Sunday, April 24, 2016

To be or...

It is I - Hamlet the Dame!
Never act with Children or Animals or...
Toasted The Bard with English Champagne last light and then watched The RSC Shakespeare Live show (on TV alas) because Judi was in it. There were some real delights but the most enjoyable by far was the To be or not to be sketch.

If you have access to iPlayer and it's still available watch here from about 1:25 and you won't need to read on!

The current RSC Hamlet Paapa Essiedu comes on stage to deliver the famous soliloquy but is almost immediately interrupted by Tim Minchin who says that he should emphasise the "or" more heavily. Gamely Essiedu tries this but then Ben Cumberbach comes on picking a different word. Minchin at first doesnt recognise him: "who are you?" "O I'm an actor" and then it dawns on him that he's in the presence of a Movie Star - Eddie Redmaine! The successively Harriet Walter, David Tennant, Rory Kinnear and Ian McKellen all come on and all naturally pick a different word to hit (McKellen greeting Cumberbatch with a casual "Hi, Eddie").  As each bigger and bigger star arrives the volume of applause on entry grows louder and when Judi comes on carrying a skull the crowd goes wild!  "Who are you?" asks Minchin to which Judi gives a withering look and the immortal reply "It is I, Hamlet the Dame."

Finally "might I have a word?" enquires Prince Charles and offers his own take.  Asked afterwards what it was like acting with Prince Charles Helen Mirren and Judi Dench apparenly said, well you know what they say: "never act with children or animals ... or Prince Charles."

Another delight was that David Suchet was paired with Judi for the final scene from Midsummer Night's Dream - with David Tennant doing office as Puck!

The influence of Shakespeare is so extraordinary on art, literature and history. When I wrote an article on Why is the UK such a great place for Innovation for the Harvard Business Review China I began with Shakespeare and he had an enormous impact on shaping the UK and our view of ourselves, securing and cementing the Elizabethan settlement which is the foundation of the dominance of the Anglosphere. And of course his final works were for James I and helped cement the union of the crowns and pave the way for the United Kingdom.

No-one but a woking actor could have written these plays and it is totally absurd to suggest that some other "educated" person wrote them. Indeed the hilarious No Bed for Bacon by Carol Brahms and Skid Simon (who was a great bridge player that my father knew) suggests that any stylistic resemblances between Shakespeare and Bacon would be because Shakespeare occasionally polished up Bacon's work. It also suggests that Malvolio was a direct satire on Bacon and that Bacon planted rumors of his authorship of Shakespeare as a revenge.

There will be many more celebrations in this Shakespeare Year but this was a wonderful start.

No comments: