Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Bard at the Barracks

Last night C. and I went to a performance of Twelfth Night, part of the Bard in the Barracks series of outdoor performances of Shakespeare's plays. The plays are performed by NotaBle Acts, a Summer Theatre Company and Festival, using the old barracks in Officer's Square as their backdrop, hence the name; and it's a great set because the barracks has rooms accessible at ground level and two open balcony-walkways above, all of which were used to effect in last night's performance, as the barracks stood in for Countess Olivia's estate among other things.
It was a perfect, perfect night for it and the performance was outstanding. These are people who have been busy professional stage actors for years in some cases and decades in others and we are lucky they are all here to entertain us this summer. I only took a handful of pictures as I didn't want to distract the actors, and we were in the front row. In this image, Viola (disguised as a boy, Cesario), declares her master Duke Orsini's love to Countess Olivia.

Later, Cesario reports on "his" luck in winning Olivia's affections, as a young audience member watches intently. He was successful - but in all the wrong ways, as Olivia has fallen for him instead of the Duke.

Olivia has a quick-witted, tongue-twisting conversation with her fool, Feste, while the Puritan Malvolio watches disapprovingly from the background.

Having been tricked by a forged letter into thinking that Countess Olivia harbours feelings for him, Malvolio dons the garb requested in the letter - yellow stockings and crossed garters - and prepares to sweep her off her feet. Instead, he'll be mocked mercilessly by the ne'er-do-wells who set him up (Shakespeare really did not like Puritans, who would've loved to see his bawdy plays, as well as most forms of public entertainment, shut down) and eventually thrown into jail as a lunatic.

It was genuinely funny - you forget how, in the mouths of talented actors, Shakespearean English becomes immediately understandable, right down to the double-entendres and ribald jokes. That, plus given that the physical comedy skills of the company is outstanding, made for a laugh-out-loud performance.

I'm extremely pleased that C. suggested going. It was the most enjoyable thing I've done in a long time. Of course, what less would you expect from a play which opens with some of the loveliest words in the English language:
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!

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Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Ol' Will's work lends itself so well to alfresco, contemporary presentations, don't it? Mrs. Fort and I used to be regular attendees at the Shakespeare Santa Cruz performances just a few miles down the valley from Ft. Harrington at UC Santa Cruz. We used to, until Mrs. Fort enlivened the intermission at a performance a few years ago by tumbling down the stairs to our seat after intermission, breaking bones and the general atmosphere. After emergency transport to the hospital that time, she's somewhat reluctant to go back.

That's fine with me. As Sir John Harrington's yadda-yadda-grandson, I'm supposed to think of Will as a grandstander, anyway.

1:06 a.m.  

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