Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Shakespeare for beginners




Conflicting emotions started long before the action. I love Shakespeare but was the Pickle too young? I love the Globe but was the building just too historic to be comfortable for a six year old? the production was aimed at school children but would it be dumbed down?


We did our home work, and read an excellent introduction to the play. Pickle got to know the story and we could chat about the language, the themes and 'thees and thous' and generally we started to get excited. Then the snow started to fall!

From underneath a hat, coat and blanket a little nose and two twinkling eyes were ready. I confess to welling up as I saw her face in awe of the action. The troupe burst onto the stage from all angles dancing and playing a thunderous chorus on trumpets from that point on the Pickle was hooked.

The production part of the 'Playing Shakespeare' initiative, promoting the Bard to school children, and so ran the risk of alienating both children and aficionados alike. Glyndebourne's attempt at pop opera that they marketed at the Brighton's Universities was a classic example of how to get it hideously wrong; Tangier Tattoo was an 'operatic thriller' and had all the elements - guns, drugs, sex and torsos - that you would think could appeal to a student, if you had never taken the time to talk to one. Ultimately it was let down as the music was not very good. Even the marketing had failed as most of the audience looked as if last saw the inside of a classroom when they dropped off their heirs at Eton. It would be tragic if this was the fate of all accessible productions.

Daunted at the prospect of seeing the Bard mangled I almost winced as the first words were spoken. Would it be Shakespeare reinterpreted in modern speech, a limp 'West End Story', or would they be brave? I opened my eyes to the first impassioned rhyming couplet and glanced at the Pickle - she got it. Within her cocoon her eyes were like lasers, focused and enjoying, really enjoying.

At a running time of an hour and three quarters the play had been cut, but I had seen more blatant text savagery in so called adult theatre (Michael Gambon trying hard to carry off Alan Ayckbourn's Othello springs painfully to mind). They could have taken more liberties with the text, but with a production of this calibre it was not necessary. With the snow swirling and the mercury diving attention were still focused on the stage; it was not just the Pickle, a little girl behind us kept a stage whisper going demanding Daddy description, but interpretation given she still seemed rapt. The elements could not detract from real performance.

There were some highlights, Richard James Neale excelled as Mercutio but ultimately it was an ensemble piece from the musicians to the confetti's star turn. There is often a week link and Tom Whitelock's Paris was a tad limpid but in other less impressive settings his performance would not have seemed below parr.

I am not trying to rear a genius, and promote Shakespeare for educational oneupmanship. I took the Pickle as I wanted to share something that could be fun. I have a parenting bucket list - to introduce the Pickle to the broadest variety of experiences, skills and foods, so that once she leaves home she is not daunted by anything new. The Globe's Romeo and Juliet was just that, we laughed, gasped and I cried - the Pickle is already requesting a return visit.

Pickle's short review relates 'it was good...it was funny and sad in a few places. go and see it as it quite tricky to describe'.

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