Theatre-wise, since last we met, I saw Macbeth (again) at the Globe. This was just as good – loved everything about it, possibly the witches most of all. I am genuinely pissed off with our education system, though. I was into Shakespeare as a teenager, and my school was really good, AND YET being forced into studying Macbeth for GCSE English was so fucking boring and annoying that I hated it, and it has taken me this long to go and see it again. It’s such a good play, probably one of my favourites; the language is just dazzling. And school almost managed to ruin it. So thanks for that, chaps. I also saw Rory Kinnear’s play, The Herd, which I thought was really good, though the sort of structure of the narrative meant that the ending (not just what happened but how it happened) was painfully apparent. Still, I thought it was a good play; the dialogue really rang true.
I have also, rather late in the day, finally taken advantage of the NTLive broadcasts, and in November saw Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art and the RSC’s Richard II. The play within a play is one of my favourite tropes, so that was enjoyable. Thought Alex Jennings was spectacularly good as Britten, and loved Adrian Scarborough’s actor desperately trying to find a connection and a point to his part. Also bonus John Heffernan as the assistant stage manager. Richard II was also really good, once I got past the first section. I am a bit of a philistine, but I think the play is a bit boring until Richard gets back from Ireland and it all kicks off, but after that it was great! The broadcast thing is not, of course, a patch on seeing a play live, but it was better than I expected (I think seeing it in a cinema rather than on a little tv screen did help), so I will do that again, I think.
On Tuesday, I went to see Romeo & Juliet at the ROH, which I enjoyed (highlights: the music, always; Prokofiev’s score for R&J is my favourite ballet music, hands down; Mercutio and Tybalt; the scenes with Juliet where her parents are trying to force her to marry Paris (and the way she danced with Paris was great – so unwilling!)). That said, I do think I preferred the National Canadian Ballet production I saw at Sadler’s Wells.
So, that’s that. Saw Thor 2 (very enjoyable) and the new Hunger Games film (ditto). Have done and seen other things too, but nothing much I can be arsed to talk about.
Right, now, I have a confession to make. Despite, as you knowing, being distinctly pro Bard, and despite the fact that the history plays are my favourite, I had not, until now, actually watched The Hollow Crown. I know, I am ashamed. I’ve had the DVD for the better part of a year and everything! And I have still not watched Richard II (I’ve started it about three times and kept getting bored and stopping, but now I know it gets properly good, I shall be watching it soon). I have, however, now watched the Henry IVs and Henry V.
I think Simon Russell Beale is great. I’ve seen him in quite a few things at the National over the years, and he’s always tops. I have to say, however, that I did not enjoy his Falstaff. I almost said he was too seedy, too craven, but of course that’s just Falstaff: what he wasn’t, was charming. He was a rogue, but not a particularly loveable one. I felt that spoiled the dynamic between Hal and Falstaff, because you couldn’t really see why Hal was so fond of him, and lacking that affection, I think Hal came across as a slightly crueller character. That said, I thought Jeremy Irons was brilliant as Henry IV, and the relationship between Henry and Hal was much more affecting than I’ve seen before. Loved John of Lancaster, as usual. Returning to Falstaff, again, that scene at the end of Part 2 (“I know thee not, old man.”), which I almost feel is one of the most tragic lines in Shakespeare, lost a lot of its impact because of my lack of sympathy for Falstaff; frankly, I just wanted Hal to ditch him.
Moving onto Henry V. Oh, Henry V. Well, they sucked 95% of the fun out of that, didn’t they? I thought the acting was great, Tom Hiddleston really pulled it off, Anton Lesser was great as Exeter, I loved the way they chose to do the Crispin’s Day speech, Catherine and Alice and the comedy French is always a delight; but they made some very weird production choices, I thought. I was sad to lose the Southampton section, though I can see why it would be an easy option to chop for time constraints. They cut out everything that was remotely comic (excepting the first scene with Catherine and Alice, which they basically have to keep because otherwise you don’t even know who she is, and a bit of Bardolph/Pistol/Nym). Inevitably, the live action renders the Chorus a tad superfluous, so that what is genuinely quite powerful on the stage becomes voice-over fluff on the screen.
For me, however, the main thing that just confused me was the way they cut out the section with the boys being killed. Except, they didn’t cut it all out. So, Henry has this wonderful, outraged speech that is a reaction to this terrible act by the French soldiers, and Tom Hiddleston delivered it so well, EXCEPT that they cut out the boys being killed so the speech ends up being a reaction to – what? – a couple of French soldiers riding along a hill a mile away? It’s ridiculous, completely disproportionate and makes Henry look like a bit of a dick because then his army is just killing prisoners with zero moral high ground. So weird, especially because it felt like they had really set up to kill at least one boy, and then that plotline fizzled out and, as a viewer, I felt completely wrong-footed.
Has everyone else watched these? Thoughts? Feelings?