Well that was absolutely fabulous. It is about time that I saw a performance of Shakespeare, here in the home of the Greatest Briton. How would the English do in performing The Bard...Their Bard? Answer: extraordinarily, amazingly well. For my first Shakespeare in England I came to Stratford-Upon-Avon, William S.’s original home, and to the RSC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, in their newly refurbished theatre on the banks of the Avon. All excellent decisions. This was Shakespeare done brilliantly: a re-imagined setting, brilliant acting, and an innate empathy for the language that could probably not be equalled by anyone else anywhere else.
|Jamie Beamish does Elvis. It worked, it really did.|
One of the side-products of choosing to set the play in Las Vegas is that everyone adopted American accents (and the debt of three thousand ducats became three million dollars). Some accents were pure Brooklyn (and very good too), others - like Portia and her maid Nerrisa (Emily Plumtree) - were broad Southern. The ladies of Belmont were overseeing the stream of beaus coming to court Portia - you may recall (I didn’t - I’d forgotten most of the play) that to win the fair Portia a beau had to choose the correct casket from amongst a choice of three: lead, silver or gold. This was presented as a TV game show: “DESTINY”, as in..."the lottery of my destiny".
|Nerrisa and Portia. Truly.|
One perhaps unusual aspect was the prominence given to the faintly (or here, not so faintly) expressed homosexual vibe between Antonio and Bassanio. Since Bassanio has just married Portia, and she has just performed heroics to save Antonio, only to realise....well, she's left as rather a tragic figure.
|Patrick Stewart as Shylock|
Here's one review, and here's another.
|The newly renovated RSC Theatre|
P.S. recounting the play to a friend the next day - a handsome black Londoner - his first question was "who played the Prince of Morocco?" (Answer: Chris Jarman). "I LOVE that speech", said my friend, and began it..."Mislike me not for my complexion, The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun...." The Prince of Morocco, having chosen the wrong casket, also gets that well-known speech beginning "All that glisters is not gold..."
|Upon the Avon....|