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Tempest 2/6/13

Okay, first things first: I don't like the Tempest. This and Hamlet are my least favourite of the Bard's oeuvre that I've seen, though in the case of Hamlet I spend the entire time glaring at the characters, especially Hamlet, in Tempest I really don't get on with the text. Giant chunks of it. So the only way you can get me to see it is to cast actors I desperately want to see in it. Like, say, Roger Allam and Colin Morgan. (am still cursing that I had a chance of going to see him in Vernon God Little on its first run at the Young Vic and we didn't go because it sounded so fucking weird. Which was stupid. VGL the play is *brilliant*.) Jessie Buckley as Miranda was a casting I was severely wary of as I'd yet to see her in a musical, with added proviso that she's normally the ingenue-ish waif. The rest of the cast was what I tend to refer in my head as 'The Company' - Sam Cox, Peter Hamilton Dyer & co, and my baby James Garnon was going to be playing Caliban.

Anyway. We had good weather, was good intro for Patrick, who was this week's Globe virgin. Overall, it was a decent production, very low-key - the shipwrecked lot in black, the island lot in off-casts and cobbled together bits from sails and so on, with quite a bit of dirt and the spirits in white with split skirts and trousers.

Roger Allam was brilliant, of course - a very level-headed, unarrogant and humourous Prospero. Colin Morgan started off a little loud and then went into smiley, wilfully innocent (with added taking the piss in this mode) and radiating helpfulness and bounce as Ariel. The two of them as a double act was frankly adorable, as they portrayed it as a relationship where they really loved each other and were on the brink of tears when talking about Prospero leaving. Jessie *really* surprised me as Miranda - completely unselfconscious tomboy who likes taking the piss out of her father's foibles (the foibles being slightly set in his ways dad who's a bit protective of his daughter, and a bit glare-y at any suitors but that's about it. A Prospero with none of the patriarchy overtones). More of her at the Globe, please. Joshua James as Ferdinand was a rather sweet, dippy Ferdinand, who's never had to do a hard day's work in his life but just... really likes Miranda. The relationship is very first love teenagers with none of the calculation you sometimes get. With a lot of laughs coming from Prospero making sure they're not sitting too close, and Miranda's good-tempered eye-rolling - a rather brilliant dance/celebration sequence at the nuptials where Prospero and Ariel are making sure that that the couple don't get too close, rather like a couple of fussy aunts on guard at a ball. James Garnon as Caliban - muddy from head to toe, like a baby bulldog who's constantly wanting to fight everyone and really peeved at the world and whining that he never got what he wanted. Utter joy to watch, the only downside being that you never quite believed in him as a threat, more as a dumb servant who was utterly mistreated, feeling sorry for him right up until the revelation that he tried to rape Miranda, and his 'yeah, and?' ...where it becomes clear that he simply did not get and still doesn't get the enormity of his actions. Which is a tad chilling. Everyone else, good, lots of laughs from the slapstick scenes of the fools & Caliban (this being the Globe, of *course* one of them rings his codpiece out over the audience), the only problem being that several chunks of the text... could've been cut. especially the bits towards the beginning with the shipwrecked lot, and the spare brothers. Music good.

Midsummer Night's Dream 8/6/13

(with added first timers Cathy and Gideon. Who did squee dutifully. I do like making converts to the cause. Only downside being that Gideon now keeps calling me 'Puppet' due to the plethora of short jokes. And it was full, and there were other tall people, so quite a bit of shifting in groundlings to see stuff)

Costuming - most everyone in Renaissance, the fairies in browns and greens and leather and furs and body paint, either stripped to the waist or minimalist bodices, lots of stag and horns and
skull headdresses. v. much Wild Hunt-ish.

Oh my Bard. This play. This fucking play. THIS WAS BRILLIANT.

Seriously. First, they made it incredibly explicit that the Greeks had defeated the Amazons, beginning with a fight scene where Theseus takes Hipployta's belt and the marriage being a 'we have subjugated you' statement. Seriously. It's the first play I've seen that actually acknowledges this background. Hipployta is constantly being belittled and stopped and conversely finding little ways to undermine Theseus in public, making it far more explicit with her deeds that she's sympathetic to Hermia, including marking a cross on her brow that the Amazons have painted on theirs as she leaves the stage. To quote Jenny, 'All the patriarchy they removed from Tempest they put in this. And it *so* works.'

Actors: all brilliant. Well. Aside from Puck, who was...incredibly boyish and flightly and pleased with himself and unfortunately, a bit slower than everyone else. As well as rushed in his delivery. No real 'merry wanderer of the night'. Though him being so slim made it really easy for Oberon to pick him up and dip him for a snog at one point. Can't say we disapproved of this (only a little bit of cheering. Just a wee bit.), but due to Puck, it did come off very much as boytoy rather than conspirator.

The lovers? GLORIOUS. There were spats, there was haughtiness, there was double-humping of Helena during a fight and Helena rather enjoying it, (though overall beyond appreciation of the form and clearly fancying each other madly, not such a 'want to be shagging each other now' as I've seen in some versions, and I really want to see a stage production where Demetrius does a Christian Bale like in the film), there were backflips...

Oberon & Titania? There, er, may have been drool buckets at the ready? Hottest Oberon *ever* in John Light - all gruff solid muscle with climbing and swinging out on a rope over the crowd and I think at one point a rather large proportion of the audience needed smelling salts. Irish accent didn't help matters. Titania (Michelle Terry) was playful and powerful and constantly pissed off with her husband - the final 'Tell me how it came this night that I sleeping here was found' is a real 'you are in *so much* trouble'; there was audible gulping from Oberon and sympathy noises from the audience.

The Players. Oh good lord. From their clog-tapping entrance on to the utter idiocy and ham-fistedness and Bottom's preening and thespiness and Quince's exasperated director (Shakespeare, your self-insertion is showing, especially when the actors try to change the lines) and then the slapstick. I think we may have hurt something laughing. And then nearly died during the play itself. Full on slapstick, incompetency, dumb show, the stage being too small and breaking and Snout trying to repair it mid-show and the dog being run over and Hippolyta trying to comfort one of the actors just to undermine Theseus... You don't want to know where the hole in the wall was. Um. you can probably guess...? Seriously. the rest of the play is hysterical, the playlet is beyond words.


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