I have said somewhere on this blog that I was averse to Shakespeare because no matter how hard I tried, I can’t seem to understand his plays.
I had been to the Bard’s hometown in Stratford-upon-Avon, and my intimate relationship with the man was the souvenir fridge magnet and The Little Book of Shakespeare quotes. My first exposure to his work was the 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino as Shylock. It was my young friend Bizarro who convinced me to watch the film, although I didnt need much convincing as Pacino was a good enough reason to give it a try. The experience wasnt too bad at all, I actually really liked that version and was really moved by the events that transpired. But there was still no yearning desire to follow through.
I have had discussions with friends who loved Shakespeare’s work and it wasnt until a work colleague and friend, who’s also a huge theatre afficionado said to me late last year that Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be watched more than read. I was quite keen on watching Ian McKellen in King Lear so I bit the bullet and booked the RSC’s production last year and was gobsmacked by it. The Arden adaptation which came as a gift from the same friend helped eased the pain in understanding the language. I had wanted to book the Donmar’s Othello but I was one of those who were trying to book tickets all day only to be told it has sold out.
So from watching a highly distressing and tragic Lear I moved onto another Shakespeare production, this time the light hearted Much Ado About Nothing staged at the Olivier’s National for their winter offering and boy did that feel good too. Having enjoyed myself so much I bought the play text in the National bookshop and finished reading it the same evening. Since then I have joined the RSC as associate member and I am now looking forward to the staging of Hamlet, Love’s Labours Lost when it comes to the West End at the end of the year, and the Donmar West End’s Twelfth Night. The Regents Park Open Air Theatre productions for the season includes a hefty serving of the Bard with Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and then of course you’ve got the Globe Theatre with King Lear, Timon of Athens and The Merry Wives of Windsor. There’s also A Winter’s Tale to look forward to in Spring 2009 as part of The Bridge Project and there’s also the RSC Histories currently running at the Roundhouse that got sold out by the time I wanted to book tickets.
So what’s the verdict for Shakespeare? To quote Simon Russell Beale in an interview for Much Ado About Nothing, he said, he’s just the best. I have only seen 2 productions so far but I will have to agree with him. Does the Doctor Who Season 3 Shakespeare Code episode count? I wish!