Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saint Crispin's Day...

OK. I'm a couple days late. But I love Harry's St. Crispin's Day speech too much to wait for another year to roll around. Enjoy....

Earl of Westmoreland. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

Henry V. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow 
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight, 
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian: 
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, 
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd. 
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I wish I was this articulate...

A friend sent me a link to a review of Anonymous... which is too lovely not to pass along. I was really quite surprised by how long it is... but it's worth every word.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Horrible Histories and Richard III

And while we're on the subject of Richard III....

PAE's Richard III (21 October 2011)

Despite the fact that I found Horrible Histories’ song about Richard III running through my head during about half of the production (and contradicting most of what I saw on stage), I really have no problem with Shakespeare’s failure to stick with historical fact in his play. Granted, it’s pro-Tudor propaganda. But it has a compelling story line and powerful characters and plenty of drama. And Shakespeare was writing drama, not textbooks.

Portland Actors Ensemble did what they do best: clear, simple, minimalistic (set-wise), good Shakespeare. The fact that they were performing indoors instead of in a park somewhere changed the game a little – giving us sound and lighting cues. The sound cues were ever so slightly too loud or, in most cases, ended rather abruptly, but I’m a sound snob, and most people probably wouldn’t care.

For some reason, this production of Richard III reminded me a lot of Macbeth. There’s even a bit where Richard says that he was fated to do what he did, and we think, “Fated or not, you’re still going down for it!” Richard’s duplicitous actions and side comments to the audience (especially at the beginning) also reminded me of Edmund in King Lear – “Look, I’m a horrible person and I’m OK with that. Just watch this!” Interestingly, Shakespeare wrote Richard III 14 years before both Lear and Macbeth.

Despite the questionable historical accuracy, the Richard in the play is a baddie, no doubt there. Nathan Dunkin does a fantastic job giving us the villain that we love to hate. He’s cruel, ruthless, bloodthirsty, manipulative and disgusting. How he worms his way into Lady Anne’s graces after he has killed her husband and her father is a bit of a mystery still. Sure, Richard is charismatic… but the scene where he woos her over her father’s dead body didn’t quite convince me. I wonder, though, if there’s any way to play it convincingly.

For a cast dominated by men, the women’s parts stood out exceptionally bright. Linda Goertz’s Margaret was chilling and tragic. Since I didn’t bother to even read a synopsis of the play before I came, and since my only previous knowledge of it was from the Ian McKellen movie, I started out at a bit of a loss as to who everyone was and where Margaret fit in to the whole thing. But it didn’t take long for me to catch on. And even without knowing her exact motivation at the beginning, there was no doubt of her complete hatred for everyone in the royal family. Allison Rangell was brilliant as Lady Anne; Margaret Darling played an amazing Queen Elizabeth; Paige Jones’s mother to Richard, Edward and Clarence was intense. Tons of props, too, to Kate Belden, especially for her very convincing job as the Prince of Wales.

The play was full of great moments. Matt Smith’s Clarence recounting his dream in the Tower was heartbreaking. The scene where the murderers (Arthur Delaney and Mark Rothwell) come to kill Clarence was funny, and yet deadly serious. It also brought up the theme of conscience, which reappears at the end when Richard dreams of the ghosts of all his victims. The dream sequence was wonderfully and disturbingly done. Dunkin slow progression from overconfidence to sheer terror might have been one of the best moments in the play. The scene in the chapel with Elizabeth, Margaret and the Dutchess (Richard’s mother), though subdued, still had an intensity that makes it hard to forget. And the pre-battle speeches of Richmond and Richard, set so closely together, sent shivers down my spine. Special props to Ty Boice, whose Richmond at the end was so completely good and wholesome and just what we want to root for to end Richard’s tyranny, but whose Tyrell (who Richard sends to kill the princes in the Tower) was so completely rotten. Brilliantly done.

I’m still pondering what exactly I walked away with when the evening was over (other than the dopey smile I usually leave the theater with). I think there was something significant about conscience in the whole thing… how conscience ignored or twisted for so long deserts you when you need it the most… something like that. A second (or third) viewing will help me sort that out. But that’s the wonderful thing about PAE’s productions – I can go as often as my schedule allows. Thanks, PAE!

Do yourself a favor and get to see this play. It runs through the first weekend in November at Concordia University. (Click here for dates and times.) There were only about 45 people in the audience the night I went, which is really tragic for the time and energy and effort everyone involved put in. They recommend a $5 donation to Boxy… but seriously, folks, $5 for that caliber of Shakespeare is a steal!

As usual, nicely done, everyone!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Iconic moments and images

Say, completely hypothetically, you were asked to find in a Shakespeare play the moment that defines the whole thing. Where would you even start if, for example, you had to find the iconic image or moment in Hamlet? I'm not talking here about the moment where Hamlet the character is defined, but more like a moment that embodies the essence of the play.

The "alas, poor Yorick" moment gets a lot of press -- the whole skull-holding bit. I dare you to Google "Hamlet" and count the number of skulls on the first page of images alone. But when you come to that moment, is it really what Hamlet is all about? Yes, there's the preoccupation throughout with death... but at the gravedigger scene, the mood lightens and we don't really feel as much of the gravity of death as in the rest of the play. (In fact... I take issue with Sir Larry here: Hamlet says his "gorge rises" at the thought of the skull belonging to someone he knew and loved... and I kind of doubt he'd cozy up to it like this if he wanted to puke.)

What about the bit(s) with the ghost? After all, the whole thing starts on a dark and stormy night when a ghost appears. Doesn't that suggest that the rest of the play is basically a ghost story? (But then corollary question -- how do you graphically portray a ghost? Hmmmm.... Something to think about.)

How about Ophelia? There's definitely something going on with Hamlet's pretend madness and Ophelia's real insanity. Is there something with Ophelia that captures the whole play? Or is that too narrow?

If we pick one of Hamlet's soliloquies as the iconic moment / image, which one? There are a few to choose from! I find the "how all occasions do inform against me" bit to be more poignant than even the "to be or not to be" even though most folks know the latter better.

And don't even get me started on why Fortinbras is SO important to the play... because that could take forever.

But seriously... what do you think is the iconic image or moment in Hamlet? What sticks out in your mind the most? What do you feel sums up the whole thing? I haven't even mentioned the play within a play. Or the duel at the end. Or Gertrude. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

I have some ideas of my own, but I'm really curious -- What do you think?