Monday, October 18, 2004

Measure for Measure and Light

> Measure for Measure (2004 performed at the Olivier)
> -This production was an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's plays which is
> known as a Problem Play or Dark Comedy making it difficult to understand,
> not wholly fitting into either of the genre's of tragedy or comedy.
> -'Fast, lucid and almost overwhelmingly bleak in its vision of human
> cruelty and helplessness, Simon McBurney's production gets to the dark
> heart of Shakespeare's play.' (TheatreVoice review)
> -With its kaleidoscopic restlessness, clangorous sound effects, mimetic
> illustration and pervasive TV images, the production at times overlays the
> text. But it captures the dizzying corruption of power and the sense of
> individuals destroyed by the dangerous conjunction of sex and death.
> (Guadian Unlimited)
> -And despite the momentary appearance of President Bush on the omnipresent
> TV monitors, plus orange jumpsuits for the play's prisoners, the evening
> wasn't spuriously topical either. (Guardian Unlimited)
> -At first, I felt the show, a co-production between the NT and Complicite,
> was trying too hard to seem hip. (Telegraph)
> -Indeed, over-statement is a problem generally with this production. The
> use of
> video and microphone, initially striking, soon prove distracting, as do
> the slow motion dumb shows of violence that occur in the shadows behind
> the main action. (Telegraph)
> Critics seem to be torn as to whether the play succeeded in balancing the
> visual elements with the text, many criticising the use of multimedia and
> the references to current events (The Guantanamo orange jumpsuits and
> George Bush's face flashing onto the screen when the words 'sanctimonious
> pirate' are said)
> -But this is a play without a happy ending. The cruelty of the Duke, who
> spends most of it as a spying, lying friar, seems even worse than Angelo's
> lust in David Troughton's boomingly sadistic performance, and
> the final coup de theatre [the bed] is deeply unsettling. Some of
> Complicite's physical theatre tricks are beginning to seem a little
> shop-soiled, but there is no mistaking the staging's dark vitality.
> (Telegraph)
> Many critics seem to be suggesting that Complicite's once innovative
> methods seem a little tired.
> -This is a thrilling, committed and challenging evening that can be
> enjoyed by anyone who loves fine acting and stagecraft. But for me, at
> least, Complicite's vision and power work against themselves. In its way
> the production is as authoritarian as the tyranny it urges us to condemn.
> Would it not be more radical to let the audience draw its own conclusions
> from the play than have them presented in packages, however sensational
> they are? Measure for Measure is a much stranger and more subversive play
> than we see here, with religious and narrative complexities that are
> ill-served by concentrating solely on its sex and politics. It seems that
> McBurney's imperative is to create a striking visual correlate for the
> ideas and emotions he finds in the text. But the result is to dramatise
> the instant at the expense of revealing the arc of the drama. This is a
> fantasia on themes from Measure for Measure rather than the play itself.
> As such it elevates style above heart, but the style is formidable.
> (Curtain Up London Review)
> -"At one stage I thought of doing it in the dark." One wonders what the
> fans of "visual" theatre would have thought. In the end he has decided to
> section off a part of the stage so that the playing area is small,
> intimate. (Simon Mc Burney speaking to the Independent).
> -The play provokes more questions than answers......In rehearsal one thing
> is clear above all. When it is 'stood up' it works. The meaning is
> revealed in the body....All questions must be reduced to one question. Not
> what does it mean but does it come alive? The only way to approach
> Shakespeare is to come without any answers. (Simon McBurney)
> McBurney asked the cast to make scrapbooks containing any information they
> felt was relevant to their characters and the play in general during this
> production.
> Looking at the programmes rehearsal photographs for this production I
> noticed that only a few of the images were clearly identifiable as scenes
> from the play.
> I saw this production and found it a truly enjoyable experience, the use
> of multimedia was effective and rather than distracting I found it to
> provide alternative sources of interest and to enhance the idea of the
> Duke surveying his subjects. I found the interpretation of the text new
> and innovative. Angelo (Paul Rhys) was a truly horrible little wretch but
> the Duke (David Troughton) was equally as terrifying pulling the strings
> of other characters from behind the scenes. Particularly original was the
> use of light and sound to create a realistic prison environment, Angelo
> making Isabella put her hand in his trousers while she begs for her
> brother's life, and the final image of a double bed being revealed after
> the Duke tells Isabella to marry him(which provoked shocked laughter from
> the audience).
> The .pdf Measure for Measure workpack at the Complicite site is very
> useful for research into rehearsal methods etc.
> Light
> This production was an adaptation from a novel by Torgy Lindgren.
> Plot- A man goes on a journey in search of love and returns to his village
> carrying death in the form of a plague-ridden rabbit. The village is
> ravaged by sickness and of those who survive no one any longer knows what
> is right and what is wrong. The opposing values of civilisation and
> barbarity balance on a knife-edge.
> The novels author wrote at a time when the threat of AIDS was at a
> highpoint and this is paralleled by the effects of the plague on society
> in the novel.
> -Deceitfulness, lust, incest, infanticide, bestiality: mankind's nastiest
> impulses get the better of these hapless bumpkins.
> (Daily Telegraph)
> -In being faithful to the book, McBurney and company have ended up with
> dialogue that often groans under the weight of the text's concerns.
> Remarkably, though, while you can hear the novel, what you see on stage is
> theatrically breathtaking. Lindgren's cool, paradoxical prose, and
> Complicite's rough-hewn, feverishly visual style spark against each other
> in a continually illuminating way. (Daily Telegraph)
> -Light may not, in my opinion, be quite as searching as that piece
> [Mneumonic], but it is heartening to see Complicite back to its roots and
> relying less on technological wizardry. Here, once again, searing effects
> are achieved with an elemental simplicity, as when whole planks seem to be
> planed up from the stage to form the coffin lids on the multiplying
> corpses, or when a grief-stricken mother (the matchless Lilo Baur) smears
> her face with a thick white gunk to emphasise the encrusted salt left by
> her weeping. (The Independent)
> The play explores dark themes, and uses various different methods to do
> so. A cold omnipresent narrator opens the piece indifferent to the
> suffering of the village's inhabitants. Planks from the stage become
> coffins; actors manipulate puppets of themselves and massacre furry plague
> bunnies tossing their corpses in the air. There is less use of multimedia
> in this production and less criticism from the critics than there was of
> Measure for Measure (this could be due to the dislike of Multimedia in
> theatre or critics strong feelings when it comes to the adaptation of the
> 'Great' Shakespeare's work).
> Research by Catherine, Tom, Natalie and Kasia


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