Monday, 14 January 2008

Frailty, thy name is snowman

Before I write about this evening's entertainment, some electioneering. Ravelry is currently taking votes for the first annual "Bobbys", celebratory awards for the best of 2007's knitting achievements. The fabulous Knitterrooney is up for "Most Unusual Project 2007" with her incredible Yarngina. And if that's not Most Unusual, I don't know what is. It's on Ravelry here, and the voting thread is here - there are some crazy other projects on there, but (trying to be unbiased here) nothing quite as surprising as a human-sized vagina costume. There's YouTube footage here and here. So if you're on Ravelry, go and vote by clicking "agree" to post 28 of that thread, and if you're not on Ravelry, why the hell not?

Back to blogging. More alternative theatre tonight - we aren't usually this cultured. Lotta, finger on the pulse as ever, found out before Christmas about a theatre troop called The Factory, who perform semi-secret shows, only letting people know about upcoming performances a couple of days in advance as communicated via their Facebook group, and only selling tickets on a first-come-first-served basis on the night. The actors only find out which part they're going to act immediately before the performance, based on the results of audience-participation Scissors Paper Stone. The only props they are allowed are those that the audience bring, no matter how silly. They are currently doing Hamlet, and when we found out there were performances this week, we had to go see.

The show was at the tiny Pacific Playhouse in Southwark, possibly slightly smaller than my lounge. We gathered there early, so early in fact that we were the first ones there to put our names on the list. Lotta was props mistress, which is clearly her calling in life as she had some inspired items for us to take in - loo rolls, silly sunglasses, a plastic bead necklace, a Santa hat, and a cuddly toy snowman. We were instructed to take folding chairs and sit anywhere in the room, including right in the middle. After character assignment, we were asked to hold our props in the air so the actors could make a mental note of them in order to grab them off our laps as required, then the play began.

Much to my cynical surprise, they were brilliant. Just really really good. I'd imagined that it would be enough of a feat to learn multiple parts for this (being Shakespeare's longest play), let alone deliver them well, not even factoring in the random props. They did it perfectly, with so much life. The actors were all in casual clothes but performed with such passion, and the glory of the language just shone through. I hate the fact that we make schoolchildren study the written text of Shakespeare's plays, they are so dry and dusty on the page, with the archaic spellings setting such a high mental barrier (and not one that isn't worth overcoming, of course, but I'm talking about making children interested in the first place). Performed, the plays are so beautifully written, so vivid, with such linguistic joy. If only we could make people come and see this kind of performance, as some kind of educational rite of passage. Added to which, the cast were right there walking amongst us in our chairs, which, incidentally, we moved around into different formations between acts, including a foray into the alley outside for Act III. Their use of the props was inventive and genuinely funny, such tricks as having Horatio and Marcellus swear their oath of secrecy to Hamlet after he first sees his father's ghost by rubbing a balloon against their hair and making it stick to a wall to show their fidelity. Genius.

I really hope these actors get whatever breaks they want, they are all ace. I'd have been genuinely impressed with this performance even without the randomised nature. Given the circumstances, they were just incredible. Compared to the only other Hamlet I've seen, a formal version in the open air at Opera Holland Park (all champagne picnics in the park during the interval, dressing up, and peacocks calling) which was declaimed in true stuffy thespian style, this was a breath of fresh air and hugely enjoyable.

One minor star of the show was Lotta's snowman, who ended up "playing" the image of the dead King Hamlet, and so appeared on and off through most of the play, looking most cute indeed. Here he is, still just about willing to pose with his fans after the show. He won't deign to speak to us later, I'm sure.

Remember, we knew him before he was famous.


stash haus said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! I REALLY wish we had that kind of theatre here. The nearest we have is APT - go to - an outdoor theater. But definitely not as laid back or as fun as what you've been a part of.

Ginger Lucy said...

Love the costumes on that site, and especially the actress in the Elizabethan dress standing on the pickup truck!