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Love Electroshock

6 Jul

I went to Roundhouse right after seeing “The Taming of the Shrew” at Shakespeare’s Globe. When I got there, I was already tired and sore, after all I spent the past three hours standing in front of the stage, in sunshine and in rain. But I needed some more energy for the next performance, “The Dark Side of Love”, so I sat down for a moment and then got back to the magical world, to meet the three legendary couples: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia, Othello and Desdemona.
I was the first one to enter the promenade – Dorfman Hub. I went inside and I was absorbed by the new, wild world. The flashing, bright lights dazzled me for a second. I felt like I could see the voltage flares. I went under a ‘human bridge’ – one of the actors put his hands and feet against the brick walls of a narrow corridor. The electro music was slowly dragging me into some world of insanity. I didn’t know where to go, where to look. The corridor was round, and all of doorways were covered with torn sheets. I peeped through one of the tears in a sheet, I saw a young girl. She stood there in darkness, in pouring rain. She did hold an umbrella in her hand, but it looked rather like a frame consumed by fire, so it couldn’t protect her from the raindrops. Right in front of her, there was a small table. And on the table was a heart. My eyes were running from the umbrella to the heart, then back to the umbrella… I just couldn’t focus on what she was saying, so I went to the next doorway. I stopped there and I heard someone taking short breaths and rubbing his hands. He was right behind by back. I turned to him and found myself standing face to face with a tall, young man wearing a suit. But he wasn’t elegant. His hair was a mess, his face was dirty, and he was barefoot. He didn’t say anything, but he was looking around nervously, rocking. I went back to the doorway, and the second I got there, a beautiful girl ran towards me and stopped no further than 2 inches away from my face. She looked me in the eye and kept shouting in a language that I didn’t understand. And I was just standing right there, shocked, waiting for her to go away. When she did that, I went on. I went past a boy playing a piano, a girl speaking through a megaphone and got back to the point where I first started my journey – under the ‘human bridge’.
And then I heard my most beloved words “To be or not to be…”. On the floor, just near me, sat a girl who was watching all the passers-by, and asking herself the answerless question, wondering if killing herself would be fun. I was listening to her, trying to detect the parts of her lines that actually come from “Hamlet”. I was listening to her, but after a while her voice was drowned out by the sound of metal hitting the cement floor. Just a few metres away was a boy kneeling on the floor, he was wearing a gas mask. He was throwing mines on the floor, moving them around, playing with them as if he was playing draughts. I squatted just near him when he took off his mask, and I was looking at his face when suddenly someone grabbed my arm. I thought it was someone from the staff, moving me to some other place so that I wouldn’t be in the way, but my heart stopped when I was dragged into a dark doorway. It was that barefooted boy, practically carrying me all the way to an unknown place, holding me tight and whispering “Shhhh…”. Then he just pushed me through a tear in one of the sheets and there I was in a small, round hall, watching a film screened on large cloth.
When the actors tore the cloth, somebody started screaming. And we were surrounded. Surrounded by teenagers in love. Girls with boys, boys with boys, girls with girls. Dancing, laughing. They created some kind of relation between them and the audience. We were keeping the balance, getting closer, moving away. We were watching the pain of these young people, the hard falls of their first love. So much pain. So much violence. “You’re my air”, one of the girls said these words to a boy, and the next moment she was on the floor, pushed away by her dearest love. I was trying to turn my back on everything that was going on, but the image of contempt just wouldn’t get out of my head. I felt tears coming to my eyes, I held my breath, unable to control my crazy heart. And then I saw a heart, a real one, a dead one. A thin boy came out of the dark doorway, holding the heart in his hand, blood was dropping on the floor. He put the heart in a jar filled with water, and then they all disappeared.
It’s just a performance, it’s just theatre, I know that, but never before have I been hurt by a show. I was moved, or amused, but watching a performance never hurt me. And “The Dark Side of Love” really did heart, like I was pinched in the heart. I knew that being in London would enable me to ‘touch’ live theatre, to see something experimental, but I never expected to see something like that. And I wasn’t expecting to react in such a way as I did, either. The last performance of “The Dark Side of Love” will be shown on the 8th July, so hurry up, you still can see it. It’s really worth it to let yourself dive into this narcotic world of crazy teenage love, to feel electrocuted with this ‘high voltage’ between two actors. It’s a beautiful, and dangerous, world.

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Around the Globe

2 Jul

When you’re in London, you surely know that there are some must-see places, like the Tate Gallery of Modern Art. But for me even sitting on the lawn in front of the Tate was just a nightmare. It’s not that I don’t like art. It’s just that I was sitting there, while an inner voice in my head kept shouting “go on, just a few metres more, the Globe is in the neighbourhood!”. We finally made it to my destination, and the moment I saw the theatre, I grabbed my friends hand and whispered, “Monika, Monika, he was here, Shakespeare was here”.
Before I got inside the theatre, I had to stop for a while. Well, how could I go back home without a picture with Shakespeare? I’d had a perfect occasion to take such a picture before, but somehow nobody thought of it at that time. There is a beautiful portrait of the Bard on the Charing Cross underground station. When I first got off a train and saw that portrait, I stopped there, put my hand on his cheek, and laughed, saying “why are you dead now that I love you?”. I like being a psychofan, it’s funny. But now back to the Globe. So I stopped right there near the poster. And I had to stop for plenty of reasons. Firstly, it was such a creative image of Shakespeare. I’ve got quite a collection of similar drawings at home, so that one had to be in my collection, too. Secondly, it was pink. I like pink. Finally, that moustache a la Shakey. I once wore such a moustache on my friends’ birthday party.
When I finally got back to reality, we went to the theatre to collect our tickets for “The Taming of the Shrew”. And then we ran straight to the shop to spend all the money we had left. And then I just burst into tears, typical. I get emotional = I cry. When I thought that I was starting to cry a river, I started blinking and taking deep breaths to calm down. Then back to shopping. And once again, as always, I fell in love with Hamlet. A beautiful copy of the first folio was right there waiting for me. And it still is waiting, there was no way it would fit into my suitcase. But this wonderful “Hamlet” will be mine.
I’m really glad that I didn’t go to the Globe on my own, I was there with my friends. Our London dream team was missing one person, but emotions can be shared on the phone too, luckily. And it was all about emotions. And the performance – a masterpiece. There wasn’t a single spare seat, I was standing in the yard, about 3 metres away from the stage. Everything was so close. I was getting impatient waiting for the show to start, when I heard the drunken singing of some charming man who got onto the stage, pissed on a pillar and some people from the audience, and passed out drunk. Someone from staff came to carry him out, and at that point I had no idea if that was happening for real, or maybe it was just part of the show. But it was a part of the performance, luckily. I can’t, and I don’t really want to, tell you all about the play. I hope that everybody gets a chance to see at least one performance at the Globe. The main character, beautiful Katherina, was, let me (mis)quote: the angriest wench ever (the actual quotation wasn’t as subtle…). “The Taming of the Shrew” is the most outrageous of Shakespeare’s comedies, and it’s just brilliant. I was laughing so hard that I started crying. The actors were excellent, and so was the audience. We were shouting, clapping our hands, we were  a part of the show. Not a disturbing part, more like fans, and we were cheering for the love of Katherina and Petruchio. We didn’t even care about the rain, all that mattered was the amazing atmosphere. I’m so coming back to London to experience such a thing again. Since “The Taming…”, my world’s been centred around… the Globe.

photo: Manuel Harlan for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
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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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