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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism

Rosenberg, James
Notes and discussion: looking for the third world: theatre report from England,   pp. [437]-444 PDF (6.6 MB)

Page 441

intellectual conceits which often does not survive translation into the flesh
and blood of
the theatre, and what it emerged as here was merely an illustration of the
banality of the banal.
If DR. FAUSTUS was ultimately a bore, TROILUS AND CRESSIDA could scarcely
called dull - although it has been called just about everything else - and
those who
saw it are not apt to quickly forget it. I count myself among its minority
of admirers,
only because it seems to me that the director - John Barton, in this case
- fully
accepted the implications of monstrousness, ugliness, and incompatibility
in the text,
whereas most directors, in dealing with this most intractable of plays, strive
to avoid or to reconcile them. I don't think I have ever seen such a successful
manifestation of what I take to be Shakespeare's central thesis, that man's
sexual and
warlke natures are inextricably intertwined, both of them representing savage
of whatever is good in the human condition, and both of them ultimately lying
the reach of rational analysis. The result was scarcely a pleasant or comforting
in the theatre, but it was in many ways an indelible one, and I am not put
off by
the fact that a large part of the box office support for this (in every sense
of the
word) queer production came from that segment of the population which has
flocked to
BAND. It is well perhaps to be reminded that Shakespeare is not always square,
and a Classic, and that modern writers are breaking no new ground in portraying
some of the great heroes of history as raging homosexuals and perverts in
their private
life. Here we have a sort of God's plenty of the world of the Marquis de
Sade and
Sacher-Masoch: a screaming faggot of an Achilles, in blonde wig and "drag"
(and yet, curiously, in Alan Howard's portrayal, not altogether the grotesque
such a description might suggest); male warriors, both Greek and Trojan,
parading about
stripped down to G-strings; a Cressida who flits from romantic naivete to
sluttishness, with no attempt to explain or to mediate between the disparities;
a Thersites (by Norman Rodway, the Edmund of LEAR and the Don Pedro of MUCH
whose emphasis is on ugliness rather than comedy; and a brilliantly-realized
Pandarus  441
(by David Waller, a stolid Kent in LEAR and a disappointingly unfunny Dogberry
MUCH ADO, but here so marvelously "right" as to silence all criticism).
Finally, though, the triumph of the Stratford season was, for me, their MUCH
never one of my favorite plays, but here - in a gorgeously articulated and
seamless production - adding up to that rarest of commodities on the current
joy. I had never realized, until seeing this production, that the transition
of Beatrice
and Benedick from the adolescent world of kidding and badinage to the adult
of the deathly seriousness of the Claudio-Hero plot could be, not just credible,
somehow moving, nor am I put off by those veteran Stratfordites who lament
Janet Suzman and Alan Howard fall pitiably short of the great days of Sir
John Gielgud
and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. I have a hunch that these same people will, in ten
twenty years, be complaining that MUCH ADO has lost much of the sparkle it
had back
in '68, in the great days of Dame Janet and Sir Alan! The ultimate triumph
of this
production, however, is that it in no way depends on individual performers
performances but is, in every sense of the word, a total vindication of that
misused term, "ensemble acting," and in a way which is not true
of any of the other
RSC productions, so that what is often in danger of seeming like a rather
silly and
ill-constructed plot suddenly comes together to make perfect sense and to
offer us
a coherent, complete, and somehow tender view of the human condition. And
what more,
after all, can one ask? It may not be the greatest art, but it is so perfect
of its
kind as to make criticism sound like super-sophisticated carping.
As for the National, the most interesting of their productions which I saw
was their
EDWARD 11 (Brecht, not the Marlowe), although their most prestigious success
undoubtedly been ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN. While this is clearly the
most internationally successful British play since THE HOMECOMING - and each
re-viewing of it increases my respect for it, and my feeling that there is

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