As I said last week, this year’s Shakespeare intake has somehow ended up being all about the history plays. It’s not been an intentional set of decisions, just the way things have worked out.
I’ve already seen two productions of Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V this year. (And of course I also saw “Queen Margaret” late last year, which takes all of Margaret’s lines from Henry VI – all three parts – and Richard III and builds a play/story around that)
And now I’ve also booked to see the RSC’s production of King John later in the year.
All told, that means that of the histories, by the end of the year I’ll have seen …
King John Richard II Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
- Henry VI, Part 1
- Henry VI, Part 2
- Henry VI, Part 3
- Henry VIII
- Edward III
So, I’m more than halfway through the histories. Not bad, in less than a year.
This year, for some reason, it appears that my Shakespeare input is primarily consisting of various history plays – not something that’s been planned, but that’s how it’s worked out. Prior to this year I hadn’t seen any of them
I’ve already seen two different productions of Richard II this year, and last week’s Henrilogy of Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. And last night I went to see Headlong’s production of Richard III at Northampton’s Royal theatre.
I was really impressed with the whole production – the set is small, making interesting use of mirrors and lighting – and overall I really enjoyed it.
The cast were excellent, and I found the entire thing far easier to understand than some of the others I’ve seen. (That may also be down to the source material, I don’t know for sure)
Obviously it’s not a happy play, but all the same, it was well worth going and seeing.
On Friday, I went with a friend to Shakespeare’s Globe to see their Henry season on one of the Trilogy Days.
It’s three plays, all around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, with a decent break between them. But all the same, it makes for one long-ass day. Particularly because the Globe’s seats (no way was I going to do the whole thing standing) are solid wood, backless, and pretty bloody unforgiving. Yes, you can hire cushions or a seat back, but even so, it makes it hard-going.
I hadn’t seen any of these before, and (as usual) went in with very little knowledge of the stories involved. I’d seen Richard II earlier this year so knew the prior events, but that was about it – and my history knowledge (as I keep on being reminded by things like this) is fuckin’ abysmal. (I’m also seeing Richard III this week – I must be a glutton for punishment!)
I enjoyed the plays – IV Part 1 and V more than Part 2, as I don’t really do well with the “political intrigues” type of thing. I think that seeing all three in a day meant it all gelled together better in my head, although I’m still going to need to read the plays and some of the history around them in order to build up the knowledge a bit.
It was worth going, and I enjoyed the whole day. I don’t know that I’d necessarily want to see any of them again any time soon, but I’m glad I’ve seen them.
I really need to remind myself that long weekends are meant to be about relaxing and doing less.
Over the next four days, I’ll be…
- Socialising with friends at a barbecue thing (and probably doing a fair amount of the cooking)
- Going to three concerts
- Seeing the parents
It’s all a bit busy – and the following weekend isn’t much quieter. Thankfully there’s some time off in the meantime, but yeah, all a bit chaotic. Again.
Following on from the other post about people (or at least politicians) not thinking things through, the other one is/was about the EU’s new plan for all new cars to be fitted with speed limiters from 2022.
Speed limiters are – in some circumstances – a really good idea. If the limiting was in place for areas with lower speed limits – the areas with speed limits of 20,30, 40, and perhaps even 50mph – then that would be good. I see so many people speeding in those areas. I still think it’d have its problems, but this would at least help. (I’ve said before that I have my reservations on this in the 50mph average speed limit areas currently in place on a lot of motorway work areas)
If, however, it’s something that is brought in universally, for all roads at all limits, then it’s idiotic – and again, shows a lack of understanding when it comes to people, business, cars, driving, and umpteen other things.
The first thing that occurred to me when I heard this was that a goodly portion of police (or council) funding is generated or paid for via speeding fines and the like. If speeding is hugely reduced by automation and limiters, where will that money and funding be coming from?
For another thing, if everything is limited to the national speed limit, it’ll reduce people’s desire/drive to pay more for larger/faster vehicles. If you can get a basic [car model] that’ll do everything and can go up to the speed limit where it’s limited, why would you pay two or three times the price for a performance version of the same [car model] that can’t do anything extra, that can’t go faster or perform better? (Personally I don’t see much point in these super-performance models anyway, but that’s not the point here)
Again, I like the idea of auto-limiting speeds/cars in slower and busier areas. But making it a universal solution seems to have missed a fair number of knock-on issues, with no clues or hints about how to actually fix them.
So far this year, I’ve been to London to see two versions of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” – first at the Almeida Theatre, and then last weekend at the Sam Wanamaker theatre at the Globe. (I’m also seeing Richard III later in the year, as well as the Globe’s three-plays-in-a-day marathon slog of Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two, and Henry V – by the end of that, I may be somewhat kinged out!)
The Almeida’s production was a modern interpretation, and much-abridged – it had a run time of 1hr 40mins, which was pretty much the same as the first half at the Globe. By comparison, the Globe’s was more traditional in how it was staged and performed, but with a cast entirely of Women of Colour (WOC).
It’s been interesting to compare the two, so I thought I’d write a bit about it here. Obviously all views are my own, and all that jazz. It’s also worth pointing out that I had done my usual thing of going in with no real idea of the story, chronology or characters, which sometimes doesn’t help.
I found the Almeida’s production to be far harder to follow – and primarily that was because of how it was being staged. The entire stage was made into a steel box, with no active exits (there had to be some, for getting on/off the stage at least, but they weren’t used during the actual production) which meant there could be no cleanups, no costume changes, and no scenery changes. That meant it was hard to actually keep track of who was who – and even more so with a reduced cast. As an example, one actor’s first character died off fairly early on, and they then played a different character (and possibly two) but still wearing the blood and costume of the first role – which meant it was pretty hard to follow. Honestly, I’d almost rather have just had the actors wearing placards with names on, in order to explain who they were at any one time.
Additionally, the abridging of the text – and the speed with which it was performed – made it even more confusing, with seemingly more focus on people chucking gloves at each other than the actual plot and actions.
So all told, I didn’t like the production that much – I felt there was too much that got rushed, or that made no sense at all. It was interesting in many ways, but also fairly high on the infamous “Load of old bollocks” scale.
The Wanamaker / Globe version
The production at the Wanamaker was (for me) far preferable. I’ve found I have very few issues with changing roles/stereotypes and doing things differently – particulary with Shakespeare, the story seems to take precedence over who’s doing what, so it doesn’t matter (to me) whether Richard is played by an older white man, or a coloured woman. I know it annoys purists and so on, but I truly don’t feel it matters.
I’d not been to the Wanamaker theatre before, but really liked it – the entire thing is lit by candles (with the exception of the windows ‘out’, which are lit changeably with LEDs, although it’s not intrusive) which makes for an interesting semi-authentic feel. (It also means that there’s a person in the cast/creatives list whose title is “Candle Consultant”, which is pretty special)
The production itself made a lot more sense to me – the cast size is similar (I think there’s one more cast member in the Wanamaker version) but because they’re allowed off-stage to change costumes for the different roles, it was far easier to follow who’s who and so on. Additionally, the extra run-time meant that it didn’t feel rushed, which also helped.
I’m glad I went to see both productions – but in this case I far preferred the more traditional version at the Wanamaker to the modern/short version at the Almeida.
Last week’s “Poorly Sick” has continued on for the last week – although also not helped by my own general idiocy.
On the Tuesday, while coughing my lungs out (mmm, tasty) I drove up to Manchester to see friends, and then go with them to see Massive Attack at the Manchester Arena. And then drove home afterwards, like a friggin’ lunatic. By the time I got back – Wednesday morning, 2:30am – I’d twatted my ribs with the coughing I’d done, and felt fairly rough.
Wednesday was spent at home feeling ropy (while also getting enough work done to keep people happy) and Thursday I was on-site down in Chesham. I was feeling shitty enough there (and cold enough, the office being ridiculously cold) that I left at lunchtime and came home to thaw out.
Friday was also quiet, spent mainly at home.
Saturday was a trip to London to meet another friend and see “When we have sufficiently tortured each other” at the National Theatre (Spoiler : Don’t bother, it’s cobblers)
And then Sunday was another daft day-trip, this time down to the edge of Somerset to see other friends. And back home the same day, getting back at midnight on the dot.
So yeah, a week of being comprensively unwell while still being daft.
Hopefully things are back to a more even keel this week, but time will tell.