Saturday, October 11, 2008

A World-Without-End Bargain

Princess: We have receiv'd your letters full of
Your favours, the embassadors of love;
And, in our maiden council, rated them
At courtship, pleasant jest, and courtesy,
As bombast and as lining to the time.
But more devout than this in our respects
Have we not been; and therefore met your loves
In their own fashion, like a merriment.

Dumaine: Our letters, madam, show'd much more
than jest.

Longaville: So did our looks.

Rosaline: We did not quote them so.

King: Now, at the latest minute of the hour,
Grant us your loves.

Princess: A time, methinks, too short
To make a world-without-end bargain in.
No, no, my lord, your Grace is perjur'd much,
Full of dear guiltiness; and therefore this:
If for my love,—as there is no such cause,—
You will do aught, this shall you do for me:
Your oath I will not trust; but go with speed
To some forlorn and naked hermitage,
Remote from all the pleasures of the world;
There stay, until the twelve celestial signs
Have brought about their annual reckoning.
If this austere insociable life
Change not your offer made in heat of blood;
If frosts and fasts, hard lodging and thin weeds,
Nip not the gaudy blossoms of your love,
But that it bear this trial and last love;
Then, at the expiration of the year,
Come challenge me, challenge me by these deserts,
And, by this virgin palm now kissing thine,
I will be thine;

From Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost (c. 1594)

One mark of my ingrained optimism is my regular attendance of live theatre. It is so very rare that I experience a performance that exceeds expectation, but - when it happens - the pay off is very powerful. If I was forced to come up with a ratio, I'd say that 1 in 10 performances delights me, and more like 1 in 20 that really moves me or inspires me. Maybe 1 in 20 is too generous. Whatever it is, I keep attending and I keep hoping.

The payoff recently has been pretty satisfying and ultimately most impressive. First off was the double-bill of The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy at Soulpepper Theatre, which was silly and fun (although the patchy British accents were really distracting; why do they bother? Just go au naturel!)

Then I spent last weekend in Stratford and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Michael Langham-directed Love's Labours Lost was better than I expected. This was cast using the young company members of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre (the in-house apprentice program). They're not the usual rubber-stamped, good-looking, dullards of seasons past (in my opinion), but a real range of types, physiques and personalities. Senior members of the company completed most of the older roles. Peter Donaldson (as Don Adriano) and the 11-year-old Abigail Winter-Culliford (as Moth, his page) were reunited after their moving performances last summer in To Kill A Mockingbird (he as Atticus, she as Scout) and they were easily the best part of the show. I've looked back through my blog and am amazed I didn't mention To Kill a Mockingbird last year. I must have started a post and never completed it; it was easily the best thing from the 2007 season: another of those rare experiences in the theatre. And young Abigail is eerily talented, without any ghastly precociousness that you sometimes find in young performers; unlike them, she is not 11 going on 30, but very firmly 11, just remarkably talented. This was the last performance of LLL for the season and we repaired afterwards to the Down the Street pub to eat and drink and congratulate the artists who gathered there to decompress.

I hadn't seen Love's Labours Lost in over 20 years, and that Royal Shakespeare Company production was in London at the Barbican. Roger Rees was Berowne, and Kenneth Branagh was the King of Navarre and I remember him doing the most fantastic fall backwards onto the stage. I saw them that same summer together again: Rees as Hamlet, Branagh as Laertes with some great sword-fighting; and then Branagh again as Henry V, a few years before he made his movie. What a summer that was.

The next day, still in Stratford, after a morning walk around Lake Victoria, we watched Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) on television (lazy Sunday... mmmm) and were gobsmacked to realize that this film is 40 years old. Such were Zeffirelli's designers, that the film hasn't dated. No beehives or heavy eyeliner to place the film when it was made. Good stuff! I reminded my companion that Bruce Robinson (Benvolio in the film, and my secret boyfriend... sigh) reports in his wonderful book Smoking in Bed that Zeffirelli made such a big play for him, that he became nicknamed (by fellow castmembers) as Bendrovio. I never noticed before that Zeffirelli's set dresser was Christine Edzard. Must do a post on her and my thoughts there very soon! So much to blog about and so little time! ARGH!!!

I ended this particular run of theatre with a wonderful experience: the Canadian Opera Company's War and Peace. Enough said: buy a ticket if there are any left!


Dave Coulter said...

Hmm. It's been some 49 yrs. since I've seen LLL! ;)

Seriously, it sounds like it was a great show!

Blog Princess G said...

Dave: Hee hee, well what are you waiting for mister?