Theatre Here is something I never thought I would hear myself say. Last night, I walked out on Shakespeare. Or rather I walked out on a performance of Shakespeare. I won’t embarrass anyone with the details of who (after all I did leave in the intermission and for I know the second half might have been dynamite) although I should say our local paper gave the same performance 8/10 tonight (but that review spent 80% on Shakespeares words and 20% on what he saw – yes we know it’s very well written, that’s why people perform it so often). It was a production of Henry V. Now it won’t replace Hamlet in my heart but I do like the play – I once almost had to do ‘Once More Unto The Breach…’ at school and I always get a tear when I here the king say ‘On St. Crispin’s Day….’

But this just felt wrong. To my mind Henry V is no tyrant. Yes he tramples into France but for his men to respect him they way they do in the play he has to rule with an even hand. The man I saw last night just seemed to like SHOUTING. A LOT. AT EVERYBODY! Even the tenderer scenes became a chance for him to annunciate loudly. And it wasn’t just him. Everyone was giving it some. But it didn’t feel like acting. It felt like an exercise in remembering the lines. Which they mostly did very well. Except I didn’t feel a sense of character. The king was a king because he was wearing a crown. But as the rest of the cast glided through it was difficult to get a handle on any of them.

Before the show I listened to a couple behind me criticizing the Macbeth I loved so much in the same venue a few weeks ago. At least he had a table. It was also a period perfect no scenery approach here (except for the ‘wooden’ O), and I appreciate the idea of giving the audience the chance to use their imagination. This is after all what this play is about (as the Chorus reminds us all the time). But in places the playing of the people in spaces scewed this somewhat as the characters stepped over and crashed about on the O. No real sense of place. And no one seemed to be just listening. They were mostly waiting for the next line.

So by about three quarters of an hour in I know I really didn’t want to stick around. So I left at the halfway point and [what happened next censored due to blogging rules – let’s just say I got my money’s worth afterall].

It is unusual how inconsistent I am about leaving some piece of art in the middle. Everyone had obviously worked hard on the production, and it was touring so this wasn’t the first time it had been performed for an audience. Being on the road is tough too. And anyone still putting on the words of my favourite four hundred year old poet is to be congratulated. But I feel OK about it because most of the stuff I objected to was down to artistic choices which I didn’t agree with. And yet I sat through Scooby Doo, Showgirls and (bless me) Spiceworld, all even more inexplicable pieces of art. And the production of ‘The Crucible’ in Edinburgh were one of the parts was essayed by the director because the original actor was sick, and he was reading nervously from the text through out. And he had all of the lines. But I think for that last one there was a Dunkirk spirit at play. They were an amateur production and not getting paid really. Henry V was a professional production and I just felt I wanted something more for my fiver.

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