|London theatre roundup
||[Jul. 16th, 2014|11:16 pm]
It is so disgustingly hot. The warm water dripping from air-conditioning vents makes it feel like even the buildings are sweating and everything is flat and heavy and there is squashed fruit underfoot everywhere which normally I find charming but now is just yuck. In protest I have holed up in my flat with three books of Russian grammar and a bottle of wine in an attempt to crack Russian dates. No luck so far, but a lot of Sebastian Stan (I have finally worked out what tumblr is for).
I was briefly in London the other week, which meant (almost) All The Theatre.
I absolutely love Julius Caesar, despite all the best parts being over before the intervals and the rest basically consisting of a lot of people arguing while we wait for the relevant characters to stab themselves (which in at least one case they end up doing by mistake, like, nice going Cassius). I love how it's a parade of terrible decisions from Brutus, who is always so sure he's doing the right thing and is always completely, monumentally, epically wrong every time, and Cassius, who gets everything right except one thing, which is inviting Brutus to join his assassination gang in the first place (oh yeah, and the aforementioned stabbing), can only fume on the sidelines. Oh, and there's all that excellent poetry, soaring rhetoric, etc. Anyway, the Globe is the perfect place for it, and they took full advantage with a full on Lupercalia going on outside, complete with someone declaiming the Rape of Lucrece and a Puritan preacher denouncing the whole thing, and off we went.
The main cast were a good deal younger than you often see, and very strong: Tom McKay's Brutus superbly, publicly self-righteous; Tony Howells suitably perpetually annoyed with him, and with himself for bringing him in in the first place, and Christopher Logan was a brilliantly snarky Casca. I wasn't hugely convinced by Luke Thompson's Antony to begin with, but he rapidly changed my mind and the funeral orations were outstanding. Always wanted to see them in the Globe setting, and wow, did they work well.
Also, there was surprise! Katy Stephens as Calphurnia (she was excellent, also as the citizen in the crowd scene who is keen on burning things) and a very good Portia too in Catherine Bailey, which didn't half make you think that being married to either Caesar or Brutus would be the Worst Ever (I like to think that Portia's "death" was cooked up by Portia and Calphurnia over a couple of bottles of wine and a communal moan about how awful both their husbands, and they both ran away to Egypt to hang out with Cleopatra).
There was a class of eight-year olds in with us in the groundlings, and they were entirely captivated throughout; good work whichever school that was.
This is just about the only Miller that I didn't have to endure at school, but I remember it being staple of drama day (all girls school = many, many performances of the possession scene; funnily enough, my mum said it was exactly the same at her school too) so all I knew of the plot was witch trials, screaming, and a vague impression that McCarthyism might be involved.
Anyway, it was bloody good, but holy pacing issues. Nearly four hours long, and you felt it mainly in the first half; too much time spent on the Sad Silences of Loveless Marriage as Proctor and his wife look awkwardly at each other in the second act. But the last two acts were brilliant, tense and had you squirming, even though you knew exactly where it was ending. Absolutely superb Abigail from Samantha Colley, and Richard Armitage was pretty good too, and not by this stage in the previews as hoarse as he apparently was by press night. Apparently they've managed to cut half an hour which I suspect is all for the best - it's had fantastic reviews..
Always fun to see a new Shakespeare: all I knew about this play beforehand was that it's a gore-fest and features a "your mum" joke that Shakespeare never bettered throughout his career. Both true, and the ushers were clearly primed for fainters and had their removal down to a fine art (I counted eight on the ground floor, mainly among the seated). Tremendous fun, with Indira Varma and William Houston hamming it up to the max, and a very affecting Lavinia from Flora Spencer-Longhurst, while Obi Abili managed to make Aaron convincingly frightening (while also pretty funny). On the whole I am glad Shakespeare generally toned down the rape, gore and racism-for-laughs in his work as a whole as the 1590s progressed, but this was very well done.
I had a ticket for Antony & Cleopatra the day before I left, but sadly had to go emergency shopping instead (stupid Sunday opening hours). My annoyance at missing Eve Best and Clive Wood is mitigated by the fact that the Globe now DVDs everything, and they usually do it quite well too.
The forecast is for 37 C tomorrow. I am so ready for autumn right now.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.