Saturday, 31 May 2014

Culture on the Doorstep

Titania and Bottom
in Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre
on screen

Everyone in the audience enjoyed this performance of Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes. The woman sitting right behind me enjoyed it so much that she tittered and sniggered and giggled at every innuendo and visual gag, often before they were fully born. Shakespeare’s comedy play is peopled with confusing and confused characters, mortals and spirits, a secret night-time forest, magic potions, a band of amateur actors, the Rude Mechanicals, performing a play within a play, who brought the house down every time they appeared, and the darkly mischievous world of Oberon and Titania with Puck and a band of faeries. It’s great fun - unless you are bored by the unlikely story, like Beloved said he has been every time I’ve forced him to see the play. Even he laughed during the second act, but only were laughter was appropriate. The woman sitting behind me drove me to distraction and I frequently braced myself for her next onslaught. 

Unfortunately, I mentioned my irritation to the friends we had come with. We half-heartedly wondered if we should move, but that would have been excessive. I should have kept my complaint to myself, in the interval I saw them stand with the giggler and her husband, having a conversation. Only then did I recognise her as a Valley’s End inhabitant who is a leading light in the Amateur Dramatic Society.

So often nowadays directors feel they need to freshen an old play by dragging it into a more recent century. It so rarely works. This production stayed firmly where it was meant to be, in a magical, unreal Elizabethan world with a fictitious Athens at the centre; the actors were dressed in the most astonishingly beautiful costumes, even the ones who were semi naked.

I am enormously glad that the National Theatre and now the RSC at Stratford and Shakespeare’s Globe in London transmit so many of their productions digitally. You can see the whole of the action clearly, hear every word and see the acting up close and doubled in size. Although I love it when we go to live performances in actual theatres, with their noise and buzz and the smell of backstage, I am very happy not to be driving for hours and paying high ticket prices every time.


  1. We get opera from the New York Met here on the big screen...and while I have to say that I prefer my opera and theatre live the variety thus on offer is most attractive.
    Not at all surprised that your giggler was a leading light in the ADS...used to be known as the adultery club in my days in England...

  2. You seem to have a good selection of plays to choose from.

  3. I love live performances of Shakespeare. The titterer would upset me. What can one do in that sort of situation? When Favorite Young Man took me to see the next to last Harry Potter movie, a guy sitting next to him kept talking about what was happening. I had a little flashlight in my purse. I wanted to pull it out and shine it on his face and shout LUMINOS. But what if someone thought I had a gun? I've never touched a gun, but a lot of people carry guns with them all the time. I don't like guns.


  4. The availability of performances like this on screen, at a modest price, is a great boon, isn't it, though you still have to contend with tiresome audience members!

  5. We also have the opportunity to see these wonderful plays on the screen, but my husband says "no", before I can end the sentence. However, if it is a live play and it is bring performed outside and we can bring fine wine and something to eat, he is all for it.

    Last summer we saw this play in a lovely park setting and had a great time even though it is not my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. The actors are what makes the play and our local thespians were wonderful.

  6. Sigh. The titterer would have given me a severe case of the irrits. I am glad that they didn't tinker with the time period though - I have never seen that work.

  7. I don't know any Shakespeare, so didn't know that Midsummer Night's Dream was/is a comedy. I'll have to see if I can find a dvd and watch it. I'll check my local libraries.

  8. Not behind the scenes drama, but real out in the seats drama, of a sort.
    I hope your remark wasn't passed on to The Giggler. Maybe she has some kind of dire disease that makes her burst into gales of giggles at inappropriate times. So many new diseases these days.
    Luv, K

  9. Tis a long time since I have enjoyed live theatre. A digital production would be just as enjoyable I am sure, but sadly something not offered in my part of the world.
    Glad you enjoyed your night, despite the irritation of the titterer.
    Anna :o]

  10. Hi Friko - we have the Rude Mechanicals here in Alfriston .. so I've been a few times, though I live over in Eastbourne ...

    They are very clever the way they create slightly different productions and there's always much going on .. it's a lovely evening out ... I wonder if the Giggler was trying to encourage others to participate more - or ... it put people off.

    The relayed productions are a great addition to life in the country - or town as I am ...

    Let's hope the weekend holds fair .. and enjoy yours .. cheers Hilary

  11. Hello:

    How very tiresome for you in every way - both the giggling and the leading light of the local dramatic society.

    You will possibly find this most odd but we have always been somewhat reluctant to see 'The Dream' [although of course we have] since the 1970 production by Peter Brook at Stratford which was, in our opinion, the best ever. Superb, it lives with us still after all of these years.

  12. I saw a Shakespeare play a few years ago of Romeo and Juliet and I really loved it. I would like to see all his plays someday. Especially Hamlet!

  13. midsummer is my fav of old willie's plays...i would love to go to more live performances, but i am glad i can catch some on the tele...we are taking my son to broadway this summer for the first will blow him away...

  14. I am with you in hating stupidly modernised versions of classics. I say "stupidly" - usually they pay a certain amount of respect to the music or words. The only one I've walked out on was at the Royal Opera House, a dire version of a Handel opera which actually had silly dancing girls swaying around in a DIFFERENT RHYTHM TO THE MUSIC. It gave me a headache, apart from ruining the experience.

  15. I prefer my Shakespeare to remain in the past, too. I have never seemed to appreciate them modifying the stories into the present. Love her dress and the donkey outfit! :)

  16. haha
    Reminds me of something I would do (say)…I'm good at putting my foot in my mouth at times.

    My sister is an English teacher for middle school students, and her school has a contest every year where each English class puts on this play in a new, creative guise. You may be appalled to learn that this year they did it up Star Trek-style.

    My sister's class wins every year, or has since she's been there. Quite a bit of pressure at this point….


  17. I have never been to see any of Shakespeare's plays and now wish I had made a point of it when I lived closer to our Stratford (Ontario) Theatre. Sounds like a lovely time.. despite Ms. Giggles Galore.

  18. Do annoying audience members know that they're annoying? It seems to be a perennial problem. We're going to see Two Gentlemen of Verona at our local summer theater -- Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival -- I hope everyone behaves.

  19. I almost turned around and bopped a woman behind me in the movie "The King's Speech" who was laughing at the beginning when Bertie is giving his speech -- or trying desperately to get it out. Clearly, they didn't know any stammerers and the challenges it brings (and I hope the movie taught them).

    I can handle things like that for a bit but when it is chronic I just want to scream -- or move. Easier to do if not with others. But I'm glad the play was a wonderful production. It is one of my favorites. I hope they'll show the digital version here -- they do sometimes.

  20. I probably would have been making all sorts noises. This is my all time favorite Shakespeare play. Besides, I know a place where the wild thyme blows.

  21. Digitalised productions are a marvellous thing, especially for people for whatever reason are unable to get to a said venue.
    I was at the ballet recently where the three women behind me clapped at every twirl and turn.
    About your experience with the giggler - oh dear.

  22. It sounds like a delightful performance!

  23. This is one of the things I truly miss about not living in London - I frequented the theatre and was thrilled to watch many great actors and actresses. Do you have a direct link to any of the digital broadcasts Friko and if so, would you send it to me either in a comment on my post or via email. I surely would appreciate it. Please and thankyou :) Great Post.

  24. Yes, the tittering woman. One might, of course, and I do, say that it's good to give a live performance of appreciation within the audience. Except it's so irritating.

    I long gave up cinema (in England). If people can't sit through a performance of max two hours without stuffing their faces with ear popping crunching pop corn I do not wish to participate.

    I took my son, from an early age, to the theatre - plays geared towards children and young people. Mainly London, Salisbury, Poole. You know what was so striking, and the mark of a good performance: The children were so spell bound there was not a titter, you could have heard a needle drop. Yes, the wonderment of childhood.

    Other than that: Manners. I am pretty lively myself. But do know when best to employ a handkerchief to stifle my amusement. Or sobs.


  25. Friko, here's another sort of wrinkle from my neighborhood. I am within a walk or a short bus or subway ride to the riches of the Lincoln Center theaters, or even the slightly more commercial delights of the Broadway stages. I did not see a single performance last year.

    It costs a lot. Excuse one. My work schedule is unpredictable. Excuse two. When i get home from work I am tired. Excuse three. I keep remembering wonderful performances I saw in my early years in New York, or on earlier visits to London.

    Not a pretty bouquet of excuses. You encourage me to pick a new path that will avoid the shoals and lead me to the box office and a seat with a view of a fine performance.

    Thank you. xo

  26. Bottom's mask is really impressive. Sounds like a great production.

  27. The titterer would drive me to distraction. How forbearing of you to not say anything. Did you at least turn around and give her a cold stare?
    Bard on the Beach happens each summer in Vancouver, a short hop across the water. Methinks it would be good to see what they are offering this year and make some plans.

  28. I confess to preferring digital to live functions - except of course I needed to see fellow flutist Galway when he was here.

    ALOHA from Honolulu


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