This has been the most enjoyable of summers, partly as a result of working on some interesting projects (editorial, non-fiction, and fiction), and partly because of the lovely weather (warm but not too hot), which has meant I’ve been enjoying some outdoorsy activities for a change (I’m not exactly what you’d call the outdoorsy type). Chief amongst these were two productions we saw by Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour, of The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d seen neither before, and did not know the first play at all.
Both productions used a very small company of only eight actors (who also performed all the music and danced), and the sets were small, designed for performance in outdoor locations and portability. (We saw both plays in the Master’s Garden at Emmanuel College.) I gather the idea is to follow in the footsteps of Elizabethan touring companies.
I read The Comedy of Errors before going, so chief amongst the pleasures was trying to work out how the doubling up at the end was going to be done. Not just with Antipholus and Dromio (both pairs played by a single pair of actors), but also with the rest of the cast: given that there were only eight performers, everyone was doubling up on parts. It was a riot: one actor literally leaping between Duke and merchant, delivering lines to himself. A lot of the humour in the play could get very uncomfortable (“Oh, look, the slave is getting hit again! How hilarious!”), but given that one of the Antipholuses is having a really rotten day, it somehow gets away with it. I think the last scene, in which the two Dromios reflect upon fraternal love, cuts through all of that, and you’re not left with a toe-curling feeling of schadenfreude (one reason I don’t much like Twelfth Night).
The design of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was 1920s: gramophones, teddy bears, jazz. The fairies, in rumpled dinner jackets and black masks, were louche and seedy and looked like they’d been up all night. The mechanicals (in aprons and bowler hats) were from Les Dawson’s version of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, and I never thought I’d find myself typing that. Oberon prefaced every piece of magic with the word, “Schwinnnggg!” which I don’t recall from reading, but which never stopped being funny. We watched it on a gloriously sunny afternoon, and although I do wonder whether it might have been more magical at an evening performance having the play unfold as the light faded, it was huge fun, the cast were uniformly brilliant, and I can’t complain one bit.
The weather changed around here practically overnight on September 1st. It’s still sunny, but the wind has picked up, and the light is suddenly disappearing much earlier. Ah well, I love autumn.