Friday, November 23, 2012

Now here’s a thought. Since Shakespeare’s sonnets explore every aspect of love ~ passion, pain, tenderness, vulgarity, violence, madness, sadness, lust and loss ~ then maybe strung together they would add up to a play... or at least a theatrical performance. Swansea-based physical theatre company Volcano thought so, in fact Paul Davies deviser-director of L.O.V.E thought so back in 1992 and this twenty-year on revival is now touring with a new cast and “subtle and not-so-subtle” changes from the original. The genital rubbing & sniffing may come under the not-so-subtle heading, and perhaps also the extended snog-the-audience episode ~ not that I’m complaining, the kiss was lovely even though the Dark Lady did then swig deeply from my wine.
And this show doesn't claim to be a play as such, it's a series of dramatic cameos using Shirley Bassey songs, playfulness, balletic physicality, bawdy comedy and brutality too. The trio are amazing performers, especially Andrew Keay as the lovely boy, and bring ambiguous depths more often cruel than touching to the familiar sonnets: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? becomes a fight and My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun contemptuous homo banter. From seductive to (literally) biting, ardent to murderous, in Auden's words mortal, guilty, but entirely beautiful. There's madness, but maybe not like Will knew it, more Psycho than Ophelia, and by the end everyone is stripped to their undies ~ though white as a detergent ad and the Dark Lady's with a touch of Bridget Jones.  Back in 1993 this was hailed as dangerous theatre, obscene and erotic: maybe Beyonce videos on screen in every High Street Curries since then have redefined our terms but it’s exciting, skilful, performance with beautiful visuals and well worth seeing.

 Segueing loosely through Keats, who admired Shakespeare for his "Negative Capability, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" and inspired by a piece in the Indie, I want to suggest that people who complain Wikipedia isn't definitive or even unbiased are missing the point. We are, thankfully, moving away from the Age of Reason with its absurd focus on facts and certainty. So what if inaccuracies clamber in with more valid hypotheses? Reality is porous, truth is variable. We've all got a filter against the malicious, mendacious, or plain crazy: it's called instinctive intelligence. So bring on Wiki-world, and let's all remind ourselves how to use the mind-skills we used to have before the pernicious school system brainwashed us into believing learning meant being taught, education meant being told, and thinking meant second-guessing to conform. Scientists, or at least one esteemed geneticist, reckon our appraisal skills & hence intellect are in decline, maybe Wiki-chaos will show us the way back to evaluating situations as our ancestors did and honouring experiential learning over received wisdom.

 Looking ahead: Frome Scriptwriters are thrilled our next production, Flaming Crackers, short plays with a festive theme, will again be set alight onstage by a talented team of actors provided by Stepping Out Theatre Company ~ and this time our rehearsed-reading event will be on in Bristol too!   More details with next posting.
 And looking even further ahead, 2013 may be a vintage year for me for courses in spectacular places: check my website if you're interested, and pick between Spain, France, Greek islands, and two rather lovely venues where you don't need euros...

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