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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Scandal! Dare You Grow A Beard!

Bearrrrrrrded RA in stage play MacBeth of 2001. Please stare at beard, don´t read post.

Wanna hear gossip, scandal, slaunder?
This weekend I went to a play performed by English actors in Amsterdam
at the
Ho*lla*nd Fe*stiva*l
"The Scho*o*l for Sc*anda*l", an 18th century play by Sheridan

Yes ME, Miss ´Arris goes to theatre, me! (referring to Paul Gallico´s books)
Why? To prepare myself for the impact that The Rover would have on me.
Even if RA would not do this play, it will be a nice research.
Don´t get yourself fooled, folks. I was brought up with operas and operettes.
You´d never guess it, the British critics and audience didn´t like it! NOOOOOO! Well not all, but they DID have mixed opinions about it! And worse, they thought that modern dance music with flickerings of grafitti texts causing epileptic attacks between the costumised scenes and use of modern props would damage the whole concept of the SO BELOVED PLAY. And if that wasn´t bad enough.... every English man CAN TELL how this play should be performed! AWFUL!!! And what´s so lame, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that it was bad, because I read the reviews beforehand and still I wanted to see it. STUPID! Don´t rub it in, will you? I already paid for my ticket! YOU DID WHAT? I TELL

The Scho*o*l For Sca*nda*l played at the Ho*lla*nd Fe*stiva*l in Amsterdam.
It started with an introduction, followed by a fashion catwalk and picture taking, then the costumised stage play with surtitles in contemporary Dutch, ended with a meeting of the artist/director Debor@h W@rner.

Director Warner was very taken with the receivement here in Amsterdam. In the earlier introduction we were told how severe the English critics bashed her adaptation of the very popular play. This fact was repeated again in the meeting. She had even written a letter to the Gua*rdia*n to protest against the harsh critic that she ´kicked the tradition´. Even non critics in London, like people in their fourties had strong opinions how this play should be treated. The Dutch in the audience loved it that she kicked the English tradition. Warner called the Dutch receivement a ´warm bath´ and her face showed endurement and a slight relief that the critic could also be different. All Warner wanted was to throw this play against the wall and see what drops and what sticks against the wall. She treated this play as if it was a new play. For the Dutch it certainly was a new play. However brought threehundred years too late on Dutch ground, it gave an insight to that era, especially with the current economic crisis on our minds. According to Warner it is an era well worth exploring.


Warner explained that because the language of the play was not contemporary, the actors had to seek every fourth word in the dictionary. It was about 50 new words they had to learn. When I saw the play, I was seriously doubting my knowledge of English and peeked more than I wanted at the surtitle signs in Dutch. Sometimes I couldn´t understand a whole sentence.
The use of surtitles is a development Warner fears. She thinks The Globe (known for Shakespearian performances) would not get away with not using them eventually. The cast had to get accustomed to the use of surtitles in the handful of shows at the end of their tour over here in the Netherlands. 
My impression was that the cast brought the play with caution. At first I thought it had to do with the harsh critics in London. What she didn´t say was that the cast had to slow down in their speed to match the four seconds the text was shown on the signs. I preferred the speed of second half ´the payback time´ to the first half, ´the buildup´. Sometimes the punch of the joke on the signs was absorbed in the brain before the said line was finished on stage.
Would it be better to rewrite this play in contemporary English? Yes and no. Warner loved Sheridan´s Brechtians way of writing, because it was ´gentle´. The actors had trouble with syntax, most and foreall. They used to break the sentence in half, and were glad to make to the first half. Some phrases would come across better if they were written in modern language, to get the crowd roaring with laughter. Cutting this play down from 3,5 hours to 1,5 hour, now that would be really harsh.

Kicking the tradition

Warner kicked the tradition with Mary Quant-like shake ups of scene changes and effective use of modern clothes as deterior, and modern props as recognisable, when someone asks ´How do you know?´ and another whisks out a smart phone. Warner did not kick the tradition with the original play which had mild shock effect moments. She also approached the characters in an English way. Some were played enjoyably funny over the top, which is considered not done by Dutch serious actors who prefer playing imploded characters. So one Dutch audience member surprised Warner a bit with the compliment that it looked like ´Fawlty Towers´. To which Warner replied: ´Maybe that´s your perception of how you see the English´.

Will The Rover be more daring?

If others would do plays of this era, Warner hopes that they would be more daring,
after what she has caused.
My hope is that ETT finds a nice middle ground to be more daring.

Screencap: Bccmee, enlightened by moi


bccmee said...

Thank you for the beardy pic! Oh, were there words too?

Violet said...

Yes, the words were put there just for no reason. :)

Phylly3 said...

The play's the thing, eh? I wasn't sure if you actually liked it or not? I love live theatre but that play sounds a bit confusing.
I do love that picture of RA, so thank you for that! :)

Violet said...


Yes I liked the play and how it was performed. It contained three storylines and those were easy to follow. The oldfashioned language was at times difficult to understand. English is a second language to me and it took a lot of attention. Combined with the loud, bombastic music, I came home, knackered. Though I loved the pop-up settings and mix of period costumes and modern clothes. Usually you get period clothing with a period play. Or if a director wants to shake things up, modern clothing with period play or opera. Something I don´t like, because the escapism, going to a different era, attracts me to go to theatre. In this performance, the mix worked refreshingly.

Seeing a English play performed by English actors tastes like more. The acting is slightly different from Dutch acting. Warner´s remarks whisked me back into time and I felt the burden of the tradition when she spoke about it. Acting is gritty craftsmanship. I started dreaming if only I could see a more contemporary play, for instance with Martin Freeman, if I only could...

I just had to get my initial thoughts out of my head and wrote them down here. There are other thoughts left to explore. I didn´t want to make this post longer.

Wow, anough material for one post at least!

Anonymous said...

Pic terrific. (OK, I like beards. And stubble.)

Love classical theatre (and ballet). But theatre would die, if there were not always new interpretations and new modes of presentation,do you think?


Violet said...


True, and I agree with you, although I don´t mind a costumized performance, true to that era.

New interpretations and new modes of presentation can give a new perspective on a play, ballet or opera, even on a Robin Hood series. Those consist of modern language, clothes, decors. Whether or not the audience is willingly enough to accept the director´s interpretation within their range of expectations, proofs the succes of the performance. In the UK. critics, directors and audience tend to stick to tradition more. Or do the critics and directors have a substantial voice in the matter, more than in my country? Must say that as a nearly 40 year old, I was one of the youngsters in the Dutch theatre audience of an elite festival, although the new theatre management wants to attract a younger audience who is not afraid of modernities.