Archive for May, 2012

Lysistrata, The Albany 16 May

May 16, 2012

**(*)

Picture from GSMD website

This was rather an engaging production of Lysistrata .  I’m not sure that’s what is required; obscene would be better.  We did benefit by the appearance of some phalloi, but they were rather modest–for full comic effect I think they need to be ludicrously large and to comprise balls as well as cock.

As we went in, men were asked to sit downstairs and women upstairs, which raised worrying possibilities of audience participation.  In the event, some couples naturally enough refused to obey and participation was limited to rhetorical calls for support from the Chorus of Old Men.

Some things worked well: the scene of Myrrhine (Rosie Reynolds) tormenting Kinesias (Jherad Alleyne) with interminable preparations for bed; and also some genuine choral singing at the end–in fact, the use of live  music was good throughout.  I was impressed by Paapa Essiedu’s rough streets-of-London Commissioner, and thought this was an idea that could have been applied more consistently.

On the downside, there was a lack of structure–the opposing men’s and women’s choruses need to reflect each other much more closely than they did here I think.  I often have the feeling at unsuccessful performances of Greek drama that the assembled forces would have been better off doing a modern play, and here my choice would have fallen on the Beaumarchais (not Mozart!) Figaro as a more suitable sex comedy for these charming and good-looking young people. On occasions the pathos of Lysistrata (Michaela Coel) pitting herself against the massed ranks of men also recalled a modern misinterpretation of Antigone.

Ms Coel had some problems with projecting her voice sufficiently and also with dominating the playing area.  That’s what you need for Greek drama–none of this TV-style subtle malarkey.  The same issue of projection affected some of the other actors as well, but Lysistrata really needs to dominate the play named after her.

Overall, what you need is order opposing obscenity.  Nice young women getting their kit off was no more obscene to the Ancient Greeks than it is to us; but stubbly men with monstrous phalloi under their women’s dresses would be.

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

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Saint Joan, Rose Theatre Bankside 12 May

May 13, 2012

***

Picture from Rose Theatre site

To start with the important things:  there are no toilets and you need to go to the Globe, as the very friendly people here always tell you.  Also you really need to sit in the back row for this production, but not (as so often) to avoid audience participation.

When the thing started, I was bemused by the combination of what I thought were Portuguese songs and most of the male roles having been made female–as in the Lady Archbishop above.  I still have no idea of the reason for that, unless it’s easier to get hold of good actresses.  Was director Constanza Hola trying to get away from the idea that Saint Joan was a better man than those around her?  Or to emphasise that she was betrayed by her own kind?  I was also irritated by the Dauphin in his tiger suit, who seemed to be excessively useless even for the heir to the French throne (than which it is admittedly hard to fall any lower).  I think that the point of Shaw is that people stand around and argue with each other, and if you don’t like that you’d be better off staging something else rather than trying to distract the audience with extraneous action.

But I was quite taken by the trial scene, where everyone (almost) was trying to do what they thought was right.  And also the videoscreened Epilogue–the idea of Cauchon spending eternity waiting for a bus in the rain was surprisingly effective, as was the Earl of Warwick’s tennis practice.

Suzanne Marie who played Joan here was also la Pucelle in Henry VI Part 1 a year ago.  I thought her rock-chick/punk girl presentation was quite effective–one thing this show wasn’t was a vehicle for the actress giving us her Joan.  I also liked Davey Kelleher, a man actually allowed to play male roles.