Monday, 19 January 2009

When Mills and Boon is better than Shakespeare...

In a bid to extend the cultural outlook of daughters 1 and 2 beyond X-Factor and the screens of their Nintendo DSs I took them to see the RSC production of Romeo and Juliet at Stratford on Saturday. They loved it. Me—not so much.

Bit of a facer, that. I’ve adored this play since I was sixteen and was desperately excited about seeing it again and hearing those lines that I sometimes say inside my head when I'm hanging out washing or can't get to sleep (I’m a particular fan of Juliet’s ‘gallop apace’ speech, and the deliciously gothic one in Act 4 about Tybalt festering in his shroud.) But this time I couldn't shake off the feeling that something was distinctly lacking.

I had plenty of time to think about it (three hours twenty five minutes, to be precise) and came to the conclusion early in the second half that my lack of enthusiasm was directly related to my job. While my girls were engrossed in the story I was thinking, where’s the tension? Where’s the realism? Where in the name of the bard is the pulsing, teenage hormonal sexual chemistry?? (In other words where's Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting??)

The playwright has actors to bring his lines of dialogue to life (ideally.) The novelist has to do it herself, getting across the mood of the speaker by specifically describing physical action, or by using tags. Your heroine will say something while fiddling idly/nervously/savagely with the glass on the table in front of her. Or she’ll say whatever it is softly/hesitantly/bitterly. What she won’t do is annunciate exquisite words of tenderness and love at the top of her voice while making exaggerated, sweeping gestures and looking beyond her man and out into the middle distance.

Call me an outrageous philistine and strip me of my BA(hons) but for romance give me Mills & Boon anyday. Next time I'll take the girls to see Macbeth.


Rachel said...

Oh well, India, you did your cultural duty for the girls--was there any pick and mix to be had?

It's Blue Monday apparantly, the most depressing day of the year when everyone's skint,ill and hating their jobs. So what better than a guranteed happy ending for under three quid?? Hurrah for Mills and Boon!!

Lots of love,

Kate Hardy said...

Glad the girls enjoyed it (and Stratford for a first production... oh, WOW). Sorry you didn't enjoy it so much.

As my eldest is a boy, have to admit I would probably have picked Macbeth over R&J. Best version I ever saw was Derek Jacobi; close second was Bernard Hill/Julie Walters - she was stunningly good.

Michelle Styles said...

Somehow R& J has never done it for me. I tend to think R is a bit wet. Mercurio on the other hand...SIGH.

Anonymous said...

I'm allergic to the theatre but have to admit yes, give me the original screen version any day of the week. And a mills and boon, now there's a treat and a half.
Michelle you're right, Romeo was a bit drippy wasn't he?!
xx Abby

India said...

Ah well, there's another thing Rach. Of course, I left the sweets-- carefully selected the night before in Sainsbury's for their non-crunchy properties-- in the car, didn't I? So it was a quick dash into M&S in Stratford where I grabbed whatever came to hand first. Sherbet bon bons. Both noisy to unwrap and eat. Disaster.

Blue Monday. Hmmm. New Order wrote a song about it. Shall go and listen to it right now for zeitgiest purposes.

Kate, the Stratford thing was a bit of a red herring to be honest (this production had toured first and been to Norwich). The original RSC theatre is currently being refurbished so it was in The Courtyard, which is great but temporary and smelled like Ikea (all unfinished pine resin). But yes, it's hugely encouraging that the girls (and the friends we went with-- boys aged 13 and 11 and their younger sister who is daughter #2's age) loved it. Shall definitely keep an eye out for future productions as it's an easy enough trip for us.

Michelle, I've adored the play since we studied it in school at the time when I'd just fallen in love for the first time. It was also part of what made me fall in love with literature, because it really spoke to me. But blimey, that was about 200 years ago so perhaps it's not surprising that I wasn't as enthralled as I was-- I need to find something else to speak to me now. (King Lear, worrying about his 3 daughters perhaps?)

Mercutio in this production was great. It was set in the 30s and he was dapper, urbane and just like a character from Brideshead Revisted. Cool.

Abby-- as my film guru, would you go for Luhrman or a Zefirelli? (Or just something with Italian and Billionaire in the title? That works for me too!)

Anonymous said...

oooh it has to be Zeferelli, definitely. Altho I love Baz Luhrman's zany style too. I remember watching the Zeferelli version in school when I was doing the play and it was sooo gorgeous.
xxx Abby

Donna Alward said...

Zef for me too, India.

But I really was a MacBeth and Othello fan. Of all the plays, those are my two favorites.

Trenda said...

My favorite is A Midsummer Night's Dream and not just coz Little Miss will be performing in a school production of the lovely play during the week of Valentine's!



India said...

Zeffirelli has it then, because that one's my top pick too-- although I do love the sexiness of the later version. Des'ree plus the shot of Claire Danes caressing the back of Leo's soaking wet neck in the wedding night scene is one of my favourite steamy cinematic moments.

Trenda, your daughter's doing Midsummer Night's Dream? How lovely! What part is she? (I'd love to see that play performed and never have... Must put it on my must-see list!) xx

Trenda said...

Little Miss's rather small Discovery class is putting on the play, so they are doubling up on parts! She is Hippolyta, a fairy, and a narrator. She is so adorable, twirling through the house, begging the three of us to please listen again and again and again! I love it! I've volunteered to paint fairy faces on the night of the show. Shall send pix after the performance!

On another subject, I have met my new heroine and hero. Such enchanting creatures...what a shame I shall have to make their lives a jolly mess before allowing them their HEA! :-)

xx Trenda

Trenda said...

India, I dropped you an email just now...

Thanks so much!