Tuesday, 20 October 2009

ah, Shakespeare

Shakespeare play Sunday, and it was about time I saw one. This was a film of the National Theatre doing All’s Well that Ends Well at the Old Vic. Stunning production. They embraced the fairy / folk tale element of the story, and it really helped to tell the story. There were segments of ‘slow motion’ when the actors moved slowly … there was use of silhouette to show action that was mostly without dialogue, in order to convey more of the story … so it was also a use of silence, clever, so clever. And music was there, and the staging, they’d have Paris and Rosillion depicted on the stage at the same time, with characters freezing in one place while the action carried on in another. And the use of Gold for the King’s Palace and Silver for Rosillion was really clever, subtle, so subtle. The story itself is less familiar to me than other stories, and has an interesting mix of farce and darkness. Helena is treated quite badly by her husband (who you can actually sympathise with, as a wife not of his choosing is bestowed on him by the King). And you can see themes and language reappearing from other stories Shakespeare told, but reinvented, not just plonked in out of laziness, they’re always changed, adapted, twisted for a new context. And I think in the darkness alongside the farce you see Shakespeare’s concern to tell the story of humanity – he was so perceptive about what it is to be human, the good and the bad. This is a story of a strong intelligent independent woman, who really does carry the story. It’s also got stories of deceit, lust, war, honour and dishonour, power … someone said to me recently that Esther is quite Shakespearean. I think I agree, and perhaps that’s part of what draws me to the story. It is a story about humanity, about the depths of evil we are capable of, the capacity for humans to hurt each other, and the capacity for good, for courage, for selflessness … I think it is the stories that depict humanity honestly and truly that are the stories that last, stories that tell us who we are, offer us hope that we can be better than we are, that help us to laugh and to cry – stories that Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens wrote, stories that ancient Israel and early Christians told, stories that Jesus told …

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