In 2006, I managed to see a pitiful two shows during the RSC’s Complete Works. On a whim, I went to see Ninagawa’s Japanese translation of my favourite Shakespeare play, Titus Andronicus (I realise it’s not a typical “favourite” but what’s not to love about a play in which a character takes revenge on the Queen by killing her sons and making her eat them in a pie?!). It worked perfectly; the play’s themes of revenge, family loyalty and violence simply fall into place in a Japanese setting. There were some startling touches, especially the red ribbons that replaced Lavinia’s cut-out tongue and dismembered arms. It was a shame that so few people made the effort to cope with the English surtitles.
Then I took Chris to see the genius Tamsin Greig as Beatrice (my all time favourite Shakespearean character) in Much Ado About Nothing, a sultry, sexy interpretation, set in 1950s Cuba. It was the best introduction I could have given him to the RSC.
And finally, this weekend, I got to see Sir Ian McKellen in King Lear following its transfer to the New London Theatre. I don’t want to say that I was underwhelmed by it but…well, I was. I think I’d built it up a little too much and it would never have lived up to my expectations. I’d also forgotten how bloody long that play is and how little happens in that time. However, there was a moment, when Lear is at his most elderly and senile, when he holds Cordelia and says “You do me wrong to take me out o’th’grave / Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound / Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears / Do scald like molten lead” that was delivered so perfectly by McKellen that I had to catch my breath. That alone was worth the wait for me (and the price of the ticket and the four hours spent in an insufferably hot theatre).
And, yes, McKellen takes off all of his clothes, as a rather scathing Germaine Greer explains in her very brutal review here. And, yes, the Fool (played by Sylvester McCoy) is hanged on stage and, no, it’s not all that pleasant to watch. Particularly as he’s left hanging for part of the interval, which rather put me off my ice cream.
Anyway, we used it as an excuse to spend a couple of days in London. We stayed at the lovely Dolphin Square in Pimlico (courtesy of LateRooms.com), went to the new St. Pancras Station, drank at the longest champagne bar in Europe (which was shorter than I’d hoped), ate at a nice Turkish restaurant near Borough Market, did some touristy stuff around the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, St. James’s Park and Buckingham Palace and caught up with Jane and Ben.