Much Ado, more than any other Shakespeare except maybe Hamlet and Twelfth Night, is about sex and death. (The three were written within three years of each other, 1598-1601, with Othello following close behind around 1602; clearly it was on his mind.) Compagnie Hypermobile's Beatrice and Benedick obviously get on well with each other. Their love isn't so much a revelation of feeling as an agreement to risk the literally deadly dangerous world of courtship and marriage together.
So it turns out I don’t really get on with Eastern European theatre. This is a shame, because it’s The Next Big Thing in London theatre apparently (as everyone who saw Three Kingdoms will tell you) and I’m sure it’s very exciting if you are into it, but it gets a big old ‘meh’ from me, which is unfortunate because I am SO INTO weird pretentious experimental theatre in theory, I just find it a bit difficult in practice.
This may be the result of a module I took as a drama studies major, where a European artist collective led us in a “devised theatre practice” in which I pretended to hang myself with a keyboard cord to Daft Punk and a classmate dropped trou and mimed sexual intercourse with a watermelon, which we then smashed on the stage and consumed while I played an Irish polka on the fiddle. (For the record, I received a first-class mark in the module.)
It’s good that Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play. It’s a very silly plot and it doesn’t overstay itself. I left the Globe thinking I had just seen a jolly, rapid-fire production of an insubstantial play, which was true, but the more I think about Roy-e-Sabs’ production the more the subtext and the subversiveness settles into me.
All photos (c) Simon Annand
Before I get into the performance itself, a few things about the protests around the production. The estimable Dr. Peter Kirwan, Shakespeare-in-performance blogger extraordinaire, has an excellent pair of posts around first, the protests (and the atmosphere they created), and second, the art. Around the former topic, my brief thoughts are:
1. The occupation of Palestine is inhumane and atrocious.
Renegade’s production of The Winter’s Tale was very dramaturgically playful, my favourite way to do Shakespeare. It opened intensely in media res, with Antigonus (I think Adisa Moruf Adeyimi, although he’s just credited as “Sicilian lord”) and baby Oluola (Perdita, Oluwatoyin Alli-Hakeem) on the coast of Bohemia.
He was chased and killed by robbers – not a bear – another example of Renegade’s unabashed willingness to rewrite the play but also a disappointing one, considering, you know, BEAR.
Perdita was found by the shepherds and the second act continued. The sheep-shearing was replaced by a hunting festival, which was an excuse for some tremendous dancing and some tall Dr. Seuss-style pillars with people inside that I don’t know what they were doing in there, but they were great. (This is absolutely me revealing my ignorance, for the record – I believe these have some cultural significance but I’ve got no idea what it is.)
Like many others so far in Globe to Globe, the Gujarati company Arpana adapted Shakespeare’s play into its home culture, rather than straightforwardly performing it as a Western European-based story. I’ve enjoyed these kinds of productions better, with the exception of the histories (not because the histories are an untouchable work of genius – although they TOTALLY ARE – but because a sense of continuity is crucial for their stories).
All photos (c) Ellie Kurttz