By William Shakespeare
Directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi
Date: Tuesday 25th September 2012
The performances tonight seemed as good as last time, and the crowd were certainly having a good time. I noticed one or two moments which I hadn’t remembered to note down or hadn’t seen before and overall we still enjoyed ourselves, but as this was the fourth performance we’d seen it didn’t surprise us and some of the non-textual humour was wearing a bit thin, hence the lower experience rating.
Being close to the front this time meant I could check out the pool of water in the corner, and I saw that a shopping trolley had been submerged in it; I assume this was an extra protection for A/E to stop him rolling into the water. Angelo was limping tonight, and we learned that he had damaged his calf and was in a lot of pain, poor lamb. I spotted the fish which Luciana spat out after her first head dunking this time. Earlier, when D/E reported that his master wouldn’t come home to dinner, “send some other messenger”, he indicated Luciana – she backed off, alarmed, and gestured ‘no way’ with her hands. The two Dromios didn’t look through the letterbox at each other tonight during the dinner scene, and I think their positions were reversed for the final part of the play tonight, with D/S on the left and D/E on the right. Maybe it was deliberate, maybe not. The audience responded well to them holding hands, then the hug, then the door slamming shut, so again it was a very good ending which I saw through the sniffles.
It was interesting to see this production so often through its run. The first time we saw it was during its previews in March when we rated it at 5/10, recognising its potential but not really liking the heavy emphasis on violence. The cast were clearly struggling a bit at that time to handle the demands of the set along with the demands of the play itself, but we knew that they would improve with practice.
The second time we saw the production was in July, and we gave it 7/10. Some of the business had changed, the current ending was in place, and the cast were much more settled and giving stronger performances all round. Our view wasn’t as good that night, but the improvements made up for that.
Our third experience was in August, and earned 8/10. The performance had come on even more from July, and we had great fun with the enjoyable parts of the production. Our sight lines were good, and there was a sparkle to the evening. I didn’t feel that same sparkle tonight, though whether that was them or me I don’t know. The violent bits were still unpleasant and even boring, and I found that knowing that the young man who leapt out of the crate early on would be dead by the interval took all the fun out of the event for me. Steve reckoned the dialogue wasn’t as clear tonight, and certainly a lot of lines were obscured by the comic business. Our view was also blocked in different ways tonight, and so we missed out on some of the visual humour we’d seen before, though in the case of Nell’s marrow that was probably just as well.
From my observations tonight I would suggest that non-textual business, though it can be great fun at times, doesn’t last as well as text-based humour, be it verbal or physical, and when the comic business is allowed to dominate at the expense of the dialogue, it shows a level of disrespect for the text which may be indicative of other problems. Anyone seeing this production only once may well love the way the comedy is presented, but there doesn’t seem to be anything more to gain from repeated viewings, unlike some other productions we’ve seen a number of times. Still, I’m glad the cast have overcome the inherent difficulties imposed on them by the designer and director to produce a lively and engaging piece of work – good for them.
© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me