When I heard Deafinitely would be doing Shakespeare’s most language-focused play, I was intrigued. Love’s Labours Lost has long been a favourite comedy of mine – Rosaline and Berowne are a dry run for Beatrice and Benedick who nonetheless are slightly more grown-up than the more famous pair, and there are more than enough classical allusions and Latin jokes to keep a smug 17-year-old enrolled at a liberal arts college happy, as I was when I first encountered the play. Parts of it are very boring, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense, but Berowne is probably my favourite speaker in all Shakespeare and the ending is brilliant.
Grupo Galpão’s production was Romeo and Juliet: The Comic Opera. The company did much more singing than speaking, and Juliet (Fernanda Vianna) was a ballerina while Romeo (Eduardo Moreira) teetered on stilts. When I walked in I was extremely pleased to see they were running it without an interval, which implied both a quick running time and a tight production.
Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz
“That was certainly the shortest Lear I’ve ever seen,” I overheard a patron say as I left the theatre on Friday. It was, and it was brilliant. All Lears should clock in at 80min (1hr35min with interval).
Most of the cuts were around Lear, the Fool and Kent. The highlights were still there, but not the endless moaning on the heath. The storm scene was extremely effective: a blue tarp stretched on stage, held at the edges by the cast, who vigorously shook it to create a tempestous space for Lear to wander in; halfway through, someone dumped a bucket of water into it, which bounced off the tarp for the rest of the scene, splashing Lear again and again, genuinely disorienting him and soaking him through. The Fool played piano and wore very enviable yellow wellies.
Coworker: So what are you seeing tonight?
Me: King John.
Coworker: I’m not familiar with that one, what’s it about?
Me: Well, King John is the one who, you know in the Robin Hood stories? He’s Prince John from those. Er, but that part’s not in the play.
Coworker 2: Oh, I know, he was the one with the Magna Carta.
Me: Yes! That’s the guy! …That’s also not in the play.
Coworker: So what’s it about?
Photo (c) Simon Annand
I love the Henry VIs, but I didn’t really “get” Part Three until I saw it last weekend, when it blew my fucking socks off.
Photo (c) Marc Brenner
While Monday’s Mexican production of Henry IV Part One took a straightforward approach to the historical play, and succeeded, Elkafka Espacio Teatral played with the setting a bit more. The result was hit and miss, but the hits were very interesting, and many of the misses were down to the simple fact that Henry IV, Part Two is a patchier play than Henry IV, Part One.
Part of the dramaturgical problem with Part Two is that we’ve seen it all before, in the previous play: Falstaff aggrandizing himself between begging for money, Hal and Poins playing a trick on him at the Boar’s Head, a rebellion due to Henry IV’s shaky claim to the throne, Henry summoning his son to Westminster to tell him off for screwing around in pubs.
There are some key differences, however, which the direction picked up on to good effect. There is no energetic character like Hotspur driving the action; the rebels are more self-doubting and sophisticated. There is no grand comic figure like Owen Glendower; the new additions are the nostalgic, slow-paced country justices Shallow and Silence, and the Boar’s Head denizens Doll Tearsheet and Pistol. Pistol has something of Hotspur’s fierce energy, but he’s a less solid character, and less important (read: not onstage as much). Hal could be excused for wasting his time in the pub in Part One, but we’ve already seen his (apparently sincere) promise to reform at the end of that play, so coming back Part Two to find him lounging in the Boar’s Head again is a bit depressing.