Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:28 pm

I don't recall studying any of the comedies in school. We stuck exclusively to the tragedies (R&J, Macbeth and King Lear) and other than Mercuito's insults I can't remember looking at any of the comedy in them. Although when I studied King Lear that was probably my own fault because the way we'd studied Macbeth had killed Shakespeare for me and despite the fact I now had a teacher who knew what she was talking about i was so disillusioned I had no interest left.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:04 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Two things that can go wrong, specifically, with Shakespeare plays

1) The sense a member of the cast doesn't quite get it (which is what I was referring to). Either doesn't understand the words or doesn't feel them, concentrates on getting the words right but means little emotional power if any.


I think they call that person a "bad actor". :lol:

An actor simply reciting his or her lines without understanding the character's motivation is supposed to be a huge no-no. Because yeah, having a bad actor like that in a prominent role, that will totally kill the experience.

2) Reverence. Every line filled with importance and reverence as if taking High Mass. What should be a bawdy joke is treated and played as if a great piece of earth-shattering wisdom and must be treated with great solemn behaviour.


Oh no, that sounds terrible. I remember Shakespeare being required reading in one of my English Lit classes. While those classes did teach me that he inserted countless bawdy jokes, as you mentioned, and plays on words and what not, it was also a very, very dry experience. I can only imagine what watching a formal and revered - in other words, stuffy and haughty - rendition of one of his tragedies must be like.

I don't think I realized he could be funny (bar Laurence Oliver's hilariously bad Hamlet) till a few years ago. Most of the stuff I watched when younger was pretty serious (even the comedies), the BBC's modern mini-adaptations were funny at times but I put it down to BBC for modern audiences. I think it was seeing Henry IV set in a brothel and the cast going for those scenes with a sense of humour that made me realize


All the tools are there, even in the tragedies, if the director has that sort of vision and the cast have their heads in it.

Definitely feel like it's important to stay away from that traditional approach to crafting a performance out of his work, though. The thing to realize with Shakespeare's work is that, historically, these guys were kind of like street performers, and these shows were being viewed by the average layman. I think the language throws people off the scent; it's witty, not erudite.

Sun Fin wrote:We stuck exclusively to the tragedies (R&J, Macbeth and King Lear) and other than Mercuito's insults I can't remember looking at any of the comedy in them.


Kind of already explored above, so feel free to chime in. But I'll highlight one specific case that stuck out where the director and actors can bring a normally mundane character to life. That recent viewing of Hamlet I was privy to, the actor playing Polonius kind of ended up stealing the show. He was a bit of an older fellow and went into total Large Ham mode for the performance. His rendition would surely have made stuffy traditionalists flip out, but he was successful in making the character humorous and lightening up the tragedy side of things a bit.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Oct 10, 2014 3:46 pm

Sun Fin wrote:I don't recall studying any of the comedies in school. We stuck exclusively to the tragedies (R&J, Macbeth and King Lear) and other than Mercuito's insults I can't remember looking at any of the comedy in them. Although when I studied King Lear that was probably my own fault because the way we'd studied Macbeth had killed Shakespeare for me and despite the fact I now had a teacher who knew what she was talking about i was so disillusioned I had no interest left.


I think that is a problem that the education system tends to leave people disillusioned or bored by Shakespeare.

Zyzyfer wrote:I think they call that person a "bad actor". :lol:

An actor simply reciting his or her lines without understanding the character's motivation is supposed to be a huge no-no. Because yeah, having a bad actor like that in a prominent role, that will totally kill the experience.


I wouldn't say those I have seen are bad actors, I have seen them do very well in other roles. I think the problem with Shakespeare is they don't want to reject such a work even if they aren't fluent in the language enough to be comfortable enough.

I would more ask why they weren't trained better before they went on air.


Oh no, that sounds terrible. I remember Shakespeare being required reading in one of my English Lit classes. While those classes did teach me that he inserted countless bawdy jokes, as you mentioned, and plays on words and what not, it was also a very, very dry experience. I can only imagine what watching a formal and revered - in other words, stuffy and haughty - rendition of one of his tragedies must be like.


Or his comedies :wink:

All the tools are there, even in the tragedies, if the director has that sort of vision and the cast have their heads in it.


I haven't seen a funny MacBeth but otherwise agreed.

Definitely feel like it's important to stay away from that traditional approach to crafting a performance out of his work, though. The thing to realize with Shakespeare's work is that, historically, these guys were kind of like street performers, and these shows were being viewed by the average layman. I think the language throws people off the scent; it's witty, not erudite.


I have, mostly through BBC, seen very good "straight" Shakespeare plays. David Tennant's moving Hamlet, moving because he makes one feel the emotion (vs Olivier's "Someone kill whiny mc whiny Hamlet already") or a South African Julius Ceaser (with a creepy priest). Or the Hollow Crown series where they play them straight (magnificent Richard III). Never seen a really good Macbeth but in none of those good plays do we get the reverence thankfully. They treat it like you would expect them to do a major production, not "your lucky boys and girls"

I have also seen where it more lets loose. Some of the BBC mini shakesperes like drug-addled Midsummer Nights dream or the Globe Theatre with the horny Romeo and Juliet or Roger Allam air-humping. The Globe Theatre tends to aim for the sense of street-performers and humour
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:25 am

Kind of wish I had access to these televised plays on BBC. :(
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:54 am

Globe Theatre is Sky Arts mostly. The BBC rarely does play-plays in the straight sense, more TV production of such and such, probably on DVD or streaming nowadays.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Shen Ai » Thu Oct 16, 2014 4:11 am

Jersey Boys! Saw it a month back. Loved it. Much better on stage than in film.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:35 am

Shen Ai wrote:Jersey Boys! Saw it a month back. Loved it. Much better on stage than in film.


I love Jersey Boys! saw it a couple of Christmas' ago (my family have an annual trip to the West End at Christmas), absolutely quality show. In my opinion it's the best show based on one groups music because they didn't try and make up some half baked storyline that suits the songs (yes I am looking at you WWRY).
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:13 pm

WWRY?
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:48 am

We Will Rock You
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Oct 22, 2014 6:24 pm

I watched the Globe Theatre's version of Taming of the Shrew (Samantha Spiro and Simon Paisley Day as leads), including the drunk tailor opening (years since I have seen that included), and a word that kept coming to mind: Panto. Now 1) such comparisons will have me tried for treason, 2) if any panto included such amount male flesh, a cod-piece and a lewd song about a woman's "nest" would see a national outcry. However bear with me. As well as the traditional parts of panto, the better comedians rely on innuendo and knowing looks, winks to the audience, the exaggerated actions that play to the audience, something that seems afar from the traditional Shakespeare. Globe Theatre productions may be limited into when they can speak to the audience, though usually one or two parts where it interacts to a small degree, but the performers do love to give the knowing looks to the audience, enhancing the comedy with little or over the top actions it knows will make the audience laugh.

As for the production itself... It was a good, funny production of a play that I always find uneasy at times. The only times I have watched a production without having moments of unease was Kiss Me Kate which probably doesn't count and a very good BBC mini-version with Rufus Sewell and Shirley Henderson that rewrote the relationship a bit. This one didn't rewrite so found me uneasy twice
The tests Petruchio has are well done, the motivation is set out well until one gets to "I'm saying absurd things and you must agree." It just feels like seeking domination and too much. The final speech as well, a sense with Petruchio and Katherine that they were playing a game on their family at first, Katherine has piercing shots at her rival ladies, but the speech of subservience goes on so long and with such degradation that it feels wrong.
. That aside, it was a very funny production with a cast that played for laughs, dialogue flowing smoothly from them, good costumes and music plus the traditional dance at the end. Its romances are fun as people compete and the lead one also becomes sweet in its way despite the issues of the play itself.

Of the main cast: Day was a charismatic force who drew a lot of laughs but also managed to show emotion as he saw Katherine, missed the comedy a bit when he became quiet, still a charismatic force but a thoughtful one. The highly comic Jamie Beamish was also someone who drew laughter regularly from the audience as Tranio and Pearce Quigley as Grumio had a great dry delivery to mock his master.

The women characters take a bit off time to make an impact. Samantha Spiro's Katherine at first veers between "woah she is scary" as she rages, full of energy as she screams, charges and fights. However the formidable woman also sometimes seems too exaggerated to be real. When Spiro has to become more subdued, her Katherine feels more real and she does that part very well. She and Day click as a pairing, whether fighting or otherwise... Sarah MacRae (saw her as Cariola in Duchess of Malfi) played Bianca who initially seemed a bit bland as a character but McRae found the other side to the pretty Bianca which allowed for comedy as she interacted with her suitors or her sister.

Strong supporting cast: Michael Bertenshaw with dignity and humour against himself as the elderly suitor Gremio, Joseph Timms was good at amusing despair as Lucentio, Rick Warden was sweet and endearing but also comic as a foolish young, romantic Hortensio. The capable David Beames as Vincentio, the warm Pip Donaghy as Baptista Minola, capable Patrick Driver as the Pedant, Tom Godwin was great at playing with the audience as Biondello
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