Monday, June 12, 2017

Sands UK Tour, Day Five: London

Ten years ago this month, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS UK) sent my solo performance I Hate This (a play without the baby) on a seven date tour of Great Britain.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

We were up last night until about 1 am. There so many reasons not to take a run today, but one too few, apparently.

My route took me down Euston to Regent's Park, down to and around the London Zoo and back. It was lovely and I was in no hurry. I have gotten a bit out of shape, however, and was a little hot and weary.

City running is very odd. But there are an awful lot of runners in central London. I stepped out of my hotel in time to catch a man and a woman going my direction, which was helpful, as I followed their lead down the city street, watching where they looked, and where on the pavement they kept their path. Not that there's much of a science to it, we're all salmon swimming upstream, dodging cars, people and other obstacles until we reach THE PARK. Returning, after seven on a Tuesday, I was like those folks yesterday in St. James, saying "excuse me" and trying not to get struck by a street sweeper.

Last night the children were left in the care of the in-laws so that our stage manager the wife, and I could steal off and see The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare's Globe. I have only seen one other performance there, the "Fancy Dress Party Macbeth" which remains the best production of the Scottish Play I've ever seen.

For this production of Merchant, instead of rationalizing that WS was some kind of forward thinking egalitarian (he wasn't) they chose the other route, which was to make almost everyone else grotesque, too. Shylock is an evil, hunched, bearded, withered old Jew, played by John McEnery, the guy who played Mercutio in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet the year I was born. The Duke of Morocco was a grinning, strutting, stuffed-codpiece jutting cartoon of an African, the Spaniard an English-mangling braggart, and they even managed to squeeze in a joke at the French where one doesn't exist.

As for the English, Christian characters, the masquing scene featured what could be construed as a Black Mass, though really it was more like a bunch of frat boys dressed as priests and bishops and popes in devils' masks, performing an obscene marriage. They profess Christianity, but flagrantly ridicule its leaders.

They mock the trappings of Christianity - Catholicism, to be precise - but hypocritically espouse a pure love for Christ. One of the funniest moments in the play is when Antonio insists Shylock must be made to convert. To Antonio it isn't a punishment (it wouldn't have been to Shakespeare, nor his audience) but a blessing. However, the look on Shylock's face can't be described. It was hilarious. And that's offensive. And I laughed really loud and I don't feel bad about that.

The one stereotype that remained unsatirised was that of the homosexual Antonio, and his affection for Bassanio. In a play with such obvious mockery, for everyone, that minority alone was treated with subtlety and respect. And that's a double-standard. I found this omission confusing.

I am not suggesting they should have had a mincing Antonio. But if the Duke of Morocco is made to look and behave like a cartoon Muhammad Ali, Antonio seemed like he was in a different production.

Big ups to Kristy Besterman and Pippa Nixon, who had to step up from (respectively) the roles of Nerissa and Jessica to the roles of Portia and Nerissa (with Ms. Nixon doubling in her usual role of Jessica) with book in hand to cover for the woman usually playing Portia. The book-in-hand thing was distracting for about two seconds as Ms. Besterman did know and awful lot of the part and was very good in the role.

God bless the understudies, without them we'd all have to go home.

Original blog posts
I Hate This Blog, June 12, 2007
Daddy Runs Fast, June 12, 2007

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