Not that much going on this term. I was in hospital
so I missed the University American Tour Company’s As You Like It
at the ADC. And I had once, fifteen years ago, made the mistake of wasting
an evening at the Criterion suffering the inane, facetious ennui of the
Reduced Shakespeare Company, and wasn’t about to go through all that again.
Astounded to find them on the Arts programme in November: I mean, I grudge
nobody an honest living, but can they still be going? Blimey. Somebody
must find them funny, I suppose; but it beats me. (Looking at my Guardian
Guide, I find they’re still at the Criterion. Double blimey!)
And not much else came around — except , if it counts
and I’m not even sure about that, Tom Stoppard’s original Edinburgh Fringe
hit from all those years back, the basis of his fame and fortune. I’m
not that much of a lover of these works based on foregrounding subsidiary
characters from someone else’s masterpiece: Wild Sargasso Sea and
Mrs De Winter and all these Pride and Prejudices from Georgiana
Darcy’s POV or Mansfield Parks from Mary Crawford’s or Emmas
from Jane Fairfax’s leave me cold (though I must admit that I can’t get
too much of Flashman). So I have never altogether warmed to Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern Are Dead, even when they were John Stride and Edward
Petherbridge, with Graham Crowden (or, in another version I saw early
on, Nigel Hawthorne) as The Player King. Would a student production, even
if it was an ADC main show, do anything for me forty years on?
Well, yes, actually; slightly to my surprise I was quite
stimulated by the evening. Director Victoria Scopes had skilfully imposed
worthwhile production values on her company: articulacy, good movement,
and variable characterisations, especially in her two leads, Tom Secretan
and Benjamin Deery. The court and players took their places to provide
just the right puzzling and equivocal atmosphere. Some longueurs remained.
It’s a somewhat patchy play: I still found that where it works it fascinates,
but where it doesn’t it fails to interest even to the extent of making
me worry; I prefer to switch off till things wake up again. These, let
me stress, seem to me factors in the writing rather than the production,
which I sum up as a well-up-to-standard university offering.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers'
Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.