For months I've seen posters all around Newcastle advertising two Shakespeare's being put on at the Theatre Royal by Propeller. I neither knew who Propeller were or what the plays were about, but I was determined to go and see another Shakespeare; seeing The Winter's Tale on my trip to Edinburgh made me realise just how much I love classical plays.
After using all of my persuasive techniques I couldn't get Becky– a friend of mine from college– to come with me and I couldn't ask Jade (she wasn't exactly keen on The Winter's Tale), so I decided it was time to introduce the parents to Shakespeare– risky, I know. Luckily for me, I'd already intrigued them through our little chats about drama school, monologues and plays I'd been reading (Troilus & Cressida, Love's Labour's Lost, Julius Caesar), making my suggestion to go and see one at the theatre quite logical. Just to make sure I wasn't throwing her in at the deep end I recited a monologue to my mum to see if she could understand it– god did I underestimate her. Apparently her addiction to Spartacus: Blood and Sand has made her "totally in tune" with classical language.
Friday night was The Taming of the Shrew, attended by myself, the mamma and the paps. There was a preset of the actors walking through the foyer, around the stalls and on the stage before the performance began but we didn't see much of this due to rushing up to our seats in the gods (the Gallery is the cheapest and the highest) and for being in the gods. Although, sitting in the Gallery is nowhere near as bad as people make out. Yes, you can't see the roof of the stage and you have to lean forward in your seat to see the action, but for £14 a ticket (and sometimes as little as £7) you can't really complain. Ian did find it a bit uncomfortable though, so people with back problems beware.
Propeller are an all-male Shakespeare theatre company, directed by Edward Hall. When talking to someone about the show they were quite against the idea of an 'all-male' theatre company, what with it being so much harder for female actors to get jobs than male actors. But I disagree, I mean yes, it is hard for women in the performing arts industry but that doesn't mean that it's wrong to have an all-male cast. If that were true then it should be wrong to have an all-female task too, if equality is what we're after. Unfortunately for us ladies, Shakespeare was originally performed by men anyway– the performances from Propeller replicated the humour found in many of his plays because of this very well in their interpretation of the texts.
The Taming of the Shrew was witty, fast paced, full of energy, hilarious and oh-so bitter sweet. That overriding moral of how women should and should not be treated just seeps through the whole performance and is encapsulated by the brilliantly added line from Edward Hall and Roger Warren: "Tis' but a play". Go. And. See. It. Even if you don't like Shakespeare, I bet you would enjoy this. It's not what you would expect at all. Aaaand the cast play a short musical set during the interval of all Shrew performances to raise money for ovarian cancer (see there not trying to be sexist after all!).
Saturday night's Twelfth Night was similarly brilliant, just as funny, if not a little more laughing-out-loud, equally energetic, a tad bit more confusing– but what play wouldn't be when you've got a man playing a woman who is pretending to be a man who looks almost identical to their character's brother too. Confusing. I took my dad and step mum to go see this one for their birthdays! They loved it, which made me very very happy. Scenes like the boxing match between Viola and Malvio really demonstrate how much Propeller have adapted these plays as their own, and show us just how pliant classical texts can be. From the sheer contrast of his two performances and his superb characterisation for Olivia and Biondello, Ben Allen stood out in particular for me; Vince Leigh played a much-to-convincing drunk/bad-boy in both and Liam O'Brien's Irish lullaby's were hauntingly good. It also has to be said that Dan Wheeler's Katherine was superb.
The musical elements and instruments used in both performances boggle my mind. Not because it's amazingly difficult to do or anything, but just for the sheer naturalistic-ness of it– like you couldn't imagine it any other way.
Grey Street is probably the nicest street in Newcastle, the architecture is just amazing.
Our wonderful Theatre Royal.
Isn't she pretty?