Wednesday, 13 February 2013

More Culture for a Country Bumpkin

Do you come here often? If so, you know that I am a bit of a culture freak, with theatre visits high on my list of preferences. Going to Stratford-on-Avon from the South Shropshire Hills is no picnic - two hours’ drive both ways being the minimum journey time - but we have this wonderful friend Frank who is an even greater theatre freak and thinks nothing of spending hours on the road for the sake of a performance he wants to attend and he very kindly lets us tag along.

This winter my cup of happiness overflowed with three excursions to the Royal Shakespeare Company in a row, apart from several productions transmitted, via satellite, straight from the stage of the National Theatre in London to a local cinema screen.

The RSC decided to assemble an ethnically diverse company to present three world classics in a season they named ‘A World Elsewhere’, to look beyond Shakespeare and discover what else was happening around the globe during his lifetime. We have had ‘The Orphan Of Zhao’, the first Chinese play ever to have been translated in the West. It describes events in the ancient past. The story has existed for about 2.500 years in some form or other,  the current play is based on a version first published in 1616, during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Although watching a performance on a cinema screen is better than missing out, there’s nothing like the real thing. In the intimate auditorium of The Swan you can almost touch the performers and their swishing costumes as they enter and leave.

We also had Boris Godunov, Pushkin’s play about murder, mayhem and treachery in high places in Russia in the 17th century, gore and dastardly deeds galore; in the end good triumphed
over evil, which is only right and proper.

The third play, which I only saw last Saturday, was Brecht’s masterpiece 'A Life of Galileo'. Try as I might, I can say nothing flippant about it. Brecht provides us with a 20th century perspective on the conflict between religious dogmatism and scientific evidence in 17th century Italy. I was totally engrossed.  I wanted to commit to memory each line of Brecht’s text as it was spoken only to find that the next line, and each line after that, was as gripping as the first. In the end I was forced to buy the complete script.

The story is roughly, that in the year 1609 the light of science shone in a modest house in Padua as Galileo set out to prove that the sun is fixed and the earth is on the move.

Having proved it beyond all doubt,  in June 1633 Galileo was forced to bow to the might of the Inquisition and formally abandoned his opinions of the Copernican theory. An apocryphal story contends that the moment Galileo rose from his abjuration he muttered the phrase “and yet it moves”. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest.



PS:—
In 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a formal apology for all the mistakes committed by some Catholics in the last 2,000 years of the Catholic Church's history, including the trial of Galileo among others.




27 comments:

  1. Your PS doesn't even begin to explain or heal the terrible things religion has done. I respect my relatives faith in Catholicism, but the structure of this religion is full of ugly history and hypocrisy and makes me cry. I have two friends, a nun and priest, who now live religious lives (married) away from the church.

    Regarding culture...next week I am going to an author who will talk about her book on American wines...does that count just a little? It IS wine and not beer.

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  2. what a cool line up friko...def diverse...we have spent the last bit on history and helping my son meet his requirements for school...but i am def about finding ways to get into culture...smiles.

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  3. To this, I say first and foremost, YES! I know better than to accept you as a country bumpkin, though I think I recognize in myself what induces you to go that route. I read an article this week on books about Galileo and immediately (though I've not followed through as yet) wanted to go in hot pursuit. For that reason, particularly, I stand and applaud this: "I wanted to commit to memory each line of Brecht’s text as it was spoken only to find that the next line, and each line after that, was as gripping as the first. In the end I was forced to buy the complete script." This, to me, is a beautiful thing, a compulsion to which we should, each of us, always give in.

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  4. I know the Brecht play....but have never seen it acted.
    I've missed the theatre all those years in France - not including our village tyrant's Feydeau farces...but can make up for it now.

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  5. To even hint that you might be a country bumpkin is ludicrous - I always enjoy the cultural tidbits I find on your blog. They occasionally spur me to further investigation. I'm so glad you've had culture to help you through this winter.

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  6. What a feast of culture! Country bumpkin, ha!

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  7. You are bringing back very happy memories of times when I've seen superb theatre by the Royal Shakespeare Company, right there in Stratford upon Avon. How lucky you are to have that friend to give you a ride!

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  8. Hello:
    How wonderful that, even in the depths of the countryside, you do not have to miss out. We have never been disappointed with anything seen at Stratford over many, many years.

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  9. Can we trade lives, please? I so want to be you after reading this wonderful post!

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  10. Great stuff! I must get to Stratford more. It's about 2 and a half hours from here. And I still haven't seen one of those big screen theatre or opera transmissions at the cinema. Pleased you enjoyed the Brecht. I studied German at university, and loved many of his plays, especially Galileo, Mother Courage and The Good Woman Of Szechuan.

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  11. I think I am a bit more than a 'tad' jealous of your having a friend who thinks nothing of travelling miles to the theatre and lets you 'tag along'!!! Have you read Dava Sobel's 'Galileo's Daughter'? Wonderful book. Brecht's play sounds wonderful.

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  12. Oh, this is splendid! I, too, am a bit of a theatre freak (it's what I studied in school) so I always welcome the opportunity to see fine performances in well-written plays. But it looks like you hit the motherlode here! I'm so glad you have these wonderful opportunities!

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  13. You probably get to - and certainly appreciate - more cultural events than a blasé Londoner like me makes the effort to!

    Whatever Brecht's many faults, on his day he could hit so many nails on the head:

    Andrea: "Unglücklich das Land, das keine Helden hat."
    Galilei: "Unglücklich das Land, das Helden nötig hat."

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  14. You sound very cultured to me, Friko! More live theatre visits are on my to-do list but sadly it's the long journeys usually involved that put me off. Thanks for letting me peep over your shoulder. I wonder if your friend, Frank realises how many people he's really taking with him?

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  15. Now I'm jealous. It has been far too long since I've been to the theater. And I consider myself a theater buff. Not only has it been too long since I've been TO the theater it has been far too long since I've been in a show. I used to be on stage all the time. I miss it. Someday I'll do it again. ;)

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  16. I am jealous too.

    Your life is culture rich - wish mine was. That said, in reality I am happy with it - being culture rich would make me ecstatic.

    Anna :o]

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  17. So wonderful for you to have such great cultural opportunities – and having a chauffeur in addition is frosting on the cake, no?

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  18. mistakes is an odd word to use for some of the things done in the name of religion down the centuries, but am glad you managed to make it to the theatre despite the distance

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  19. You have been to some really great plays - the Chinese one sounds very interesting. I am not sure how Brecht sounds in English - he is so profoundly German for me and I have good and bad memories of Brecht plays and discussions about Brecht. Often times I find him utterly depressing...

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  20. It's certainly worth the effort, isn't it?
    We are lucky to live in the provincial capital, with three repertory companies, an opera company and an operatic society. Stratford? I can only dream!

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  21. over here the renunciation of science in favor or religious dogma is well under way. they are trying and have succeeded in some cases to get christian genesis myths taught in science classes.

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  22. Am curious to know the plot of the Chinese play. Anything that's been around for 2,500 years or so must reach to the core of humanity.

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  23. Hi Friko - I've always wanted to see your cinema in action .. just to 'see' how it works and how it pans out - there must be some others around the country .. but how fabulous you live in such an informed part of the country .. and then Frank to drive you there and back to Stratford to see the live shows ... you have certainly roused my curiosity with these posts - I remember another re the cinema from earlier on ...

    Fascinating reading ... The Chinese play, the Galilleo and Pushkin plays ... well this country bumpkin is very much hidden in the hedge down on the south coast ... long may she learn from the released Valley's End resident!!

    Enjoy the sun .. when the mist clears and that crisp walk with Millie ... cheers Hilary

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  24. Brecht is an author I enjoyed during my studies but had little to do with him in later years. you sure do get more cultural things to do then we do.

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  25. Dear Friko, you've hooked me--now I'll go to the library web site to see if it has a copy of Brecht's play. Thank you for sharing your three trips to the theater. Peace.

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  26. I've been completely engrossed by all things astronomical of late - not the least of which was the Russian meteor. I'm not particularly knowledgeable, but I've been fascinated since meeting Galileo in grade school, and creating a universe from grapefruit, oranges, golf balls and such.

    I'm not much given to script reading, but I might try and find the Brecht play. It sounds like something I'd enjoy.

    By the by - did you realize that one of the Muses was Urania? At one time, astronomy was an art. I've been working on a little post about that for some time. Perhaps I'll bump it up. Thanks for the nudge!

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