Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Exit, pursued by a bear

Tonight my wife and daughter went to see Shakespeare's The Winter's tall at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre. Ruairidh and I went to see it earlier in the week. The production is directed by Mark Thomson, and has attracted a certian amount of comment for being weird: which, frankly, it doesn't deserve. It's done in modern dress, and on a plain white set furnished with ingenious openings for entrances, exits, attempts at both, and flashes of off-stage action (rather as though it had been designed by Ann Summers, though it wasn't). The controversy, I suspect, centres on the way in which the Act 4 appearance of "Time, as Chorus" has been staged. I can see that the portrayal of an allegorical figure as an entr'acte in an otherwise earthbound drama is always going to be troublesome; and that simply using a voice-over has probably been done so sften there's some kind of ban on it. So how do you personify "Time" in the 21st century? Perhaps an electric wheelchair suspended in mid-air, surrounded by clouds of dry ice and occupied by someone speaking in a synthesized voice is as good as we'll get, though my daughter in particular thought the concept didn't work. I must agree with her that as Time's dramatic purpose is to imnpart information, it would have helped if his electronic voice had been more readily understood: the real Stephen Hawking is much easier to follow than this one was. That aside, I had no complaints with the production, and thought the acting in general very good. The best-known player was Una McLean as Paulina (doubling as Dorcas - all the Sicilans doubled as Bohemians). I always like to see actors better known for panto and comedy doing straight theatrical work, and Una did not disappoint. Liam Brennan as Leontes handled his fairly swift descent into insane jealousy quite believably, while Selina Boyack was a dignified Hermione who managed an impressive immobility for the statue scene (which must be a nightmare). Pride of place among the actors, though, must go to Alan Francis as Autolycus, not just because he doubled as the very unfunny Antigonus (whose final exit has the famous stage direction of the post title) but because he was compulsively watchable: when he was on stage, that was what you were looking at. I susoect that is as much a gift as a talent, but either way I salute him for it.

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