Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kill Claudio

I must have been around 17 years old and was in the audience on a school trip when Maggie Smith's Beatrice spoke these words to Robert Stephens' Benedict.

A pause and a silence that you could have cut with a knife.

As a comedy, Much Ado about Nothing has a dark side. The male rage and vitriol (including that of her much-loved father) heaped upon Hero after her faithfulness is questioned, for one thing. It reminded me of present day newspaper stories about honour killings. Shakespeare did seem to have a fixation on cuckoldry and you wonder (well I do) whether he subscribed to the attitudes he bestows on some of his male characters.

Then I think that he has to have the benefit of the doubt. Any man who can create a such a human, stroppy Beatrice must be all right. She and Benedict are equals, each gradually dismantling their own defences against the possibility of love (with a little help from their friends of course).

Much Ado came to an open air performance in our town last week courtesy of a touring theatre company. Four men and two women, covering several roles each (Beatrice was also Dogberry!). It was played for laughs and the goal was entertainment, text interspersed with asides and banter with the audience. We were eating out of the actors' hands after the first two minutes for they were genuinely funny. A relaxed, enjoyable evening but somehow the light/dark qualities of the play stood out all the more because of it.

Beatrice and Benedict will be OK. Claudio and Hero are heading for the divorce courts.

....

The night was dark and close and warm. I was the only one walking home, but this isn't a problem here. Houses and gardens. Trees. High hedges. A stream. A pub with drinkers sitting in the gardens, talking and laughing. Several cars went by, then for the last ten minutes, silence. Just the sound of my own steps. Friends were unavailable or away and I was glad I had pushed through reserve and inertia to go to the play on my own - not something that comes easily however often I do it.

I opened the front door and went indoors, locking up behind me.

11 comments:

Sky said...

except on vacation in florida as a child i have never been to an amphitheater for an open air performance and can hardly wait to do it. in atlanta we had symphonies in the park during summer and that was fun (except too hot in the south!) since we lay on blankets and had picnics during the evening.

you are brave to walk home at night alone. those last 10 mins would be very hard for me and my heart would have been beating differently, i am sure. i am glad you are safe there.

mm said...

Sky: You'll enjoy it, I promise

Re safety, the one time I was mugged it was in a well lit, middle-class, area of London, almost on my front door step. Since then I've tended to think that providing you take reasonable precautions you have to put yourself in the hands of fate. If I stop doing things I enjoy then they've won!

herhimnbryn said...

You saw Smith AND Stephens. Envy, envy. There is something quite magical about UK outdoor Shakespeare(even in the rain in my experience).

Going by yourself is always a 'push', but mostly it is worthwhile.

mm said...

HHB: Yes, I was so lucky. :-)

Can't remember whether they were married at the time but they were definitely an item. You could tell. Such chemistry.

Dale said...

Ah, that's one of my favorite comedies. I used to have a hard time with the honor killings stuff in Shakespeare until I read a fair amount of the Spanish drama from the generation before, which directly or indirectly begat a lot of Shakespeare's plots. If Shakespeare seems to have a fixation, the Spaniards seem downright demented. Play after play after play. You start wondering if they ever thought about anything but infidelity and how to avenge it.

mm said...

Dale: I was hoping you might drop by on this one! Thanks for that bit of perspective and context.

tarakuanyin said...

How much fun! I'm envious.

I used to walk everywhere in Ireland, including at night -- or else I'd ride my horse. I had a reflective jacket for the purpose. It's hard to get out of the habit over here, even having lived here 24 years. I walk my dogs on the walkway behind my house in the dark, even though down the street there's an apartment complex that's known for meth dealers and gang members. The one concession I've made is that I rarely walk that far down if it's dark. And I hope my tiny dogs will protect me! Hey, one of them's a Jack Russell, with the heart of a Rotweiler. I'm definitely safe. :-)

leslee said...

Sounds wonderful, MM, glad you went. I'm alone today - holiday weekend here in the US, but I wanted to leave some free time. At least I saw a friend last night and have plans with friend tomorrow, making today's solitude feel more at ease. Always hard to find the balance.

I love Maggie Smith. How lucky you were to see her live.

I saw the movie "Vicky Christina Barcelona" last night - not sure if it's open there now. Woody Allen directed, with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and a couple of American actors. But Bardem and Cruz, especially Cruz, stole the show. It was Woody Allen meets Pedro Almodovar. In a good way. ;-)

mm said...

Tky: I think once you've got the habit of walking out and about whenever the need arises, it's hard to do otherwise. And dogs, I am sure, are a deterrent to anyone up to no good .....

Leslee: I'm with you on the balance thing. Hope your holiday weekend was good.

I don't think the film has opened yet. We have a good arts centre here that regularly shows foreign and independent films so I will keep my eyes open. I've been a fan of Penelope C ever since "Volver".

Dick said...

How lucky you were to see Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in the roles. Who better to carry across what you so accurately present as the darkness within in 'Much Ado'.

mm said...

Dick: Thanks. Even as a self-absorbed teenager I realised I was seeing something special .....