Thursday, 26 January 2012

Quote #002

“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:
Then have I reason to be fond of grief.”

Constance - ‘The Life and Death of King John’, Act III, scene 4 


2 - The Life and Death of King John

The second play tackled and my first King - as Ephesus only had a Duke. I had previously read this but good to revisit it.

My first brush with this play was during my time at drama school where I was tasked with performing of speech by Philip the Bastard. The Bard has many bastards on his books but Philip is one of the rare ones - a bastard but  more hero than villain - guess it helps if you father was Coeur de Lion!

The following year we performed scenes from Shakespeare and King John returned but this time I played the Dolphin! However, having an aquatic mammal as a contender for the throne was the least of our problems. The holy legate of the Pope was nearly six foot tall and kept bashing his head upon entering the scene as well as wearing a very silly hat; our latest ‘Bastard’ was an incredibly funny guy who no matter how straight he delivered the repeated line “And hang a calve's-skin on those recreant limbs” never failed to raise a smile; and our Constance threw herself so much into the loss of her Arthur that her performance not only produced a bucket-full of tears but a side order of snot!

Needless to say it took a lot of restraint to get through the performance!

Final thoughts - Arthur! Why did you jump? Why mate? Why?


Friday, 20 January 2012

Quote #001

"She is spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her."
Dromio of Syracuse - 'The Comedy of Errors', Act III, scene 2


1 - The Comedy of Errors

So begins my personal challenge for this year - to read or re-read the plays of Shakespeare. Not sure what has set me off on this particular challenge, other than it I like Shakespeare, I enjoy reading and it helps if I have a goal. I also like to make endless lists so working out an order and keeping track as I go along will give me as much fun as the reading itself. The more astute will quickly spot my pattern – it’s not that hard to fathom. This blog will be my way of recording what I’ve read along with any thoughts or memories that I associate with the plays. 

I begin with a comedy but one I’ve not read before or at least not as clear in my memory as others. So what better than something with ‘Comedy’ in the title? As with many of the plays on the list I have never seen a full performance; on stage, screen or TV. Closest would be either of the movies ‘Big Business’ (1988) with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, or ‘Start the Revolution Without Me’ (1970) with Donald Sutherland and Gene Wilder. Neither is an adaptation of the play but do both use the plot device and resulting confusion of mixing up of a pair of identical twins at birth.

Closest to the real thing was watching the O-Level Drama students in the year below me at school perform selected scenes as part of the exam practical. It will come as no surprise that I’m a ex-actor – in the sense that I studied (and I use that term very lightly) to be an actor, then spent about eight years trying to survive as one before eventually throwing in the make-up smeared towel and entering the ‘real’ world. But I digress. Back now to the late Eighties…

I’d taken my own O-Levels the previous year. I imagine I’d heard of Shakespeare before hitting secondary school but it was there, in both English and Drama, that I’d first read any of the plays. I should at this point like to make mention of a teacher who I would guess is sadly no longer with us; Mr Garten! Mr Garten was a mad history teacher who also taught drama. His particular love was the Bard although he might have referred to him more as ‘The Bawd!’ The reason being that he just loved to point every last bit of bawdiness and innuendo from within the plays we read to the enjoyment of some and the embarrassment of others, depending on who he was speaking to. He was a great and funny man.

He also directed my own O-Level performance of ‘The Skin of Our Teeth’ by Thornton Wilder. The fourth year students supported us when we performed this which is why I went back to offer my own support when it was their turn the following year. It was a fair evening although the two lads playing Antipholus and Dromio spent most of the time making each other laugh as a result of the one constantly beating the other! You may think that Riff-Raff gets a hard time from Dr. Frank-N-Furter but that’s nothing compared bruises on both Dromios by the end of this play!

Final thoughts – Let's see 'Shipwreck' (check), 'Twins' (check), 'Mistaken Identity' (check). Yep, it's a Shakespearean comedy alright!