Sunday, October 12, 2008

Theatricals

(non-Shakespeare buffs, look away now. No knitting in this post, move away, nothing to see, etc.)



Sue and I went to see CAST's production of Henry V yesterday afternoon, on the last day of their season which has included 8 cities in the US over the summer. I had slightly ambiguous feelings about it - definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and I saw the Kenneth Branagh RSC production which turned into the film in the 1980s, and of course the Olivier film; so I have pretty high expectations of any production of the play...

(And it was also a beautiful, utterly perfect Cambridge October afternoon of the kind which brings back memories of moving into new student accommodation and all the anticipation of a new year, and feelings of being incredibly fortunate to live here; and also disinclines one to spending the afternoon in a dark theatre...)


And you know, these guys were possibly better than all the performances I've seen before. It was an incredibly energetic, angry, edgy production; everyone but Prince Hal was playing several parts but they managed devices (different berets, addition of jewellery etc.) to distinguish between them. Likewise the women playing male nobles and ordinary soldiers.


The Chorus was taken by the whole cast apart from the actor playing Henry V; and was done by one or several voices depending on the circumstances; and given that student theatre is evidently still using props entirely constructed from palettes and bits of scaffolding, and with actors dressed entirely in army surplus (all of which was sort of reassuring), the plea to "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts" was entirely appropriate... The battle scenes were done as sort-of-STOMP dance sequences to pounding dance music; and it all worked incredibly well.


There's also a huge plot-setting scene at the beginning with the Archbishop of Canterbury who explains the premise of/justification for the war that's going to happen in the play; and normally it's incredibly tedious and educational but at least we all know what's going on at the end of it (I think it might have been the original Dodgy Dossier, but it was at least comprehensible) . This time, the actor was almost a parody of Rowan Atkinson playing a member of the clergy; and he had a flunkey with a flip-chart - and not only did it all go by more quickly, but I actually understood a lot more than I ever had before...

We only had reservations about one of the actors, and only in certain parts; the rest of them were startlingly good (which is something I can't necessarily say about a lot of RSC performances I've been to)...

They cut quite a bit. A lot of the Fluellen/MacMorris scenes, which I don't mourn; but also Falstaff/Bardolph, apart from the mention that Bardolph is about to hang for raiding a church; I can entirely see why they did it because Falstaff would have meant another member of a touring company who wasn't part of the ensemble, but it was the only bit I missed...

Anyway, bravo them, and when we got out, there was still perfect autumn late-afternoon sunshine on Jesus Green

and we wandered over to Sue's and drank cava in the garden until the chill drove us in to eat homegrown tomato salad and beef stew... Lovely day.

Today I've been knitting freeform samples and writing directions for next weekend's workshop at White House Arts.

2 comments:

Daisy said...

Ooh I haven't been to the theatre for so long, I really should get my act together! Good to bump into you on Tuesday!

SusieH said...

Wow - sounds like a super production! I took my niece to see A Midsummer Night's Dream, done out of doors at Park House by a travelling troupe this summer. BEst. Production. Of. It. Ever. That I've seen, at least!