the latter expertly played a woman playing a man who's in love with a man, whom she tells to love her as if she were the woman he loved, which she in fact is, even though she’s a man (which of course she isn’t!!!)

People often think of the melancholic Jacques as having the best lines in the play but my favourite character is Touchstone - but then I’m a sucker for a good fool. His talk of wit, wisdom, women and the world is well worth a reread of the play in itself. He reminds me slightly of the rakish 'Top-Banana' Raymond Paine from the movie 'The Night They Raided Minsky's'

Raymond (played by Jason Robards) is another comedian full of wit who uses his power of words to control those more weak willed than himself. In one incredible scene he manages to seduce a woman in a restaurant, snake his way out of a beating when her husband shows up then finally leave them with eyes only for each other and all without anyone but Raymond speaking a single word!

And Finally – Given the amount of songs this must also have been Shaky’s first attempt at a musical, long before the conception of ‘Kiss me Kate’, ‘West Side Story’ or ‘Dirty Dick’! (Only lovers of forgotten movie ‘The Tall Guy’ will know about that last one and it’s show stopping tune “I’ve Got a Hunch I’m Going to be King!”)


Monday, 18 June 2012

Quote #018

"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;"

Prologue - 'Romeo and Juliet'


18 - Romeo and Juliet

While at drama school a group of friends and I tried on several occasions to launch ourselves as the next Monty Python team. I’m guessing most colleges or universities had such a group of like minded folk who wanted to too do their own comic thing. Our team was named REPO, after of all things the Alex Cox movie 'Repo Man'. 

One of our first attempts was a radio comedy based on Romeo and Juliet under the title ‘Tales from the Tavern’. The five of us sat around a table, briefly looked at a scene from the play, dished out the characters (some how I was handed the part of Juliet) and with the aid of a tape recorder improvised the scene. As the only REPO man with a typewriter it fell to me to transcribe and edit the funniest bits. We then met once more round the table, with a very loose script before us and a series of unorthodox implements with which to make sound effects, and recorded ‘Episode One – Romeo and Juliet’.

There was some damn good stuff in there as I recall. Absurd highlights include riding a hamster in lieu of a horse, a missing macramé set and my favourite exchange:

Juliet: But why is he called Paris?
Nurse: Well, you know the Eiffel Tower?
Juliet: Yes.
Nurse: Exactly!
Not surprisingly of the five of us at that table two have continued on as comic writers / performers with film, TV and radio credits to their name. And the 'leader' of the troupe I discovered is also still dealing out Shakespeare. He tackled Hamlet just last year as director and ‘dramaturg’ in an Anglo / Polish production.

REPO went on to do one or two other projects during our time at drama school but we never returned to ‘The Tavern’ which was a shame. We did draw swords with the Bard on one other occasion but that is a tale for another time… 

And Finally – Fourteen! Juliet’s only fourteen?! They wisely brushed over that fact quite quickly when I studied the text at school…


Monday, 11 June 2012

Quote #017

"She’s beautiful, and therefore to be woo'd;
She is a woman, therefore to be won."

Suffolk, 'Henry VI Part 1' Act V scene 3


17 - Henry VI Part 1

I have to admit I was put off by this play even before I started it. I don’t know if it was simply the daunting prospect of being in three parts or a sense that 'Here there be a stinker!' After all, if H VI 1, 2 and 3 don’t get the same amount of attention as the other histories there must be a reason…

Having said that I did enjoy some of this play. I particularly liked the feel of the first scene with the funeral of Henry V and everyone saying what a tough act he’d be to follow (boy were they right!) And the better parts of the rest of the piece, those scenes with the mighty Talbot and the saintly Joan, were bordering on the Bards usual standards. But if only Billy-Boy had centred it all on their stories rather than Henry’s I think it would have made for a much better play. He also needed to cut down considerably on all the running in and out of castles, which just has an air of Monty Python about it – “Attack!!!!..... Run away! Run away!”.  And why bring in another Falstaff, who is not the first Falstaff even though he is still a cowardly knight who gets into a ‘bit of trouble’ by running away... LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!

"Run away!"
But the saving grace for me is one single scene – the meeting between Suffolk and Margaret in Act 5 which I felt made wonderful use of the Shakespearian aside. The two characters spend a deal of time speaking to themselves or aside to the audience. However, rather than let this convention go, as is normally the case, the character left out of the aside picks up on the fact that the first person appears to be speaking to themselves! They either hear snippets of the aside and misunderstand or wonder if the other person is in fact mad (but still thinking they are a bit of alright!) The whole scene is quite post-modern but also very out of place. The concept would have worked better in a comedy than in this botched together bunch of battles [aside] or would it?

And finally – It was quite fortunate that the arguing nobility were in a rose garden when choosing up sides. History could have been quite different if they’d taken a left when entering the grounds – “Come sir, tis time to choose! Will you take up the glorious green courgette or the deceitful orange carrot?” and so began ‘The War of the Root Vegetables’…


Friday, 1 June 2012

Kill Shakespeare!

This looks to be an interesting twist on the 'Tales of Shakespeare'. Billy-Boy's characters join together forming factions in a war against each other and against their own author. Sort of The Bard meets 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'.

The comic book is by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery. Check out the 'Kill Shakespeare' website for more information.