There has been a theatre going frenzy. A fortnight ago Sarah and I went to see Amanda in Taming Of A Shrew in Stratford and last night Craig and I went to see a load of people we don’t know in David Edgar’s Testing The Echo.
It’s great that Amanda’s talents have been spotted by the Royal Shakespeare Company at last. Almost inevitably a combination of an unexpectedly early start time and rough Friday traffic led to us arriving just too late to be in our seats from the start and just in time to watch Amanda’s one really big scene on a monitor in the foyer. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn. Still, the blur that was her looked great and although it was tough to hear what she was saying, she was clearly getting a lot of laughs, which, in a Shakespearian comedy, I count as pretty good work.
Once in our seats we had an enjoyable time. The production was relentlessly up-tempo, full of physical business and big acting, but good none-the-less. Inevitably we were left mulling over whether that play can ever really be framed in such a way as to not be read as a misogynist tract? Why do people still bother staging it? If it was exactly the same script but without Shakespeare’s name on it would people still bother staging it?
We are very much looking forward to seeing Amanda in A Merchant Of Venice later in the run and engaging in similar discussions replacing misogyny with Anti-Semitism.
Testing The Echo was at Birmingham Rep and I was on my bike, so even though the show started even earlier there were no problems getting to our seats on time. Running at approximately 110 minutes straight through we were deprived of ice cream but had plenty of time to convene a mini-Critics Corner at the Tap and Spile.
Essentially the consensus runs something like: we like David Edgar, we think he’s sound and we also think he does good jokes. This felt a bit like an early draft script. We could imagine a later version with a number of strands cut and others pursued further. Crucially we thought the production didn’t serve the text at all well. There seemed a fundamental miss-match between a script that was nuanced and relatively open, and a production style that harked back to Agit-Prop. The script explores the complexity around notions of British Citizenship whilst the production tries to make things simple.
We should probably have stayed to say those things at the Official After-Show Discussion. Has anyone ever been to a really good Official After-Show Discussion?