Okay, this may not be the first Bernard Shaw play that I have seen performed, however the previous one, Man and Superman, was a performance by the National Theatre that was filmed and then distributed to various cinemas around the world. Okay, while it may not have been live, it was close enough, and seeing Ralph Fiennes performing on stage was an experience to say the least.
Well, this year the Bell Shakespeare Company decided to put on a performance of Hamlet, quite possibly because it is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. This sort of baffles me though because Hamlet happens to be one of those plays that school kids have to put up with studying, and we all know the story about books that we are forced to study in school – they are hated.
I initially suggested that I have seen the Tempest three times on my Goodreads and Booklikes posts that is) but now that I think about it I believe I have only seen it twice before I saw this production (and I believe that both of those previous productions were also by the Bell Shakespeare Company). Anyway, when I discovered that they were staging another production (this time only in Sydney) I pretty quickly booked my tickets because it happens to be one of my favourite Shakespearian plays.
Well, it seems as if Sir Ian McKellan is in the position where he can simply do what ever he wants, well when it comes to the theatre at least. Apparently the Chichester theatre approached him and asked him if he would like to do a play, and then proceeded to ask him what play he would like to do, considering he is one of those actors that has probably played every role out there. Anyway, he said that he wanted to give King Lear another shot, and fortunately for me, this particular production appeared on the National Theatre Live listing.
Honestly, I’m not really all that sure whether I appreciated the Bell Shakespeare Company bringing this play into the 20th Century in much the same way that they do with quite a lot of their plays. The thing is that while the idea behind a lot of plays are timeless, somethings seeing a performance set in the original setting is so much better than having to sit through another modern Australian adaptation.
I have had a rather odd relationship with this particular play. I first read it during university and it really didn’t appeal to me, especially since the lecturer that we had seemed to be obsessed with sex. At the time I really didn’t like the idea of sexualising Shakespeare; until I realised that Shakespeare is actually really, really dirty (though due to the language most of the references simply go over our head). However, it wasn’t until one of my friend’s put on a production of this play that I suddenly understood what was going on, and that my lecturer was only outlining what many of the academics had been saying for quite some time. Still, it is certainly not one of my favourite plays, and many of the elements that appear in As You Like It also appear in his other plays.
Well, it seems that I simply cannot get away from watching Shakesperian plays, even if the production is, in my opinion, somewhat sub-par. I am starting to understand why a friend of my really hates going to Australian theatre. Okay, being a regular attendee at theatres of Broadway, and regularly traveling to the United States to go to Shakespeare festivals probably does that to you, and while I have never been to the States, I have been to London, and seen performances in the West End and at the Globe and honestly, these more modern adaptations are really starting to get to me.
There are actually a few stories that I can tell you about my experience with this play, one of them involving traveling halfway around the world just so that I could see it (because if the show finished I knew I would end up kicking myself to no end). However, after I had spent the $2000.00 odd dollars on a round-trip ticket to London I then discovered that I was coming to Australia. Mind you, that didn’t phase me one bit because I still got to have an awesome holiday in Europe.
Oscar Wilde is surely a tragic figure, a victim of 19th and early 20th century prejudice. Then again, I guess it also had something to do with him being quite a well known personality at the time, though in 1895 he was convicted of ‘Gross Indecency’ ), and sentenced to two years in gaol.
I must really not know my way around the Australian theatre scene because other than the state theatre companies, the only other theatre company that I know of (and have regularly seen productions) is the Bell Shakespeare Company (Bell). However, a few people that I have spoken with in my literary circles seem to have a very low opinion of Bell.