July 1st, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The Leeds Shakespeare Festival has been an ongoing theme on this blog ever since it ran into some health and safety/funding issues last year and never took place. I’m glad to say that this year, Leeds City Council have decided to be sensible and the 14th (almost) annual festival is going ahead in July and August
March 19th, 2009 § 2 Comments
Disgraceful Rider took Frog and I to see Othello last week at the Playhouse – she’s pretty into theatre and my brother volunteers at the Carriageworks in town, but I’m sad to say I don’t tend to go. I’m not sure if it’s money- tickets are usually well over £20 which is a lot – or if I just don’t know enough about theatre to make an informed choice. You know what you’re getting with Shakespeare though – tragic characters, bawdy jokes and language you barely understand.
Also, Lenny Henry was playing the eponymous role.
The house was full which was great – everyone sort of hushed when Lenny walked on stage. He’s huge in person, about twice the size of anyone else on stage and that allowed him to command the space without doing a lot. The other actors would gesticulate to emphasise the action (useful when you understand half of what they say) but one thing I noticed was that Lenny stood still. His voice and his stage presence actually did what the other actors had to make an effort to do – convey meaning and emotion to a modern audience through outdated and difficult language.
Iago, played by Conrad Nelson, was particularly good, as was Emilia played by Maeve Larkin. Both had a way of speaking that held your attention and a three hour play didn’t seem that long at all. Iago was thoroughly unlikeable, plotting and scheming to bring about Othello’s downfall whilst his young wife Desdemona innocently played the catalyst to her own murder and Othello’s fate. At least, that’s what I thought until I read the programme. It turns out that Desdemona only looked innocent – she’d deceived her father to marry Othello, flirted with his lieutenant and carelessly lost a gift from her husband that he thought meant everything to her. Iago only told Othello the truth.
I wondered when I was watching the play – Othello is a ‘Moor’ – did Shakespeare mean an Arab or an African (i.e. a black guy)? Europe was pretty racist back in the day (to put it mildly) but was this the case in Shakespeare’s time? When did the notion that white people were superior really take off?
Was Shakespeare more accepting of facts – that black people could, and did, have high status – at the expense of common sensibilities? After all, as a playwright he got to push boundaries – why not write a black role into a play, in a society where actors had to be white?
July 23rd, 2008 § 6 Comments
The British Shakespeare Company website has been on my favourite’s list for months as I waited for tickets to be released for the Leeds Shakespeare Festival. I went in 2006 to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Wayne Sleep, Mina Anwar and Sean Brosnan – it was fantastic – a beautiful setting, lovely evening and playful performance.
This year I wanted to take my boyfriend to see it so I kept checking back for tickets. It seems however there’s been a problem with Leeds City Council refusing funding. They also cite ‘health and safety’ and ‘security’ concerns as further reasons why the performance can’t go ahead…because 13 successful years aren’t enough proof it’s a good idea.
I think Leeds City Council have made a weak decision – they’ve stopped a performance that hundreds of people enjoy rather than reaching into their pockets. To blame ‘health and safety’ is simply ridiculous.
You can find the Shakespeare Company’s own update here.