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SHAKESPEARE LIVE!

[A review by TKel Paris]A review by T'Kel Paris

My most trusted peeps are aware that I've been sick, and even that I've been coughing at inopportune times. This has been especially annoying at work, where it looks bad in front of the customers. But I wasn't about to let the fact that my cough medicine stopped working for me stop me. (Besides, it has been getting better.)

I dressed in TARDIS colors. A deep blue short-ish dress, blue sparkling sandals, and TARDIS earrings. I had no idea who I'd meet, but I thought I'd make an effort to look cute.

The local theater is an AMC, which has reclining seats. If I'd realized this, I might've been able to use a coupon on my ticket. Oh, well. Still would've paid the full price.

Biggest gripe about the night? A big water bottle, which I bought because I'd run out of water in my own bottle (which couldn't be easily hidden) and in case I needed to wet my throat to try calming a cough, cost $5 with tax! So I didn't drink much from it, which made the purchase seem more foolish. And somehow I was hit with a huge bathroom urge near the end. Luckily I managed to miss no Tate or Tennant because I went during an opera moment.

Yes, there was opera, ballet, and far more!

Oh, and the people around me? I'm not sure I heard a single American accent except in one kid who accompanied an older adult. And... I evidently mis-read the online thing, because it wasn't exactly sold out. Which I thought was a crime.

But on to the Show!

First was an intro speech, recorded before the Live recording (from one month ago exactly), by someone who I think was part of the RSC. He spoke about the first time anyone did a tribute to Shakespeare's birthday, which originally had no Shakespeare performances planned and was set in September – five months late, and had foolishly planned outdoor stuff when English weather assured there'd be rain. And apparently there was loads of it, enough that “the Avon birthed its banks”. Yet the actor who put it on gave an ode to Shakespeare.

I didn't know that the original Shakespeare theater in Stratford-Upon-Avon was considered a poor choice for performances, and that it burned down. (Someone had the gall to write that it was a lucky break and that they could think of more buildings that should meet the same fate. No, the fire had nothing to do with them.) I didn't know that there are three theaters there. And they showed stills from a number of performances, including one from Richard II. Yes, that one.

Then the intro started, with narration of who would be there... by our beloved actors themselves. So I was ready to see what we were in for.

Now, my comments are coming along as I remember things. So this isn't exactly the order things happened. Just for the record.

What we were first in for was some of West Side Story, as one of many examples of how Shakespeare influenced culture. And that wasn't the only Romeo and Juliet performance piece we saw. There was also the balcony scene, played by I think the most recent pair to play the parts in a RSC show, and the same scene from a ballet inspired by the play. It was beautiful.

And that wasn't the only ballet we saw. I think there were at least three, but the one that sticks out was based off Duke Ellington's musical take on Othello. It was based on the scene where he confronts and kills Desdemona, and... Oh. My. Goodness! It was powerful, the musical was hard-hitting, and the performers nailed it. I had no idea ballet and jazz could mix so beautifully. I have to find copies of the work inspired when he sneaked to watch a performance, and kept going back.

That's not the only act I need to look up. There was some Shakespeare hip-hop group. I kid you not. One guy rapped to Shakespeare (I think it was from As You Like It), then rapped about the Bard's influence while another danced what looked like a combo of street and ballet. It was cool. (It came after a back-and-forth by Tate and Tennant about who are the current people who influence the language in the ways Shakespeare did, IIRC.)

And songs from his plays, including a sonnet, were given compositions and musical takes. There was one I didn't recognize, from the “spring” of Shakespeare's life, sung by a pair. (I thought her dress was a little more... low-cut than it needed to be, I will say.) Then for the summer Alison Moyet sang her own composition of Sigh No More. I know of her thanks to the Graham Norton Show when Tennant made his final appearance during his tenure as the Doctor. Then some black singer with a hell of a voice sang a soft, regretful version of The Rain It Raineth Ev'ry Day. The final one was an opera version of Come Away Death.

Do those song names sound familiar? They should, if you saw the 2011 performance of Much Ado About Nothing with Tate and Tennant. Which proved that there are multiple ways to interpret Shakespeare.

Speaking of... One of the best moments on-stage was what I call the Battle of the Hamlets. You think this black actor is going to deliver the famous To Be Or Not To Be speech, and he's interrupted by someone I didn't quite recognize arguing about where the emphasis should be. And who challenges that the other thinks he couldn't be Hamlet because “I'm ginger”. (Must've been a subtle shade, because I didn't pick up on that.) Then Benedick Cumberbach came on and argued a different emphasis. Followed by some dignified lady (who later played Cleopatra on the stage) who argued another, and in response to “have you played Hamlet” said “Not... yet.” Then Tennant came on and argued another, and ignored a Broadchurch joke from the second actor. And that wasn't the end of it. Another actor came out (I think he later played Macbeth), and then Sir Ian McKellan, and Dame Judi Dench. Yes. I kid not. And just when you think the scene's done... Prince Charles came out and argued yet a different one.

I was floored. But I think the point was to show that each interpretation could be correct for its own setting. And we finally got to hear the first guy deliver the speech, and it... was moving.

There were a number of scenes done. I liked the scene where Orlando didn't know it was Rosalind he was speaking to. Watching Henry V bungle wooing Katherine (and hearing all the French in the scene) was both funny and evoke empathy. But my favorite from the madness of love scenes was from A Midsummer Night's Dream, where Titania first sees Bottom. What made the scene the most hysterically funny? Titania was played by Judi Dench. Let's just say the guy playing Bottom had to be at least half her age.

Other scenes I remember off the top? Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the murder, a brilliant stroke of showing remorse battling relentlessness. King Lear raging at the storm. Falstaff giving fatherly advice to Hal (played by the same actor who played Henry V, which was fitting). Cleopatra's death, done in clothing that evoked the era. Helen Mirren reciting from The Tempest, which was the penultimate scene shown. (I was pleased, since I know she was in a movie version that I've yet to see.)

I know I'm forgetting some, but I'm struggling to remember things right now.

And of course they showed other things Shakespeare influenced. I'd forgotten that an opera about Benedick and Beatrice was written, and one moment from that was performed. They also had an Indian pair do the first battle lines between Benedick and Beatrice. The bite was all there, and the built-up bitterness, along with the hint of regret at the end from Beatrice.

Which reminded me that each Beatrice I've seen has played that moment differently. Emma Thompson said it under her breath, I forget how the lady who played her in the American version from the 70s did it, but Catherine Tate's stands out to me. She starts it with a joke, and end with a bitterness to hide her other feelings – all meant for Benedick's ears.

Of course... I can't not speak of our favorite duo. They were great hosts, which meant we didn't see enough of either of them, but they weren't the focal point of the show. Just the guides, which they seemed to enjoy being. There was a bit of the playing off each other we've come to expect, and I could've stood for more of that. (Yeah. Fangirl.) They sometimes addressed the recording camera together, and other times were solo. I loved that she got to recite from the famous speech about the stages of life.

We also saw film from two different movies inspired by Macbeth. One a Zulu version, which looked fascinating, and then a... Kabuki theater version. (And can anyone tell me, where the witches played by men in that version?) And we got to hear and see other places where Shakespeare's reach extended. Including a bit from Kiss Me, Kate. Yes, two guys who at pulled off American gangster accents sang Brush Up Your Shakespeare. (I think they were Brits, because they made jokes at Prince Charles' expense. He was in the audience with Camilla, and the guy who recorded the intro to the show.) It'd been long enough since I last heard the song that for me there were two false endings. (The lady who was sitting next to me must have seen it more recently. She didn't seem fooled.)

And the ending brought the whole cast out. It was from A Midsummer Night's Dream's end, and our duo got to deliver the final lines from Puck, which Tennant giving the final ones. Fitting, I suppose. Oh, and there was a moment where I thought Sir Patrick Stewart was the man standing next to Judi Dench, but... no, it wasn't.

So... if there's a DVD release I'm buying it. I was fascinated by the things I'd never seen before. Including the bit of Drunken History. (Which reminds me of something a friend shared a clip of and I'm yet to watch, featuring Catherine Tate.) All in all, maybe not quite 5 out of 5 stars, but very close.

It also left me wishing that our duo would do another project together. Shakespeare, a movie... anything where their natural dynamic can be used.

I'm not the only one, right?

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
dtstrainers
May. 24th, 2016 10:29 am (UTC)
Glad you were well enough to go out and see it. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by the lovely hezikiah and it was gorgeous on the big screen.
BTW, the gentleman who recorded the intro was Gregory Doran, the Artistic Director for the RSC.
tkel_paris
May. 24th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
Wish I could've seen it with you two. With friends is far more fun. :D

Thank you. I forgot quite a few names over the night. :)
dm12
May. 24th, 2016 01:13 pm (UTC)
My daughter saw it with a friend; she came home buzzing about it.... then she had to do her homework! BWR had a download so I watched from home because I had other responsibilities there. Her friend didn't seem to know who the woman was with DT, so my daughter said "That's Catherine Tate!" and the friend's dad said that she was the Doctor's best companion!

I agree; those two need to keep working together, they are brilliant with how they play off of each other!
tkel_paris
May. 24th, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC)
I wanna high five that dad. :)

Yeah, a very beautiful friendship that has messed with quite a few fans' heads over the years, I daresay. I hope they find humor in that!
dm12
May. 24th, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)
Right, good he noticed that which we all do...

Indeed, it certainly has messed with our heads. I'm sure they are somewhat aware of that and they would find it funny!
bas_math_girl
May. 24th, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC)
Seeing Tatennant together on the screen was such a squeeworthy moment! Actually the programme was full of them.

I SO agree with you. They need to do loads more stuff together. *nods enthusiastically in agreement*
tkel_paris
May. 24th, 2016 05:46 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh, it was. I need to find copies of a few different things now!

Knew you'd agree. Now off to comment properly on your latest! :D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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