?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

LJ Idol IX - 20. Intersection: Intersubjectivity (~1000 words)






Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
Ten thousand man that fishes gnaw'd upon;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, invalued jewels,
All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men's skulls.
Richard III. Act I, Scene IV


I am a live theatre fan. Or rather, I love seeing my favourite actors live on stage, preferably from the first row and several times in the same show (long live intense Broadway and West End productions with their schedule of 8 performances per week with all the same cast, horrifying to contemplate working in yet perfect for planning into a holiday getaway).

When choosing plays this way, because of the lead actor and not the subject matter, seeing the show for the first time is like jumping off the deep end into the uncertainty of content.

Last week in London, the great question about Martin Freeman's Richard III was, what is a Shakespeare tragedy if not a boring story told in a collection of long speeches in archaic language that ends in a pile of dead bodies? Or in this case, the speeches surrounding a crippled, scorned, belittled and embittered youngest brother's scheming to get the throne over the dead bodies of his elder siblings, his in-laws and nephews, and those of everybody else who stands in his way?

Only the story is not boring, quite the contrary. It is fascinating to watch the main character, who is horrifyingly empty of all emotion on the inside, project diverse personas as the situation demands, politick, pretend, pit different parties against one another from the shadows while staying carefully in favour of both, and wear too many faces to count.

The question now is, if the immersion into the world of the play was successful, what more is there to see, and why return again, and not look for greener pastures and new experiences in other theatres?

Some choose to do just that. I also sometimes see a play or two in addition to the main event. Yet it is when going to the same play again, with getting used to the cast and story out of the way, that subtle fun begins. You start noticing little details then, turns of heads, slights of hands, off-handed comments and fleeting expressions that change the meaning of whole passages; the soundtrack that adds or relieves tension in certain scenes; the lighting that makes parallel action more vivid. You know what is happening, you have seen it happen, but every time it goes differently and every time it gets more and more colourful, detailed and life-like.

In this adaptation of Richard III, which is set in the 1970s, a sad old woman is sitting not quite on the stage and neither in the audience before the play begins. You ignore her, not knowing that she is Queen Margaret, the witch that is soon going to curse all the murderers, and that she is mourning for you, the patron, right then. You can only see from a certain angle the only time Richard feels, how he is genuinely hurt when his own mother joins the cursing later in the play, or from another angle yet, his evil smirk aside even as he is pretending to be a pious fool. Seated high enough, you think Richard addresses his speeches at you; below, and the unfocused look in his eyes shatters this clever illusion; centre of the front row, and you start at the beginning of Act V when feeling heavy eyes upon you, and raising yours, you flinch back from the newly crowned King Richard's stare, who, no illusion this time, is looking straight into your eyes.

Yet it is not even that which matters most and makes me come for more. A good play creates a very special atmosphere of sharing, of back-and-forth between the cast and the audience, the latter becoming part of the action, its laughter and silences in tense moments making the play what it is.

Richard III is full of short comic relief moments necessary to disperse the tension caused by the director's decision to have most murders happen in real time on stage, and not unseen like in the original script. You can not help embarrassed giggling when a janitor casually wipes the stage with a huge sponge to outrageously cheery music after a drowning scene, yet a pin could be heard dropping when Richard is murdering his wife or a bloody-handed henchman reports having killed the Princes (of the Tower).

Returning for new performances feels like diving for pearls and not needing to come back for air, like dreaming and not wanting to wake up. It is addictive and makes you sad to finally have fly back home.

I wish I could stop on this upbeat note, but alas, it would not be true. Every performance is different, and some do not work out. A subtle change in the humour of the cast is all it takes at times for the atmosphere not to be created, and the play be shallow and grotesque, leaving you to surface from it gasping for air and trying to understand how it happened.

A half-a-second longer pause after a monologue, and Richard is not talking with the audience but awaiting its reaction; slightly more sweeping movements, and murder scenes from lifelike become grotesque; a Queen talking just a trifle higher and faster is the difference between her being stressed but dignified and hysterical. The differences are tiny and almost unnoticeable, yet you, a tiny and not very noticeable part of the audience, is left trying and failing to find a proper mood, and all that is left holding the performance together is the technical skill of the actors.

Such occasions are fascinating as well, the way natural disasters are, yet one is left hoping they do not happen often, or rather, not at all. Strangely or not quite so, provided this is not the first time you see the play, such happenings can also make you want to see still more of it.


This is an Intersection with the fantastic and very patient eeyore_grrl. Her entry, Rapture of the Deep, can be found here.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
kehlen_crow
Sep. 9th, 2014 07:44 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.


God, but does writer's block suck, especially when you have a lot to say, when the words are right there at the tip of your tongue, but you start and it feels wrong, you start again in a different way, and that, too, feels wrong, and the cycle repeats. I had to start at least five times, oh my.
livejournal
Sep. 9th, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
LJ Idol, Week 20, Intersection Week, Rapture of the Deep (mine)
labelleizzy
Sep. 9th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
oooh. this reminds me in very good ways of when we used to do amateur shakespeare productions in university. The repeated work is where the magic is! I hadn't thought of it quite this way before.

very yummy!
kehlen_crow
Sep. 9th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

How did you learn to speak that language though? Are there tricks to make it seem as if it is the way you always express yourself? :)
(no subject) - labelleizzy - Sep. 10th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC) - Expand
reckless_blues
Sep. 10th, 2014 09:21 am (UTC)
This was really fascinating. I haven't seen many plays. It wasn't an art form I really understood. I should watch more.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 10th, 2014 10:15 am (UTC)
I did not understand it either until I started sitting in front rows. Even when my eyesight was better, dress circle or the balcony (where we habitually sat with my mother) are too far away to really feel the energy of what is going on on the stage, and much more like television.

First rows are expensive and the reason why I don't go very often, but so very worth it.

Edited at 2014-09-10 10:17 am (UTC)
captivebird
Sep. 10th, 2014 01:16 pm (UTC)
I've only been lucky enough to see two plays more than once (John Gabriel Borkman and Frankenstein) – but I agree absolutely that it is truly a fascinating experience to feel and observe the differences of timing and energy level between performances. And yes, the closer the better to really see the nuances of expression. :-)
kehlen_crow
Sep. 10th, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC)
You should choose a new Russian play and come here with the aim to see it then (when you have more time and resources to spare). New plays are also performed quite often, even though it's not 8 times a week in our 'repertoire' theatre. In this case you will have the time to see it several times. ^_^
beeker121
Sep. 10th, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
Having worked in theater for a long time (as a stage manager) you are the kind of audience member we lived for. I also 'watched' a given show over and over again and it's amazing how something that looks so similar on the surface can be completely different from night to night: sometimes because an actor really listens to something they hadn't heard before, sometimes because the audience is really engaged, or sometimes because the second lead had a fight with their best friend that night or they're wearing their not favorite pair of socks because it's a two show day. I've rarely watched shows I wasn't working on more than once, it makes me wonder what I'm missing.

Also, I'm jealous you got to see Martin Freeman in 'Richard III'.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 10th, 2014 06:41 pm (UTC)
As stage manager, were you more or less attached to the same places, or did you get to see the action from different angles as well? I can not decide which is better, yet because there is still a limited number of times I can see a play, I prefer to at least sit in three seats the most removed from one another.

Richard was worth it :).

(no subject) - beeker121 - Sep. 10th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
bleodswean
Sep. 10th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC)
You've done a great job here explaining how productions can differ....give life, or fall flat!
kehlen_crow
Sep. 10th, 2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I did not expect the latter of that cast, to be honest, but it was interesting as well.
roina_arwen
Sep. 10th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
what is a Shakespeare tragedy if not a boring story told in a collection of long speeches in archaic language that ends in a pile of dead bodies? Or in this case, the speeches surrounding a crippled, scorned, belittled and embittered youngest brother's scheming to get the throne over the dead bodies of his elder siblings, his in-laws and nephews, and those of everybody else who stands in his way?

I think this explains why I enjoy the TV series Game of Thrones so much... Tyrion Lannister is very much a Richard III type character!

Quick question here: In Richard III, which is set in the 1970s -- is there really a version set in the 1970's??
kehlen_crow
Sep. 10th, 2014 07:08 pm (UTC)
The version of the play I have just seen is. Would "In this adaptation of "Richard III", which is set in the 1970s..." sound clearer?
(The modernization works surprisingly well because they live it, not just recite the speeches as poetry. The only downside is that it makes it more difficult to understand who is who, without the kingly, noble and not-noble garments to help you :) )


I have not yet tried watching The Game of Thrones. Is it as vividly lifelike and bloody as I've heard?

Edited at 2014-09-10 07:10 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - roina_arwen - Sep. 10th, 2014 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kehlen_crow - Sep. 11th, 2014 01:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
jem0000000
Sep. 11th, 2014 02:30 am (UTC)
It sounds fascinating -- seeing all the tiny differences that make the performances different.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 12th, 2014 02:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is. :)
cheshire23
Sep. 11th, 2014 09:39 am (UTC)
A half-a-second longer pause after a monologue, and Richard is not talking with the audience but awaiting its reaction; slightly more sweeping movements, and murder scenes from lifelike become grotesque; a Queen talking just a trifle higher and faster is the difference between her being stressed but dignified and hysterical.

Yes, very much so. I like how clearly you spell that out.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 11th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I was trying to understand what was happening during that performance, and became hyperaware of the timing.
halfshellvenus
Sep. 11th, 2014 11:17 pm (UTC)
I've only seen one play twice with the same cast (the rarely-performed Tom Stoppard "Dog's Hamlet and Cahoot's Macbeth" double-one-act). Even over a few weeks' time, the play had evolved in its presentation, and it was fascinating to see how many little things had changed.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 12th, 2014 02:37 pm (UTC)
I have only seen one show in previews and then in the main run so far, and the differences were interesting, but I prefer not the differences the director introduced before premier, but those that occur naturally from performance to performance :)
furzicle
Sep. 12th, 2014 01:32 am (UTC)
Obviously, as a play is recreated night after night, it will evolve. While a small amount of that is inevitable, by and large it is probably not usually intended. If I were watching something a second time, I would wonder how much of my perceived difference of perception was due simply to MY having already experienced the play. One would kind of know when a surprise might be coming, would understand the foreshadowing that was utilized, and so on. One certainly could enjoy little details not noticed the first time around. But one always wonders how much of the changed perception is due to having already been there once before.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 28th, 2014 01:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is also true. Especially if it's a Shakespeare play where language is quite a hindrance the first time you view it without having read the text before.
tatdatcm
Sep. 12th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC)
Live theater has always seemed so much more magical to me. I love searching for the little things that are there to be noticed but often aren't. I've never been to a second performance by the same actors, but I could see how there would be subtle differences in each performance that make them a different experience.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 28th, 2014 01:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the late reply.

You go to see your the same plays in different theatres then? :) Which are your favourites?
alycewilson
Sep. 13th, 2014 11:10 pm (UTC)
Very astute observations. The only time I've seen plays so many times in a row was while serving in the orchestra pit for a local theater production of "Annie." I saw those subtle differences, too, and marveled, like you, at how they altered each performance.
kehlen_crow
Sep. 28th, 2014 02:26 pm (UTC)
I stumbled into going several times by accident (why go abroad to see an actor on stage just the once?) but I am so very glad I did :).

Thank you!
dmousey
Sep. 14th, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)
I haven't had a chance to view many plays. I'm living vicariously through your write. :)
kehlen_crow
Sep. 28th, 2014 01:47 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you :)
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

November 2017
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com