Well, it has been a while since I have posted anything on this blog (okay, I have already posted a couple of things, but that was because I finally had some time to sit down and go over one of the old posts I had sitting there waiting to be published and have finally gotten around to finishing a second one that was partially written while sitting on a plane between Singapore and Frankfurt), but now that I have returned to Australia and have some more free time (namely because I have discovered that when I am travelling the last thing that I really want to do is write blog posts because they can actually be pretty time consuming) to actually go back to publishing stuff on my blog, and what better way to start it off again than to publish a review of a play that I saw in London. Actually, when I’m in London I tend to make a habit of seeing as many plays as possible, though I have to be honest that the whole ‘West-End experience’ is starting to get a bit dry. In a way, it seems that the plays, and musicals, that appear in the major theatres in Theatreland are pretty much the mainstream, but then again having seen Wicked and Les Miserables three times already I’m not in a huge rush to go and see it again.
Back in 1995 I was invited by some friends to go and watch a cinematic production of Richard III at a small art-house theatre in one of Adelaide’s Eastern Suburbs. I had heard of Richard III (the King that is, but then again most of us who have watched Black Adder, or even paid attention to a particular carpark in England, have probably heard of the guy), however I had never actually seen the play. Being Shakespeare I had no problems going, however I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.
Normally I don’t go and see all that many, if any, contemporary plays (namely plays that have been written during my life-time), and after seeing Hangmen I realised why – they tend to be quite boring. Okay, I probably shouldn’t bag this particular play too much, however, despite it being English black comedy (which tends to be really good), the play itself didn’t hold my interest all that much. The main reason that I went and saw it (and it was one of the National Theatre Live productions by the way) was that it was advertised at another film/play that I saw recently (As You Like It) and it looked quite interesting (and it also gave me an excuse to get out of the house for a while, since I tend to travel all the way to Brighton to see these film/plays).
One day I was perusing the internet to see what Shakespeare plays were available on DVD. It probably had something to do with having seen a particularly good version of a play at the cinema as a part of the National Theatre Live productions, and I wanted to see if some of them were available for purchase (unfortunately, at this stage, this doesn’t seem to be the case). However my eyes fell upon a production of Richard II by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and it starred David Tennant. Most of us are probably familiar with him as Doctor Who, however, I had recently discovered that he had starred alongside Patrick Stewart (of the Star Trek and X-Men fame) in a version of Hamlet. As such, I made it a priority to get my hands on a copy of this DVD.
My original plan was to publish this post on the 23rd of April, which was the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. However, due to slackness on my part (and also my failure to actually do any research into the exact date) that unfortunately has not happened. Anyway, it was fitting that if there is one play that I would write about for the belated 400-year commemoration post it should be King Lear since it is probably my favourite of all Shakesperian plays (at least among the tragedies).
I remember when I first read this play and I was actually rather shocked and appalled. In fact, if there are any of Shakespeare’s plays that are going to rub up against the grain of our modern society then it is certainly going to be this one – the reason being that the whole plot is about how a husband figuratively beats his wife into submission. Sure, his wife is definitely one nasty piece of work, but the thing is, living in a world where more women are killed by their husbands/partners in domestic violence situations than terrorist attacks (at least in developed countries) one wonders why such a play is still staged, and one also wonders why I actually sat down and spent three hours watching it.
I’ve probably mentioned this before but a friend of mine has suggested that the problem with Australian theatre is that it is basically rubbish. Okay, if that is the case then that is a really big problem, but a part of me feels as if I am becoming somewhat influenced by him. My problem is that Australian theatre tries to be so different that it ends up failing as good theatre. Sure, there are probably some good theatre companies, as there are probably some good playwrights, but the more that I am exposed to international theatre through National Theatre Live, the more that I begin to understand what he means by good theatre. In fact, it is probably a good thing that they ended up showing a version of As You Like It because I had recently seen another performance of it (which I have already written a blog post on) and it has given me the opportunity to be able to compare both of them. I have to admit that the version that I saw performed live in Melbourne was actually a little dry, whereas this version seemed to be much more dynamic.
One of the things that I don’t like about seeing plays while I am away is that I don’t always get a chance to sit down and write about them while they are still fresh in my mind. In fact that makes it even more difficult, considering all of the experiences that I’d encounter while wandering around the place means that I inevitably land up with so much in my head that it pushes the experience further back, and it is not until I have returned to my comfort zone (or my writing zone as I should say) am I able to think more about it. Then again, that isn’t going to happen for at least a month, so while I am sitting on the train heading out to the Sunshine Coast, I probably should take the time to actually write about the third play that I saw – Merchant of Venice.
I was going to open by saying that I am quite particular with regards to the musicals that I end up going to see, but when I come to think about it I am generally particular about most things (with the exception of pubs – there are very few pubs, and restaurants, that I wouldn’t visit at least once). I guess I don’t want to waste my time reading a book that is of no interest to me, or spending the money to go and see a play (or a movie) that I suspect that I am not going to like. Mind you, I guess that means that I am not opening myself up to new opportunities, but once again there is the time, and the money, factor (and the theatre is actually quite expensive – at least here in Melbourne).
While not one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays, I have now seen a couple of productions of it, even if one of the productions is actually a movie. Okay, a theatrical production and a movie are two completely different things, and sometimes I find that I tend to be drawn towards one medium more than the other, and unfortunately, in the case of Coriolanus, I have found myself attracted to the film. I guess one of the main reasons is that with film the scope can be much larger while the play tends to be quite limited in what you are able to do. Secondly, the film version of Coriolanus had machine guns and tanks (and I have to say that I love Shakespeare with machine guns and tanks). Anyway, here is the trailer for the film (simply because I have to include it in this post):