I love seeing Shakespeare in other languages. I got the addiction when I saw Yukio Ninagawa’s Japanese (Shogun period – cherry blossom time) Macbeth at the Edinburgh Festival in 1985. Lots of other Ninagawa Shakespeare’s followed – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and a Kabuki Twelfth Night – plus a Swedish Hamlet at the NT. When the Globe first opened, we got one visiting company each year, starting with a terrific Zulu Macbeth, a Japanese Comedy of Errors, Cuban Tempest, Brazilian Romeo & Juliet and a kathakali King Lear from India. For some reason they then dried up……so how thrilled was I when The Globe announced 37 productions, each in a different language and a groundling season ticket for £100! Well, I was never going to get to them all (as a season ticket holder, you have to mostly do matinees) but I was going to do as many as I could.
The weather has not been kind in this first week, but I manged four out of seven, starting with the South African Venus & Adonis last weekend. The company that brought The Mysteries and Carmen to Wilton’s and Magic Flute and Christmas Carol to the Young Vic created a musical staging of the epic poem, with seven Venus’ passing their (wedding?) dress from one to the other like a baton in a relay. The singing was glorious, the staging captivating and their enthusiasm infectious. They were clearly thrilled and proud to be there and we shouted and cheered our appreciation.
Next up, Troilus & Cressida in Maori! Well, who’d have thought you could relocate it from ancient Greece to the ancient antipodes so successfully? Inter-Maori war instead of the Trojan wars and thrilling it was too. The kathakali King Lear showed how you could act with facial expressions – well, the Maoris did too, adding tongue and buttock acting for good measure! It was occasionally funny (Achilles lover was a Maori Mr Humphreys!) but mostly action-packed thrills. Another standing ovation (well, I was already standing, so I cheered) for another hugely talented bunch who seemed thrilled to be celebrating with us on Will’s birthday.
The Russian Measure for Measure was a complete contrast but a great production nonetheless. They roughed up the stage with litter to create a decadent Vienna, the Duke and Angelo were played by the same actor, making the point (I think!) that the Duke’s lust for Isabella was no better than Angelo’s. The acting was brilliant and somehow the play made more sense to me in Russian than it ever has in English!
I suspect the Greek Pericles was great if you understood Greek. I knew the play (I’ve seen them all) and again I read a synopsis beforehand and the synopsis provided for each scene on screens in the theatre, but the storytelling style of this production meant you really did miss the dialogue. The lack of any ‘production’ as such put all the focus on the words that you couldn’t understand. A disappointment, I’m afraid.
Sadly, the weather got worse as the week went on. It really was too wet to brave the Swahili Merry Wives on Wednesday afternoon. The expectation of an equally bad Friday put me off the Hindi Twelfth Night, though it looks like the forecasters (80% chance of rain!) got that wrong, and by Sunday, still raining, my exhaustion suggested a day at home to recharge my batteries - so I missed the National Theatre of China’s Richard III. Fingers crossed for the coming week’s Korean Dream, Italian Julius, Cantonese Titus, Palestinian RII, Hip Hop Othello and the world’s newest country – South Sudan – giving us Cymbeline. I wonder how many I’ll make…….