Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thou dost performeth the hand jive right verily, methinks.

Track 7/09: Shakespeare/Morley: "It Was a Lover and His Lass"

Shakespeare's Birthplace

We did not have any official visits or appointments lined up, but our Tuesday was spent on a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon with the Shakespearience class. Stratford is a pretty town, and the home of Shakespeare's birthplace. I spent the day mostly wandering into shops, ambling along the River Avon and spending a little quality time with my computer at an Internet cafe catching up on some research.

A bevy of swans patrols the water next to Bancroft Gardens which is a park in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Our time in England has been hot and sunny, and today was no exception, so the tourists were taking advantage of the clear day and the grounds were packed. Not all of those present were human, and I met an adorable canine friend...
We had tickets to see As You Like It performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the evening. I'll admit, I'm not really a theater person, opera is the most closely related art form that I enjoy as my interests are predominantly musical in nature, but traditional plays aren't really my thing. This was the Royal Shakespeare Company though, David Tennant was their Hamlet, 'it must be great' I assumed... Here's the thing, the acting was superb and it was a great experience to see Shakespeare in this of all venues, but this production was just plain goofy. They were performing a new approach to the work, and while I'm generally in favor of creativity, I think that perhaps too many drugs were involved in this case. The court scenes were meant to be very contemporary and... well I'm not sure what exactly, but the cast was all dressed in black (Rosalind, the lead, wore a gown with a severe neckline plunging to her waist like Jennifer Lopez circa 2000) and they were each doing some kind of hand motions which ranged from looking like they were wringing their hands, brushing crumbs off of their chests, rhythmic smoking, and my favorite which is difficult to describe but involved repeatedly curling up two fingers up at the end of an outstretched arm (if you do it to anyone it is perfectly effective at freaking them out). I'm not sure that Shakespeare ever envisioned a performance of his play incorporating a bizarre hand jive routine, but RSC certainly likes to take risks. They set the forest scenes of the show to original folk music complete with a live band, and these featured the performers as free-love hippy-styled characters with a wardrobe that looked like it was entirely donated by Urban Outfitters. I'm glad I went, but I have a feeling I found humor in the wrong moments of this production. 

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