Sunday, September 11, 2011

Professor B, In the Conservatory, with the Laptop

I'm sitting in the conservatory. There's a fountain burbling in the next room over (the conservatory has four "rooms," all with glass on all sides, connected by doors). I'm outside, except without the chill or wind. And the sun is glorious.

It's all quite civilized.

Nonetheless, Gawain must be prepared to cut off the Green Knight's head! It would seem so much more fitting to be studying Austen somehow.

The place is utterly quiet, though it's late morning. I don't think the students much use the conservatory, nor have I so far. I remember thinking when I first saw it, that it would be a perfect place to work, but then I sort of forgot, because there are other good places to work. And then I went by it on a house tour and remembered. And here I am.

I saw the RSC Macbeth last night, and it was really good and really interesting. They took out much of the witchy stuff, and the witches parts that were left (the prophesying is pretty much all) was played by the same child actors who played Macduff's children. That was creepy; they were sort of zombified to do the witches' parts, and not when kids, and then they walked around a bit on stage and stuff after (there was a lot of ghosting about) and were again a bit zombified. Okay, by zombified, I mean they had makeup to make them look a little creepy, not really full out zombie makeup.

The effect of losing the witchy parts (the opening, the bit about harassing the sailor because his wife was stingy with her nuts, etc) was that the prophesying part didn't feel nearly as connected with witchy, evil, nastiness. Instead, the nastiness was all human (and there was plenty of it). The actor playing Macbeth looked especially nasty at times, too (the part where he talked about keeping spies in the households of his retainers, especially).

They also combined the parts of Seyton and the Porter (and he also got some of the doctor of physik's lines), and that role was played with a smarmy sliminess that worked really well.

It was played on a thrust stage (as Stratford upon Avon) with a door at the back of the playing space (and other entries, too). That was the door Duncan was behind when he got killed, and then from that time it pretty much became a sort of hellmouth. Whenever a character was killed on stage, s/he would (after the stage was mostly empty) slowly rise and walk through the hellmouth. And naturally enough, Seyton was the doorkeeper, and would stand and wait for them. (And then they'd come out again, because there was a lot of ghosting. Banquo broke out, in fact, during the dining scene.) Macbeth was killed on stage (but, happily, his head wasn't cut off), and he, too, got up slowly and walked into the hellmouth at the end.

They played Ross as a priest, in mostly a black cassock with a cross/crucifix (I wasn't close enough to see which). I thought the actor did an excellent job with the part. I think they also gave him other lines (the old man, for example), so the part felt bigger than it does when I read the play.

It was played mostly in vaguely medieval costume, except the party scene, which had people looking like they'd stepped out of an 18th century costume drama.

All in all, I thought it was well done, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

(One last thing: the theater is new, and full of fancy bells and whistles, and they seemed to want to show off a lot of those bells and whistles, even when it didn't really seem to contribute to the play much.)

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