Archive | June, 2012

Glass barrier

30 Jun

I’ve been running around like a crazy person for almost a month now, trying to find some time to finally write a new post. So little time, and Shakespeare’s still here, more, more and more of him. But I never want more, I always want it all, simply everything, so I just packed my things and left for London. I thought I’d be lost the very second I arrived, but it was just the other way round, London seemed to be just the right place for me, it felt like home. I spent the most of the first day just walking around the city, to see what it’s like, and the next day I was waiting in line in the Riverside Studios to see “The Rest is Silence” which is a production brought by Dreamthinkspeak company as a part of the World Shakespeare Festival and the LIFT festival as well. I guess everybody knows that I truly love “Hamlet”, and I’m always scared that when this play is staged, something might go wrong. And it’s “Hamlet”, I want it to be perfect. And so this time I was scared too, and I was surrounded by darkness, all alone with my silly fear. Waiting for Hamlet to appear in the darkness wasn’t scary at all; actually it was really exciting. The doors opened about ten minutes before the performance, I went inside, and I saw a huge square hall with walls made of mirrors and a mirror on the ceiling. At least these seemed to be mirrors, though I knew they weren’t, these were a kind of walls made of glass, and on the other side of the glass were the actors. I was looking around, waiting for the first scene. And there it was. Just for a moment, all that was around was darkness, and then a film was screened on the glass and we saw the dying king of Denmark. We were watching him carefully, but then the lights went on in one of the rooms, and Claudius appeared in front of our eyes. He woke up, scared to death by what he saw in his dreams. The lights went on in other rooms as well, and we could watch Ophelia, Laertes, Gertrude and Polonius getting ready for the day. But Hamlet was sitting on his bed, looking blindly at some remote spot, he had tears in his eyes as he remained silent.
Many scenes were staged simultaneously, the actors were talking to each other while they were in different rooms, or running from one room to another, or talking at the same time. And I was running across the hall, looking them in the eyes, watching their moves, until I finally faced Hamlet. His face was no further than half a metre away from mine, and I was looking at him when he put gun to his head. I knew that Hamlet wasn’t going to kill himself, he might have wanted to die, but he just couldn’t commit suicide. And so I knew he wasn’t going to hurt himself, but I put my hands on my chest, I must have looked as if I was praying. Hamlet put the gun down, and for a second I was relieved, but soon he aimed it at the room across the hall. The room where Claudius and Gertrude were dancing, they were drunk and seemed to be happy. But then a shiver went down my spine when I was watching the gun being aimed at them and me as I was standing right in front of Hamlet.
The actors were so close to the audience, everything seemed to be so real. The only boundary between reality and fiction was the glass wall. But even though the glass was some kind of a barrier, it didn’t affect the emotions. When Ophelia drowned, her body was floating on the river, passing right past us, and then on the mirror on the ceiling. We could see her pale face. There were many scenes that were simply breathtaking, but two of them were my favourite. The first one of my favourites is (of course) the “To be or not to be…” monologue. This time it wasn’t just Hamlet speaking, every single character was saying these words. They were reading letters, they weren’t speaking at the same time. And once again, I was standing right in front of Hamlet, whispering the monologue with him, taking short breaths, nearly crying. My heart was pounding, everything was so close, so intense. But I was even more moved by the closing scene, seeing it, I was practically choking on my tears. The characters were dying right in front of my eyes, and even though I’ve seen this scene hundreds of times, this time it was different. I felt sorry for them, and I was angry with them. Instead of focusing on the play, I was thinking about the characters as if they were people that I know. And just then it wasn’t “Hamlet” that I loved, it was Hamlet, the person whom I looked in the eye.

photo: Jim Stephenson for Dreamthinkspeak
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In the garden of Shakespeare

5 Jun

Roses are red, violets are blue, cashew are nuts, and so are you… But no worries, it’s not a bad thing to be nuts, and when it comes to artists, they all are. I think Walter Crane might have been nuts, too. But he was a genius, and his works are amazing.
Do we know what kind of flowers Shakespeare had in his garden? Roses, or maybe violets? Who knows, his own garden withered a long time ago, but we still ‘have’ the flowers he used in his plays. Clearly it would have been too easy for mr Crane to paint just an ordinary Shakespeare’s garden, why do that when you can change the flowers into human beings! The beautiful illustrations by Crane were inspired by the motif of flowers in Shakespeare’s works and present the personification of certain flowers and herbs, but the plants are there, too. The pictures are just wonderful: magical, colourful. And the gorgeous figures peep out from the illustrations…
I’ve been looking through the pictures over and over again and I think I need to read all the plays once again… I don’t think I noticed any of these plants! And there are quite a lot of them: holly, daffodil, violet, primrose, lily, lavender, mint, rosemary, pansy, columbine, thyme, wheat, rye, barley, strawberry, nettle, hawthorne bush, blackberry… I’m getting lost in all these names. All the pictures gathered together – it seems like quite a big collection, no wonder a whole book was made. And it’s a book that you can skim millions of times and never be bored. Crane made the Shakespearean world seem even more enchanting, he made all the symbols of the flowers and herbs unite in a story that is like a fairytale.

But that’s not everything yet, there’s more! It is widely known that Shakespeare is just everywhere, influencing and inspiring people. So when we leave the illustrated book at home, we can go to a real Shakespeare’s garden. In such a garden, walking around is just like wandering along the paths of your favourite plays, guessing which plant comes from what play. And I guess it is not surprising at all: Shakespeare’s gardens are known as a perfect place for a rendezvous or even a wedding ceremony… After all, Shakespeare’s magic makes love bloom!