Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shakespeare in pub.

Romeo and Juliet in the Loft Venue

Okay I'd better say this before I say anything else: A tenner to see a professional thayture company perform Romeo and Juliet is nothing. It's a gift. This week, last night, tonight and Sunday also, Limerick has been given this gift by Bottom Dog and Forestburgh playhouse.

It's hard to criticise in any way without seeming ungracious and ungrateful.

Mind you that's never stopped me before.

Okay then: niggles, there are only two and one of them was probably dictated by the constraints of the smaller-type stage in the loft.

Niggle#1: The costuming was impressive and clever, as well as making the cast look... well 'hot' I suppose... but there was a convention of colour-definition to help the audience identify a Montague from a Capulet and while most of the reds where clear reds there was blue, and there was a rich purply blue and there was a pale pastelly blue and this confused me and I didn't understand the colour convention immediately and so didn't reap the benefit in the first few scenes.

Niggle#2: ( And I presume that this was dictated by the space)After two separate stage deaths, the lifeless bodies were dragged off by the other actors. Cool. Effective; but then when Juliet dies, the actress kind of 'wakes up' to leave the scene. Because hers is the most significant death, this jarred a little with how I'd seen death portrayed up until that point; I'd have preferred a uniform convention for how dying was dealt with, even if it meant losing the cool 'drag-offs' from earlier.

This is all I really have to say negative about it, and that should give you an inkling of how positive the experience was over-all. This was fun and alive and chock-full of energy and style.

I will say, of Shakespeare, that to my mind there is only three ways of doing it. One is the conventional rep-company Shakespearean style that you see in films like 'The Dresser' and that we associate with great british Actores and the RSC.
With this approach, much is made of the text's built-in poetry; lines are 'end-stopped'(i.e. clipped where the verse dictates,-as opposed to where the actor 'feels' is most natural) and words are pronounced with a special emphasis out of respect to the text and to help retain the mechanics of poetry (which was written at a time when many English words were pronounced differently than they are today).

The second approach is to abandon any search for the purity of language and concentrate on instead on the dramatic element. To, in a sense, explain the meaning of these archaic words and expressions with a clear depiction of the moment and the character's emotions. With this approach, the emphasis is on actors to bring their personal dynamism into every scene and tell us, with their blocking and voices and reactions, what is going on rather than relying on archaic and almost impenetrable dialogue to do it for them.

The third approach is kind of hypothetical but necessary for the purpose of illustration. The third approach is identical in intent to the first except this time you actually mean it. The third approach is to accept that the English language has changed so much since Elizabethan times that it is impossible to know what it sounded like, ( Shakespeare's accent was probably as different from the way Geilgud, Olivier, or Brannagh speak upon the stage as urban Glaswegian differs from the voice of a CNN newsreader). The third approach is to accept that what you are staging isn't theatre, but instead an Historical re-enactment of theatre, and then to attempt to stay as faithful to the re-enactment as one can. This would involve: daylit productions without sets, two weeks maximum rehearsal time, and a 'made-up' accent (analagous to the 'Aramaic' used in 'The passion of the Christ') where 'banished' would have three syllables, 'love' would rhyme with 'prove' and the abbreviated 'i' in " I met a fool i' the forest" would have no more emphasis than the 'n' in fish 'n' chips.

This production sets it's camp fairly solidly in approach number two, which to my mind is certainly as valid as options one or three.
It wont please everyone but I had no problem with it, and as they have sold out and even added an extra date, I don't think audiences have a problem with it either.

For Giuseppe Verdi himself, when asked:

"What do you think the Theatre should be?"


"What should the theatre be?

The theatre should be full."

I've no doubt oul' 'Shake-scene' would've concurred.

Above pictures are of Alyssa Wall (Juliet) and Lowam Eyasu( lady Montague) rest of the cast were: Dana Martin, Sarah Norris (also the director) Kyle Jones and Eric Hunicutt and they were all brilliant!


  1. YOu forgot the fourth way of doing Shakespere. In the form of rap, with fresh hip hop beats, to teach a plucky but misunderstood group of urban youth the power of education.

    Now THAT's theatre.

  2. Forsooth, there aint a fourth way,
    (to) perform the bard's plays.
    These sorta hi-jinks,make my heart sink, and methinks that this rinky-dink way o' thinkin-
    Aint got no place on the stage,
    there's enough there on the page,
    Without you tryin' to put a rap in, and tap in to some cultural vein,
    A vein of vanity, you too vain to admit,
    Gadzooks 'n' 'Zwounds; that play would be shit, Methinks it don't fit.

    A crime to everybody, Everyone, and everything.Alas.

    Fie!- Any man to try it, ought find reward,
    with a cap in his mother-funster, beige-wearin' bullshit-speaking, blind, ignorant ,culture-rapin' ass.