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Day 3: Shakespeare Shakespeare Shakespeare, 'Lend me your ears', bloody death and mahem

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 28 September 2009 | Views [576]

So we left Stoford. Cute little Stoford with its cute little bridge over its willow-strewn river and majestic white swans. The Swan Inn was awesome. Such good grub and nice rooms and sweet people. Wonder how much a little Stoford or Greater Wishford farmhouse would set me back? Had lunch in Oxford but didn’t stop. Instead Gurtie zoomed us to Blenheim Palace. This is the vast and splendid Baroque monolith with endless grounds that the Spencer-Churchill family of the Dukes of Marlborough have lived in since 1704. In that year the first Duke was gifted the grounds by Queen Anne following his historic victory over the French at Blenheim on the Danube. The gift propelled the Duke and his wife to the world of the rich and the famous. Their story is quite romantic as they married poor and got rich and were in love and that’s always nice. There are some interesting parallels between the unlikely savior – soldier come politician - of the 18th Century British Empire and his descendant – soldier come politician – who drew from that call of destiny for inspiration two hundred and fifty odd years later. May is reading Churchill’s autobiography now so she loved it and had lots of extra, added info. The gardens were beautiful. There’s a spire-like stone structure symmetrically lined with the north face of the house. The proud and lofty figure atop the structure is apparently the first Duke winning the battle of Blenheim, which has a nice sense of poetry about it. Julius Caesar at the Courtyard Theatre opposite the Avon was pretty awesome. The sunset over the old town painted the sky in soft pink ripples as we walked within the hush of the Avon towards the theatre. Walking into the actual space to our seats I started to feel the atmosphere of the performance to come. The historian who had worked on the production had also worked on the final scenes of the first series of Rome, which featured Caesar’s death scene in the senate. I had seen the play before when I was seven or eight with Robyn Neven as Marc Antony. It was probably the Melb Theatre Company, which makes me fairly impressed with my parents for their cultured choice, and as far as I can remember the senate was interpreted as a kind of executive workplace – or maybe it was a modern political arena. Either way the play has a certain significance to me. The point is, also, that Shakespeare is Shakespeare is Shakespeare so the director’s interpretation and the particular production is key, barely secondary to the skill of the actors and actresses in performing the poetry. To say this was a bloody, violent interpretation doesn’t quite do it justice. I always remember thinking that Brutus’ was a great betrayal and that he was the epitome of deception and untrustworthy-ness. The RSC’s portrayal of it took me beyond my childish imaginings of black and white morality, which bad Shakespearean theatre can so often be centered around. It captured the struggle of Brutus in a way that beautifully echoed Macbeth in his murderous antics. The great depth of the fallen hero. In such a simplistic way Shakespeare is still reminding us the vitality of a finely tuned moral compass, but also that deception and the deceptive character is never black and white. The path to evil runs a deep and complex course in which the perpetrator often can’t even see themselves the evil that they are doing or the black place to which they’ve come until it’s too late. Oh I love great artists for that. I love that art can reflect ourselves upon ourselves and show us who we are and why. Human nature is so monolithically complex that we need art to show us who we really are. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not worth supporting the arts okay, okay!!?? Hmm getting somewhat off track… The production as a whole was incredibly bloody, gory, realistic (I mean the guy was stabbed 33 times and would’ve bled slowly to death in agonizing pain) and quite military. The crowd scenes were done quite well using projected imagery to augment the cast and an original score to highlight the drama. There was a whole additional opening scene in which two loin clothed individuals fought one another like animals to the death, highlighting the animalistic nature of the Roman society built on war and destruction and death and suffering. Perhaps a parody on the pointless, animalistic nature of war? The stupidity of it!? The out-dated barbarity of it that only could exist in a world dominated for countless millennia by testosterone-fuelled men. Okay so I’m getting off track a bit again, but seriously if the world was dominated by women disputes over world-domination would be solved by civilized meetings over coffee at the local café during which one lady-ruler would be given one region, another a separate region and they would, having agreed to live in harmony, go on with their lives being intelligent and knowing that prosperity of both regions is dependant on resources being dedicated to necessities as opposed to guns and bombs and armies and other bullshit. Hmm somewhat off track again… Silvia and her husband at the Carlton Guesthouse around the corner from the Courtyard theatre and other RSC theatres (currently under refurbishment) are the loveliest people ever. She gave us our double room with ensuite and breaky for the price of a twin without ensuite because it was mid-week. The rooms are lovely and homely (very floral but comfortable) and she and her husband are lovely and helpful and cook a yummy breakfast in the morning of eggs, snozzage, bacon, tomatoes and mushroom! (Plus tea and coffee and toast and jam and cereal and juice, yum!) They are interested in getting to know us but they’re also intelligent people who can hold a good conversation and also know when to leave you alone. So I would def go there again…soon sometime…if anyone has a lazy $AUD2,000 they want to donate to the ‘get Liv back to the UK for the RSC’s next season’ fund??

Tags: theatre

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