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I haven't got all the work I hoped done this week. I have reclaimed my patio from the plants, found the floor from beneath my clothes, had a nice day in a pub garden by the river, seen friends, got various tracks by Santa Esmeralda, The Kinks and even some more Led Zep*. The weather has been beautiful, and I've discovered that 7 hours sleep is indeed very nice (and means that for the first time in months, I do not have huge grey shadows under my eyes - I actually had to stare in the mirror for over a minute before I realised that was what was different).

Last night I decided to celebrate the relaxation gained over the last week by watching the live performance of Measure for Measure from the Globe. Gawd bless BBC4 and all who work on it for doing things like this. MfM isn't a Shakespeare play I know, and I suspect the staging of it didn't help. Mark Ryland impressed me last year with his Richard II but he repeated the same fey hesistance as the Duke in this production and this time his fussiness struck me as too flimsy and mannered. He reminded me, perhaps fatally, of Lord Percy in Blackadder II (ironic, really, since Tim McInnerny was an acclaimed Shakespearan actor in the 1980s, just as Ryland is now). During the interval, there was a discussion about the moral code of the time equated chastity and life, and how that is an element of the play which is difficult to convery to the modern audience. I don't think it helped that the Isabella didn't project enough intensity to bring the idea across. Some elements, such as the hypocrisy of Angelo (the best performance in the play, I thought) came over better.

To me, this production made the case for 'modernised' Shakespeare quite strongly i.e. productions which translocate the action in time. The faithfulness the Globe productions go in for, complete with the dances etc, make it easy to see them as an exercise in period recreation rather than a play where you focus on the words, the emotions and the themes. Last summer the Northcott put on a Edwardian dress version of Two Gentlemen of Verona, which is low on anyone's priority list of Shakespeare plays you ought to see, and which sold out to such an extent that they put on extra performances. I am an ardent believer that Shakespeare's plays can and should be enjoyed by as many people as possible but a key to that is reducing the obstructions to engagement. Shakespeare is often perceived as men in tights declaiming obscure language: dump the tights and the declaimatory style, and the language becomes more accessible. This Globe production hampered my engagement with the play and that can't be a good thing.

Carrie assures me it's one of the best plays, so I shall have to seek out a better production.

* my next door neighbour bar one (whose garden doglegs onto mine just to confuse things) also likes to play Led Zeppelin's Kashmir very loudly. You have to feel sorry for the neighbour in between us, although I suspect she now likes the song as well.

Posted @ 1:34 pm on Sunday, September 05, 2004
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