Thursday, August 18, 2016

James Went To Watch Shakespeare

Believe it or not, I’ve wanted to go to the outdoor Shakespeare for years (and I've meant to write this blog for a few weeks).  A good 12 or so years, since it used to be in the gorgeous Abbey Ruins.  You do know about the Abbey Ruins, don’t you?

When I was at university, I did actually go see a lesbian-infused outdoor production of Romeo & Juliet.

And then I didn’t go to the theatre for 18 years, until earlier this year.

Partly because partying took over my life and wallet, but also because I had nobody to go with.  Granted I didn’t ask many of my friends whether they were interested in going to watch Shakespeare.  But I fairly recently discovered that my closest advisor has a real interest in culture.

I took the wise decision to read the play before going to see it, and also to read about the play.  As charming as it may be to sit in the beautiful Caversham Court Gardens for 3 hours on a summer evening, I wanted to understand what was going on.

The play itself was pretty much faithful to Shakespeare’s musings, bar Egeus, Hermia’s father who was actually a woman.  The language is captivatingly poetic to read and this often came across by the actors and actresses.

In brief, the story is about Hermia and Lysander’s love which is not approved of by Egeus.  He wants Hermia to marry Demetrius.  Hermia’s best friend, Helena is in love with Demetrius.  In the first scene, The Duke Of Athens, Theseus, threatens either death or a life as a virgin to Hermia, should she not follow her father’s desire and marry Demetrius.

Lysander and Hermia run off to the forest, followed by Helena and also Demetrius.  The wonderful and slightly camp, Puck, was supposed to pour magic potion onto Demetrius’s eyes so that he would wake up and fall in love with Helena.  Instead he put it on the eyes of Lysander who then fell in love with Helena – who thought he was taking the piss out of her.

(Photo from rehearsal - not the actual play). 

Later it gets corrected, Demetrius falls in love with Helena (it takes her a while to believe it), Egeus kind of approves of Lysander and Hermia’s love and they all get married whilst a fairly shambolic, but fantastically so, play, is performed for the duke, by a variety of Athenian worksmen.

That is the story in brief – it has fairies wandering around at times (stealing crisps and drinks from the crowd before the play), and is rather enchanting, engaging and humorous at times, particularly the part of Bottom – who so ironically named, was having a dump in the portaloo next to me later on.

Some people were perfect for their parts, particularly him and Puck.  Theseus was grand, sadly Hermia was screechingly annoying all the way through.  Helena was excellent, able to communicate a varied array of emotions – quite the comparison to Hermia.

I didn’t quite get the point of the fairy dancing interludes to modern music.

It was well catered for, cold beers were on sale as were a selection of cakes.  Enough toilets, and just about enough space to sit down with our blanket.  The crowd were well-behaved – even the young children sat there attentively.

I did manage to get told off for walking on the grass slope instead of the paved steps to get to the bar.  Naughty me.

It was one of the highlights of my summer and I topped it off with a cultural visit to the local kebab van.  I'll definitely be watching Shakespeare before I next visit a kebab van.