Friday, 10 July 2009

A Shakespeare experience

We went to an outdoor production of a Shakespeare play last night (it was meant to be a birthday treat for our neighbour). All very posh. Country house, wonderful gardens, picnics with champagne and everyone being very English and pretending that it was warm when it was absolutely freeeeezing. So far so (fairly) good. But the play (better not say which, in case) was appalling. The actors couldn't act, couldn't speak up, couldn't put any expression into what they said, and we were bored stiff (and still freezing). Half time came. We looked at one another. Shall we go home? we whispered. YES! We gathered up our picnic things and escaped, feeling triumphant and guilty in equal measure, and tore home for a warming cup of tea (we'd run out of whisky). The whole episode leaves me with two unanswered queistons. (1) Was everyone else really enjoying themselves, or was it an emperor's new clothes kind of thing (which I suppose makes us little boys)? And (2) Should amateurs do Shakespeare at all? I think that with Shakespeare plays the plot is a vehicle for the wonderful words, rather than the other way round, and last night the words just weren't wonderful (or audible).


  1. I can't really comment on (1), but on (2) I've always seen the wonderful words as in the service of the drama (for me it's a play script rather than a poem).

    But to convey any sort of meaning, in verse, in a language 400 years old, really does require a trained professional. I always imagine amateur Shakespeare as great fun to act and rather less so to watch...

  2. Hi Tim. I think what I meant was that in Shakespeare, the language is particularly important (I'm backing down here). In, for example, The Mousetrap (which I haven't seen, so can't be sure) I imagine that the plot is all, and the expression of the denouement is probably of lesser importance than its content. But I think you're right. Shakespeare should probably be left to the professionals.

  3. I go into a primary school one morning a week to help with reading, drama and such. I have taken some rehearsals for the end of term entertainment and spent the entire time yelling "slow down!" and/or "speak up!" I can understand this with youngsters,but adults need a good kick if they can't understand four such simple words. I love Shakespeare, but unless you know the play well, he can be tricky on the ear. However, if you can't hear what's being said, then I agree with you, the best thing IS to pack up and go home, especially if it's cold. No guilt necassary.After all if you eat out and you don't like the food, you send it back and complain.....don't you?