Sunday, 14 September 2008

Romeo And Juliet GALA PERFORMANCE, Middle Temple Hall, 12 Sep 2008

They had FREE CHAMPAGNE AND SUSHI. If that doesn't contitute a top theatre experience I don't know what does. Sushi! We were beyond us with glee. We drank and ate and approached Max Bennett in pure fangirl fashion. We also caught glimpse of OUR HEROINE Tamara Harvey in the champagne reception. Ah, high life.

The readings were also a treat, with Corin Redgrave approaching the sonnets, and Fione Shaw indulging us with our favourite twentieth century poet.

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
So intelligent
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

We cannot understimate the power of such a voice as Fiona Shaw's has when reading "The Wasteland". It felt somehow appropriate that in this place where Shakespeare once set foot on we should hear words from Eliot, a kindred spirit. Once more the Middle Temple Hall worked its magic on us, and we should hope to see more productions in this stage.

Now that we knew where the production's strong point were we could pay them proper attention, namely: Will Kemp, the swordfighting, Max Bennett's silence, the costumes, the sad fate of Paris, the scenes with Juliet and her parents... And we pondered and pondered and ended up deciding that Nicolas Tennant is possibly THE genius of the production, with his understated and gorgeous friar. This sudden love of ours for Nicolas Tennant, whom we had never seen on stage before, has nothing to do with our discovery that he took part in the National Theatre Studio's workshop on Simon Bent's "The Trouble With Girls" under the direction of our favourite director Paul Miller back in 1997. Or maybe it has to do a bit with that. Theatre is not for the rational.

This time around we were a bit more convinced by Juliet Rylance's performance than the first time. Despite other reservations we might have about her Juliet (the age thing, the slight lack of warmth and teenage doubts in her character) one thing we do love about her: she speaks the Shakespearean verse with wit and precision, and it's just a joy to hear her go on through the poetry of the piece.

After the performance (and some more successful fangirling of Will Kemp and Max Bennett) the whole company and audience walked the Temple streets up to the Temple Church, the way lit by cute oil lamps. It was quite magical and once inside the church Mark Rylance read some Temple prays. Very neat. Worth our money, the whole evening.

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