Monday, September 12, 2005

modern theatre is balls.

Aah, work.

I am filling my time with browsing for tickets for a jaunt to the theatre with my friend L, she of the train obsession. Her friend is an understudy in Richard II, the new Kevin Spacey production that starts this week at the Old Vic. It turns out that it has Patrick from Coupling in it.

This is very exciting, because the last time I went to the theatre with my L, it was to see Patrick Marber/Strindberg's After Miss Julie, which starred Geoff from Coupling. I could collect the set - does anyone know if Jack Davenport has returned to the theatre after his latest role as a dastardly English sailor/thoughtful English bloke in an American film.

That performance of After Miss Julie is particularly memorable, as it was was also the scene of the worst fit of giggles I have ever had. The play was in the Donmar, which is a teeny tiny theatre, and we were in the front row with our knees touching the stage. Over wanders Richard Coyle, of Coupling fame, to deliver one of Strindberg's emotive and harrowing lines about the decay of class boundaries and the concomitant destruction of society.

We are leaning forward intently, trying to look cultured, mere inches from the action. Unfortunately, we are at face-height with Coyle's groin and he thinks this is the most opportune time to indulge in some gritty realism, in the form of a good genital rearrangement. About five inches from my face.

Well, it was terrible. I honked (yes, honked) in an effort to keep a straight face. Ironically, it tricked me into the 'giggle loop', so eloquently described in Coupling. The more I knew I couldn't giggle, the more I wanted to.

Anyway, I'm sure there won't be any onstage ball scratching in Richard II, so we should be safe.

Continuing the theatre theme, I went to see As You Like It at the Wyndham theatre on Friday. Yes, the one starring Sienna Miller. And yes, she is tiny and elfin and even wears a fairly boho outfit in the Forest of Arden.

More exciting to me was stand-up comic and ex-Buzzcock's team captain Sean Hughes as Touchstone, who was absolutely excellent and -quite rare this, for a Shakespearean fool - actually funny. I think a few 'sirrahs' had been judiciously cut, and I certainly don't remember the line 'fuck off' (addressed to Jacques) in my Arden edition.

The production was staged in 40s costume with just a whisper of noir, which the producers will tell you is all about conveying a pre-war feel of doom, a world in a state of flux, blah blah blah. I very much doubt this. I think it's all about how good sharp black and white tailoring looks in a production with minimal props and staging. It also allowed a very Wizard of Oz-style lapse into earthy colours when they all go into the forest.

Sure, there were ropey bits - a few scenes which dragged, an actor whose whiny voice clashed horribly with the deep baritone of the Duke. The songs too, were very pleasant (and there were lots of them) but I'm not sure that's good enough. Then again, I always skip the songs when I'm reading Shakespeare - and Tolkien, actually, who's obsessed with drippy elf numbers.

In summation : seven and a half out of ten.


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