Thursday, 27 October 2016

A mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up Globe

This past week, the British media (the arts sections anyway) were in a bit of an uproar over the termination of Emma Rice's tenure as the artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London. She's staying for the 2017 season, but apparently is on the outs because she used "inauthentic" lighting, and other modern interpretations, which is apparently not the Globe's mandate, but has also been pulling in the audiences.

I was pulled in as well -- the Globe had a live-stream last month, which permitted me to take in the closing night of Rice's Bollywood-flavoured A Midsummer Night's Dream, which reminded me pleasurably of a simply gorgeous subcontinental production I saw in 2008.

Apart from the thrill of being able to watch along with the crowd on the South Bank, the production was a delight with Katy Owen as a truly manic and rather dangerous Puck, Miaow Miaow (yep - she's a cabaret artist) as a voluptuous and uninhibited Titania, and a male Helena who is the gay BFF of a bossy Hermia. If you follow this last link - and you really should - you'll see "Helenus"(Ankur Bahl) and Hermia (Anjana Vasan) slip in a riff from Beyoncé's "All the Single Ladies", but you'll have to press the play button yourself, because I can't embed it.

The Twitter reaction has been amusing. Lots of pointing out that if the Globe really wants authenticity, they can dispense with the female actors altogether, and encourage disease, prostitution, and fruit-hurling in the audience.

This being the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, it's been a bumper year for seeing his plays. I have summer memories of a male "Maria" planted barefoot on a volcanic rock outcropping blasting an electric guitar accompaniment to "Lola" while his black Elizabethan skirts rippled in the breeze during the finale of a crossed-dressed Twelfth Night on the grounds of Camosun College. I watched Croatian dancing by flashes of lightening in another Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival production of A Winter's Tale - no rain until the final bows, because Victoria is a bit like Camelot.

We bagged the Royal Seats for A Company of Fools and their warped take on Pericles, one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have neither seen nor read. And I saw a remarkable and illuminating eighty-minute, four-person interpretation of Romeo and Juliet at the Gladstone Theatre here in Hades. Among many other live Shakespeare goodies available both in Victoria and Ottawa, of course.

However, the very wisest thing I've done on Facebook this year is to "like" the BBC's "Shakespeare Lives" page. Along with vintage clippings of classic Shakespearean productions over the past fifty or sixty years, they featured the "Complete Walk", an ambitious collection of eleven-minute films of all Shakespeare's plays -- performed in the countries and counties in which they are set.  Some short clips are still available for viewing -- go take a look!

My take on the Emma Rice controversy?  Shakespeare knew all about appealing to the groundlings and the people who could actually afford seats.  He also knew about what happened if you crossed swords with those with the power to shut you down.  He persevered and survived.  I trust Emma Rice will do the same.

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