Monkeys are smart. Though they haven't created cars or trains or weapon, they are educated through simplicity. They flourish on what they have, and if something doesn't work, they don't give up, but they evolve to overcome it. Like monkeys, Shakespeare had no thesaurus, no dictionary, no laptop and no editor. But when he came to a spot where he was at loss for words, he made up his own words. Through practice, perseverance and certainly trial and error, he created works that will last forever.

I am a 13 year old kid who is trying to read and attend live performances of all 37 Shakespeare plays (plus 3 possible collaborations) in 2 years. This is a record of my experiences.

I am now a 19 year old college freshmen at Northwestern University, pursuing a degree in Theatre. The spark of love for Shakespeare that began this blog has grown into a roaring fire. That fire burns a little bit brighter each day. This is where it all began.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Merry Wives of Windsor, Festival Hall, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Ontario


      Sir John Falstaff. The very name is enough to send some folks into fits of laughter. The oafish, grumbling character pleased England's Queen so much that after seeing Henry IV parts I & II, she ordered Shakespeare to write another play solely for Falstaff. Hence this play. Though not generally thought to be anywhere near the stature of The Henrys, it does provide some gags and jokes. However to really make it worth watching it demands something more than what is written in the text. Regardless, whether it's effects, style, or anything else out of the ordinary.

This production chose costumes, more subtle than many other options, yet strikingly effective. All of the characters, and even the set, seemed as if they had just flowed out of the pages of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Each character was dressed in the garments which fit the stereotype for his/her social class.
The lords were like Sherlock or Watson, the servants as commoners, the ladies as gentlewomen and the thieves as regular London drunkards. This made many of the lines which are usually dull funny not because of what was said but because of who said it. To hear such proper figures spewing such nonsense was very original.

The actor who most brought this out was Master Ford. His lordly countenance was transformed into a wronged nobleman who could well have just been cheated by commoners with half his stature. He tugged at his neatly combed hair and began to shrink his practiced, formal posture down to that of a hunchback. This physical change accented the visual focus of the performance quite brilliantly. Meanwhile Anne Page was the model of a chaste, young English maiden. Her sweet, accepting tone sounded like a canary’s song.
 This countenance was maintained even when talking to utter fools such as her suitors. She ignored their idiotic attempts to seem manly, yet seemingly acknowledged them. This made her seem the ultimate polite daughter, disguising her ulterior, individual motives. 

Finally, of course, Falstaff. His jolly guffaw echoed throughout the hall like the roar of a triumphant lion across an African plane. His childish whining pierced the ear like a needle through cloth. His air of arrogance, coupled with his tight courtiers attire could have had him looking like a true knight. That is, if his mountainous stomach had not pushed his buttons to the point where it appeared a wonder they did not snap right off. His loose fitting hat clung comically to his dwarfish, pudgy face. His beard hung from his chin in an untamed mess. When he spoke, his timing was so impeccable that it seemed as if he were in a movie. Each joke had such a precisely crafted pause or action before the punch line that he often got laughs before finishing his thought. He seemed a cartoon in the world of the real.
 He is an unruly outlier in a very controlled atmosphere.

Seeing this performance really changed my view of the play. It showed me the true comedy in it that the text doesn't reveal. Especially since it was performed on a stage which had the old wood of an antique shop, the grandeur of a palace and the versatility and comfort of an old British cottage. I would see it if possible, but if not, just remember not to give up on this play. It really can be worth it

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