Tag Archives: shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet @ mac

Romeo-and-Juliet-2013

Upon arriving at the mac cinema to see the new Romeo and Juliet film I was interested to see what a new adaptation of this epic love story could offer. However, it turns out not much.

Romeo and Juliet are meant to be young lovers destined for heartbreak; however Douglas Booth’s portrayal of Romeo was more confused teenager than star-crossed lover. It felt as if he was simply going through the motions, it never felt as if he was engaging with the language and frankly at points just seemed like he was uninterested in what he was saying.  Juliet was slightly better, but the famous scene with Juliet on the balcony made me wince, the whole scene was so Disney I felt like she was going to break into song at any moment.  The worst thing about this portrayal of Romeo and Juliet was just that, Romeo and Juliet. There was more tension created between Juliet and Tybalt in one scene than Romeo and Juliet across the whole film.

The film sticks to the plot of the Shakespearian original but not to the original Shakespearian traditional dialogue which didn’t do the film any favours. They didn’t improve it in any way, and there was the odd line here and there that felt so modern, it was as if the actors had just slipped back into modern day. Another serious flaw with this film was the treatment of some of the most famous lines in history: “a plague on both you’re houses” was barely even finished, and “Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo” was basically sung at me.

The best character in the film was Benvolio played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who gave an emotional and at times touching performance.  The scene where he travels to tell Romeo of Juliet’s supposed death the young actor’s performance was truly heart-wrenching, this however only served to show Booth up, as his reaction to the news of his lover and wife’s death is met by nothing more than a frown and single tear. There were some fantastic portrayals by the supporting cast, Fryer Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti and Lord Capulet by Damien Lewis added some much needed authority and quirkiness to the film.

It’s clear what’s happened here, the film has been aimed at a teenage ‘twilight type’ audience, and little more thought has been given to the film than to cast a Romeo that girls can swoon over and a Juliet girls can hope to be. But it’s just so infuriating that they feel the need to reduce such a brilliant work such as Romeo and Juliet into this attempt to sell it to a younger audience. Don’t under estimate young people, you shouldn’t dumb something so beautiful  down just to appeal to an audience that would rather watch Edward and Bella look moodily off into the distance than understand a great literary work anyway.

By Noemi Barranca
@NoemiBarranca

The Winter’s Tale @ The RSC

Sitting in the warm, dark RSC theatre watching Shakespearean-trained actors prance around Morris dancing, it is easy to imagine the spirit of the groundlings at an original Shakespearean production. Synchronised clapping evokes the rapture of the sheer theatrical joy of Shakespeare’s contemporary Globe. Ample leg room and a vanilla ice-cream enhance the bawdy humour of Shakespearean comedy and, filing out of the theatre after the allotted amount of applause and bowing, it is easy to envisage the drunken, raucous joy of 1600s London’s Southbank.

The RSC showcases production after production of Shakespeare, variations on the theme of Shakespeare and Shakespeare revisited. Often, they are arresting and ingenious and push the Shakespearean canon into the modern day by overcoming the huge cultural gap between Shakespeare’s time and our time. When they fail in this task, the plays can seem flaccid, not culturally provocative and too-far-removed to be of any value other than reassuring the RSC that it is still the RSC. A production that does little above tide the theatre season over, keep the company up and running and quench an audience’s desire for dinner party talk is something to be weary of. Enjoying a Shakespeare play because it does what it says on the outdated tin is culturally lazy.

Old-RSC_Stratford

Currently playing at the RSC Theatre is Lucy Bailey’s The Winter’s Tale, a production that is to tour the UK in 2013. We may remember Bailey as the director of RSC’s 2012’s Taming of the Shrew, which failed to inspire in much the same way that The Winter’s Tale falls short. The director can’t be blamed for the problematic The Winters Tale with its unsatisfactory ending, confusing hybrid of genre, and class caricatures. I would have wanted to see the play pushed past these problems and conceptualised for a modern audience, as Shakespeare’s plays so eloquently can be. In 2013, it is no longer funny, clever or necessary to derive humour from juxtaposing a Yorkshire accent with the dialect of Royalty. At worst, the presentation of Florizel and Perdita is offensive and dangerous. It is only amusing to watch Autolycus sing and rhyme because when you sat down in your pre-booked well-padded seat you forgot your sense of humour because ‘THIS IS SHAKESPEARE- LAUGH’ was being forced upon you and you forgot to have an opinion other than ‘this is funny’, ‘that was a euphemism’, ‘that peasant shouldn’t be marrying a prince!!’.

First half tragedy, second half comedy. Happy, ridiculous ending. Nine words to sum up three hours of theatre, which makes no attempt to use the text as a tool for something larger. The problem lies not with the acting, which of course was excellent, but with the staleness/lack of interpretation and modern reinvigoration of the play. The only thing separating this production from a less than amateur production of The Winter’s Tale is the staging, with a circular, rising platform. Therein lies the vanity and complacent nature of the directing.  We are meant to be impressed by this ‘feat’ of staging, but we’ve seen impressive staging before; it adds nothing to the drama and makes little thematic sense in this instance. Once again, it feels like Bailey fails to use the RSC’s immense resources and talent to present The Winter’s Tale in an innovative and inspired way.

I understand the importance of keeping Shakespeare alive, hence why I trotted off for an afternoon swanning around the pubs of Stratford before settling down to watch the play. I also understand that the RSC revere the traditional spirit of Shakespeare, but with this production such reverence fails in light of the stark stage/audience divide. This production led me to think that such traditionalism should be left to the Globe, where dancing and clapping leaks from the stage into the groundlings, and bubbles up through the seats. In the RSC theatre we sit with straight backs, applauding at appropriate times and looking sad when something sad happens.

RSC2013TheWintersTaleJoStoneFewingsTaraFitzgerald

As a presentation of The Winter’s Tale, Bailey’s version is true and will unarguably please the traditionalist among us. My tastes are certainly not representative of the RSC’s main audience, who would swallow the play perhaps with a glass of Pinot and be content. The failure lies rather in the lack of vigour of interpretation, and that Shakespeare’s ever resurrect-able text fails to shine new light into 2013 which is its genius. Lacking this genius, we are simply watching a farcical play.

Laura Harris

@lauramaharris

Somesuch Theatre Company presents: Imaginary Friends

This weekend, Somesuch Theatre Company set out to consider the ever prevalent topic ‘the myth of the one’ in their new play Imaginary Friends written by Deirdre Burton and Tom Davis. Set in mac’s Hexagon theatre, the small venue immediately established an intimacy reminiscent of a miniature lecture theatre; this was enhanced by the performers’ coming to the stage from their seats in the first row of the audience as if they were mere speakers rather than actors. Given the company’s long-standing association with the University of Birmingham, it is little wonder that the piece, rich with literary references and abstract motifs, divulged into what sometimes felt more like an academic discussion than a simple play.

Yet, our performers’ position upon the play’s theme was far from easy to extract; the questions ‘Who are you? What really matters? Where are you going?’ endlessly returned to tantalise the audience, whilst fragmented dialogue combined with song and mime seemingly to construct an impenetrable wall behind which the actors hid their point.

Extraction was hardly the point however. The beautiful movement sequences that punctuated the piece complemented the DIY soundtrack provided by the actors’ singing to create an extremely visually gratifying show. The skill with which we were navigated through the characters’ worlds within minimalist stage set brought a fluidity to the piece, a testament to what the company is able to do with such a small space, as well as encouraging the audience to forget their lack of comprehension. We were convinced to sit back and believe that all would be made clear, just not in the most linear fashion.

The acting of university student Becky Sexton especially could be described as endearingly strange, her character’s vulnerability and partiality to nonsense touching the audience so that we greatly pitied her struggles in the world of first dates and were relieved to learn that she is still on the ‘quest’ for love, and has not yet reached the end of the road.

At first, the writers’ partiality for new explorations of William Shakespeare was not evident. Having titled previous plays Actors, eat no onions! A Midsummer Night’s Dream turned inside out (2011) or Remember me: a most unusual Hamlet (2010) where the reference was obvious, Imaginary Friends presented more of a challenge for fans of Shakespeare. Yet his avid readers may rest assured that as the play unraveled, links became less tenuous. The clownish Jane Brown, for example, performed wonderfully the crudely comical individual typical of an interlude in one of Shakespeare’s more downtrodden plays, her exaggerated mime and hilariously bawdy manner provoking much amusement from the audience.

It was in this scene too that the self-proclaimed ‘Symbologist’, played by Ramesh Krishnamurthy, drew the illogicality of the piece together. He stated that his aim was not to make sense of the bigger questions that are asked, but to open discussion and give an ‘unlikely explanation’ so that we can look at topics in a much more interesting way. This is typical of the ‘alchemy of the heart’ that the company assumes as its tagline; having been refused a coherent plot, we were instead given a collection of strange stories which gave a warm-hearted message to those who still feel like ‘half an archway’. The subtle reassurance that the ‘quest’ for ‘the one’ is not a futile one is reminiscent of Twelfth Night, as is hinted at by the Viola and Sebastian of the second act, since the paired characters either already are, or inevitable will be, a complete set much like the reunion of Shakespeare’s twins.

This was yet another successful script from Burton and Davis who continue to make Shakespeare and literature relevant to contemporary theatre today. More photographs of the cast and information about future productions can be found at the Somesuch Theatre Company’s website.

Words by Becca Inglis