A plague upon you all


Strange time, people, strange times.


I owe you all two reviews – one of &Juliet and one of Upstart Crow, both of which I saw earlier this year, back when going to theatre was still a thing (remember that?). But then things happened, and things happened, and a few more things happened, and here we are – I almost don’t want to write them in case they turn out to be the last actual theatre shows I review.

The creative world is, however, ever inventive. Not to mention it seems to have a lot more free time than me. And we are therefore by no means starved of Shakespeare-related culture even as we are starved of our usual social lives.

Filmed productions

A large number of theatres have been spurred to put their filmed productions online. I hope you all have caught some of the National Theatre’s offerings to date (this week was Twelfth Night, and future Shakespearean offerings include the gorgeous Antony and Cleopatra – watch for Sophie Okonedo’s stunning wardrobe and hang around for her even more sublime Cleo*). If you prefer things a little more authentic the Globe is also putting up productions, starting with its 2009 Romeo and Juliet. If you prefer things a little more American, the Stratford Festival is also putting up one show a week.**

If you prefer things a bit more public broadcaster, the Beeb has combined with the RSC to put up a number of its shows, including Much Ado About Nothing but with a different Beatrice to my viewing, which I might check out. If you prefer to pay, Marquee TV has a host of delights including the Donmar Warehouse’s epic Shakespeare Trilogy, and both Amazon Prime and Netflix have a number of recorded stage productions alongside their more traditional film offerings.

A whole host of other, smaller companies (such as Oddsocks and the Handlebards) are also putting shows online to try and help soften the hammer-blow that is the loss of their summer season – if you know of any, please do add them in the comments. And do make a donation if you can.

New productions

Not content with merely reviving what they already have, a number of groups are actively managing to put on new shows for our delight. I am most in awe of The show Must Go Online – doing a weekly reading of a Shakespeare play, with an international cast (and a Blue Peter-ish approach to props), live, over the internet. I haven’t caught one yet but I plan to binge the Henry VIs (all three of them!) very soon, and I can’t decide if I’ll be happy or sad if quarantine is lifted before they get to Henry VIII which is, naturally, last on the list. Shakescenery are putting up cue-script productions – which makes a hell of a lot of sense, actually – one-to-one rehearsals being far easier to manage via Skype*** than huge crowds…

New Media

For added meta-commentary, and the chance to interact more directly with the instigators – the fabulous Good Tickle Brain and friends are watching Shakespearean films and tweeting along – check out the hashtag #SATM (Shakespeare at the Movies). Their commentary on Anonymous was almost enough to make me want to watch the film with them (but not quite), while Shakespeare in Love was almost as good as the film itself. At the more highbrow end, Peter Kirwan (noted Shakespearean scholar) watched Cheek by Jowl’s A Winter’s Tale and extracted an awful lot more from it than I did. And there’s always the fun of Shakespeare Sunday.

None of it replicates the thrill of live theatre – but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing. Stay at home and stay safe, peeps.

* Having seen both the Shakespeares already, I was most excited to catch Treasure Island – which I’d got halfway through at a festival and then wandered off to catch the Bookshop Band, or possibly a live crossword or somesuch, but when I left Jem and Long John Silver had kissed and my god for 5 years I’ve been wondering where that was going. The answer was nowhere, people. NOWHERE. I’m very glad I didn’t take that weekend trip to Antwerp to see it in a cinema there a few years ago. Although on the other hand, at least I would also have got a trip to Antwerp out of it.

** I can’t decide whether to watch and get enthused for a future visit or if it will cause even more pangs of Torschlusspanik for all the places I thought I still had time to get to! On the other hand, one of the plays on their schedule of releases is Timon of Athens which I do need to cross off my list…

*** Other teleconferencing solutions are available. Please don’t mention *them* in the comments…

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