Shakespeare in the Port - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We watched Repercussion Theatre's production of AS YOU LIKE IT last night in the Old Port. It was an odd production. For some reason, the text veered from time to time into French, not in any coherent way, but enough to lose the plot if you don't know the play. But it did that only rarely. The biggest problem was the English. The actors knew their lines, but they couldn't entirely deliver them as if they were speaking.

That's really the biggest issue in a Shakespeare play: saying the lines as if you're talking to someone, as opposed to "delivering the lines." Saying poetry as if you are thinking of it on the fly, as if it is the most natural thing in the world, that is non-trivial.

But if you can get the actors to do that, the plays themselves are practically bulletproof. Shakespeare makes his characters' motivations clear, and if there's any danger of someone losing the plot, he'll throw in an aside or two to make sure you can't miss it. And who doesn't love Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind so she can test Orlando's affection for her?

It does seem an odd decision to have filled the cast with francophones. Getting anglo actors to make Shakespearean lines their own is hard enough. The actors got the acting right, and they knew their lines, they just couldn't make the lines their own. You could see them working at it. And that spoils the effect.

I can't imagine anyone would cast anglo actors in a French production of Molière or Michael Tremblay.

But the play did give me a hankering to see the radiant Laurence Dauphinais in something a little less grammatically taxing.

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3 Comments:

I appreciate the difficulty Francophone speakers would have with Shakespeare, but for native English speakers it's a hell of a lot easier than most people make out. The lines are so beautifully constructed from a rhythmic point of view that all you need to do is say them naturally and they just work.

Shakespeare wrote his plays specifically so that they would be easy to learn and perform. Of course, great actors can do great things with his plays, but even a mediocre actor can manage a perfectly decent performance if they stop worrying about "Performing Shakespeare" and just say the words naturally.

How to make lines actor-proof - there's a topic for a screenwriting masterclass!

By Blogger Iain Coleman, at 8:15 PM  

we'll be in Montreal in Sept. for literally 24 hours. recommends?

By Blogger sean, at 12:39 AM  

That depends on what day in September, doesn't it?

But this Metafilter question has lots of good ideas.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 7:56 AM  

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