Sunday, March 20, 2016
Today, I was fortunate enough to see one of the best Shakespeare play productions that I've seen. It was a close thing because there was over an an hour's drive involved, not to mention other complications. But it was SO worth it!
We arrived at the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham with some trepidation, as there were some traffic signals unpowered for a few blocks. Sure enough, when we got to the theater, all the lights were out and a couple dozen polite Shakespeare fans were talking with the film center operators, who were obviously stressed about getting the film started before it shredded the day's schedule. Fortunately, the power came on and we were able to see this crackling version of As You Like It.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect. The stage design was brilliant here, as it was when the National Theater had Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. But that play was a little disappointing because while Cumberbatch is excellent, I felt like a couple crucial roles were weakly cast (Horatio and Polonius).
However, this play showed that that casting may have been a fluke. The casting for this production was actually astounding. Every SINGLE actor in this play brought excellence to their role and seemed passionate about acting heir heart out. Every actor.
For example, Leon Annor played the role of Charles the Wrestler. It is a role where the character only appears in a couple of scenes but it was still a standout performance.
As for the major roles: WOW! The role of Orlando is regarded as a bit of a numpty much of the time but Joe Bannister invested the role with a humanity, an enthusiasm tempered by a less than pleasant upbringing, that frankly surprised me. He did an excellent job,
Rosalind and Celia's actors, Rosalie Craig and Patsy Ferran respectively, were exquisite. Two multi-faceted, devoted friends, very bright, open to love and utterly gorgeous. Frankly, I find myself utterly smitten with both these performers. Paul Chahidi's Jacques and Mark Benton's Touchstone were also excellent. There is not a single performer here who I would not seek to congratulate. Hell, the actors playing the sheep invested their performances with a surprising humor.
Enough gushing...what does this performance have going for it? Well, the play itself is a favorite because it is a comedy, a fun romp that touches on serious themes but never leaves you worried that something seriously bad is going to befall someone. There is affection and nurturing aplenty...gender roles become very fluid because not only does Rosalind pretend to be a man through much of the play but male roles also involve a nurturing quality. And Shakespeare's right insights shine through: Jacques' 7 ages of men speech and Rosalind's epilogue are classics! (see below)
If you have a chance to see this performance or own the DVD eventually, SEE IT. You'll love it.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue;
but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord
the prologue. If it be true that good wine needs
no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good
epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am
neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with
you in the behalf of a good play! I am not
furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not
become me: my way is to conjure you; and I'll begin
with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love
you bear to men, to like as much of this play as
please you: and I charge you, O men, for the love
you bear to women--as I perceive by your simpering,
none of you hates them--that between you and the
women the play may please. If I were a woman I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased
me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I
defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good
beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my
kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.