Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Romeo and Juliet



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Regents Park Open Air Theatre
Director: Kimberley Sykes
Isabel Adomakoh Young (Juliet), Joel MacCormack (Romeo)
RW, Margy, RM, Emma, NM, WW, Sian W.

First things first. “They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.” Act IV, Scene 4. I don’t remember this at all. I’m sure, given the in-depth Club conversation touching on such matters, prior to curtain, that it would have struck us loud and clear. Much was indeed cut. for reasons of Covid, we think, intervals are rather eschewed at the moment, so we ran straight through, which was, as RW pointed out, rather satisfactory in the way in which momentum was maintained. And it is a play that moves quickly.

The first scene was almost catastrophically bad – i think many of us thought, oh christ, one of THOSE productions – lots of mockney snarling and bootiness. Playing at violence. Some of us may not have recovered, but I (WW) did, especially once Isabel Adomakoh Young arrived. She is without a doubt the star attraction. I can’t remember whether she is as young as she seemed or whether her acting young was so damn good, but she gave the role the enthusiasm, impatience and odd naive seriousness that it requires. My sister Sian thinks maybe IYA is the best Juliet she has ever seen. I’m inclined to agree.

Joel MacCormack’s Romeo grew into the part, and he was much better once the action had turned from light to dark. I especially liked Emma Cuniffe’s Nurse – very un Mrs Tiggwinkle. The surprise was Peter Hamilton Dyer’s Friar, a part that is often a bit yawny. Perhaps the cutting was good, but Dyer certainly was: clear and interesting. First rate, too, was Mercutio, played by Cavan Clarke, a real presence. His death by the seriously overdone Miss Tybalt (Michelle Fox) was thankfully avenged very soon after. This wasn’t a great production, but it was a lively, engaging one, with no longeurs, and it contains one great performance. The weather might have been balmier, though there was a wonderful billowing of the trees at the moment of R & J’s first kiss.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

D H Lawrence in Taormina


D H Lawrence in full flow, from Memoir of Maurice Magnus.  I love that sun rising 'with a splendour like trumpets'.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021


 The perfect is the enemy of the good. I see Raheem Sterling has come in for more online abuse. I know I'm risking social exclusion and condemnation as a enabler of racism, fascism and any other kind of ism you care to hurl, but it seems to me that if you want this stuff to go away, and surely decent people do, the most effective response is to ignore it, to stop rising to the bait, to say 'fuck 'em'. The morons will lose interest. This may not be a perfect solution - it does not eradicate racism - but it is, I think, a good one.

Friday, 16 April 2021

The Shakespeare Club

 Can't resist this.  An extract in The Guardian last year from Robert McCrum's terrific book 'Shakespearean' in which he introduces 'the Shakespeare Club'.   I am a proud member, here identified as 'the archivist' (which I'm not really, only more so than the others).

During 20 years of recovery, I slowly transformed a knowledge of the plays I had read at school into a wider acquaintance with the Shakespeare canon, and joined the “Shakespeare Club”, a dedicated play-going circle. That’s what we call it – sometimes, casually “the Club” – which might suggest oak panelling, library chairs, a dress code and a discreet entryphone somewhere in the West End, an association that might turn out to be either furtive or seedy. Actually, it’s neither; we are natural herbivores. If you spotted us in the theatre bar of the Donmar or the National, you might decide we were civil servants in mufti, or off-duty English teachers from the shires, or possibly journalists, which is approximately half right. Three of the seven who make up the Shakespeare Club – now guzzling peanuts and cheap red wine – have worked for newspapers. And yes – oh dear, yes – we are, until quite recently, an all-male, English fraternity. As middle-class metropolitans, we occupy a variety of roles: novelist, journalist, academic, publisher, actor, scriptwriter, and finally our archivist.

This club was established through the persistence of a former venture capitalist who used to go to Shakespeare plays with his college friends. When it became the tradition to have a pizza afterwards, to hash over what they’d just seen, the “Shakespeare Club” began. Today, we are a quintessentially English mix of stage-struck, self-improving playgoers with Eng Lit degrees. Occasionally, rash intruders who should know better will ask about our “favourite Shakespeare”. For the Club, this is an absurdly intimate inquiry. Any one of these plays, in a great production, can find a special place in our affections. Yes, we love LearMuch Ado, and The Tempest, but we also cherish an independence of taste that delights in Love’s Labour’s Lost, any of the Henry plays, or Measure for Measure. Indeed, the only Shakespeare we’ve never seen, because it’s so rarely staged, is The Two Noble Kinsmen.

If there’s one unspoken club rule, it’s that when we meet, we only discuss the play in question: no gossip; no politics; no families; and no football. As an association, we demonstrate near-Olympic sang-froid. As I write, the gods are smiling upon us, but in the past decade – not to mince words – two of our number have got divorced, one of us checked into rehab, and all of us have had distressful troubles with teenage kids. But did any of us ever so much as mention, or even allude to, these torments? Did we hell! No, we are here to see the show. It might sound dull, but it’s surprisingly addictive. We argue, we quote, we tease, admonish, reminisce, and protest (too much); on a good night, we might even get swept away by what we see. We are, no doubt, typical of English audiences through the ages, hommes moyens sensuels.