Sadly (or happily, depending on your estimation of my ability) there are no photos as we weren’t allowed to take any in the theatre.
Daughter 1 and I drove to Stratford all by our big selves. Well, I drove, she navigated, and a fine co-pilot she was too. Weirdly, this was the first time I had actually seen Shakespeare done in Stratford, even though I really like to see a bit of Shaky, and I have the lovely Lou to thank as the tickets were a birthday gift.
So, to begin…
I really liked the way some of the actors got into character and came on stage about 10 minutes before the performance was due to begin and milled around interacting with each other, so the audience had this weird vouyeristic preview, as if we were watching the play before the play was in existence. That might be a little bit of a hamfisted explanation, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Maybe when my brain kicks in I might edit this and make it sound clever. But when I was a kid, I always used to try to imagine what was happening before a story began or after a story had ended, or both, so this kind of indulgence was a treat!
The setting was 60’s grit, which I really didn’t like at first – all sharp suits and black dresses. I didn’t feel it was right for that play at all and was a little disappointed until we got to the forest. Then it became clear that it was actually a masterstroke because the contrast between the world of fairy magic and that of urban austerity was even sharper and more effective for it. The director had obviously gone all out for humour and no bawdy joke was left untouched. This was especially evident in the character of Helena and her ridiculous ‘plum in mouth accent’ and the workmen/players who were either just hilariously camp or dimwitted. Daughter 1 was falling off her chair laughing, which was a little worrying when she was laughing at such jokes as Bottom’s salami donkey penis. I wondered if she was just laughing because everyone around her was laughing or whether she actually knew what she was laughing at. There was a scattering of other children there and really, it was a little rude at times, but I think it was ‘Carry On’ rude, which was fine by the seventies TV generation children so I guess it’s ok (?)
The set was cleverly dressed and planned. The acting, of course, was superb – nothing less than you would expect at the RSC, with some lovely audience involvment and clever ad-libbing. And it was actually really exciting just being there at such an iconic location (plus the gift shop is awesome!).