Thursday, April 25, 2019

On Seeing a Play More Than Once

As much as I love going to the theatre, and as much as I've wanted to see things again, it's only in the last few weeks that I've managed to see the same production multiple times - and it's been a bit of a revelation. So far I've managed to see The Taming of the Shrew 3 tmrs at the RSC - and I'd happily go again.

There are a couple of contributing factors to this beyond the quality of the production - one is a friend who enjoys live theatre even more than I do, and the other is the availability of heavily discounted tickets (check the RSC website from noon on Friday afternoons for offers for the following week if you can - we're lucky that we live just close enough to make midweek visits attractive).

I have slightly mixed feelings about the £10 tickets, mostly I'm really grateful for the opportunities they're giving - so far to see As You Like It which we hadn't planned on, and Taming of the Shrew more than once. Part of me worries about the implications of so many cheap seats though.

Still, it's a tremendous luxury to be able to get to know a production really well, and to see how it's developed from preview week. The biggest surprise has been seeing how much different seats affect how I see the performance. I really hadn't appreciated this before - generally we've opted for seats in the upper gallery (less expensive, no chance of being expected to participate, good overview).

Seats a couple of rows back from the stage and to its right (the RSC has a thrust stage) meant a much better view of the costumes, looking up at the action rather than down in it, and an entirely different awareness of what was going on. From the stalls my focus shifted towards whoever was directly in front of me rather than specifically following the dialogue. It's a better place to see how the cast interact with each other, and particular details. We both commented on how different it made the play seem. Third time round I went back to a gallery which confirmed those differences in perspective.

I really loved this production of The Taming of the Shrew the First time I saw it, and better acquaintance has only made me like it more. I'm not the biggest Shakespeare fan, I find his women generally disappointing, his low comedy too low for me, and the language often too involved and dense to really get to grips with. Watching a play as challenging/problematic as Shrew is refreshing because a sizeable part of the audience clearly shares the same reservations.

Flipping the genders and having women, and women's voices, dominating the stage does surprising things too. I'm not used to seeing so many women in the stage and it's thrilling, it was also one of the brilliant things about The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, as was Sophie Stanton who is also amazing in Shrew. Seeing is one thing, but hearing is another, I didn't expect so much more female speech to make a difference to me, but it does, maybe because it creates a balance in tones that makes the whole thing easier to listen to and follow (I certainly find it so).

In the end if it's a choice between seeing the same play twice, or two different things, the choice would always be to see the different things, but I'm really grateful to not need to make that choice at the moment. We're planning on seeing as much as we can, as often as we can, whilst we can.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating post! I saw "As you Like it" both live and in the cinema - and spotted many differences!