May 9th, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Frog and I saw Death of a Salesman at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last Friday – last time I went to the theatre was to see Othello back in 2009 so it was a bit of a treat!
Reading up on the play, I’m pretty astonished to find out it’s been around for over 60 years – I knew it was old but to have been on stage for that long is quite an achievement. I can see why – one of the first scenes involves the eldest (and prodigal) son Biff, talking about how he’d rather be working on a ranch somewhere than wasting his life in a City job, always hoping for something better. He talks about being a cog in the machine, and not even knowing you are, and he makes it sound like a waste of a life. He says if you know yourself, and stay true to yourself, you’re happier…even if it means turning your back on what people ‘expect’ you to do.
It’s really evocative of the despair some people feel once they’re trapped in the system, and it still resonates even today.
The acting was probably the best I’ve seen at the theatre, with a strong central cast. There are some quite physical scenes, and a lot of the scenes segue seamlessly into each other taking us back and forwards in time. Three hours went by really quickly, whereas before I’ve found plays to drag on a bit.
I totally recommend seeing Death of a Salesman- it’s on at the Playhouse till the 29th May.
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did what the other actors had to make an effort to do – convey meaning and emotion to a modern audience through outdated and difficult language.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?