We saw this tonight and loved it. For loads of reasons, here’s some :
– so many people I knew were there, Maori and Pakeha London-based friends, friends from Ngati Ranana (London Maori group), friends from Manu-Atoa Arts Collective (with whom I’m very excited to be working on Gafa, A Family called Samoa, for September this year), a real buzz in the space and outside the space.
– the show itself, which was definitely a show rather than a ‘play’ – hurrah! In a ‘foreign’ language the emphasis cannot be on text, as it often is with Shakespeare (and sometimes, imo, with detriment to the playing) it has to be on the performance, on the showing of what is. The showing definitely works in this production.
– that said, Maori is a very oratorial culture and so works really well for Shakespeare, and for Shakespeare doing Trojans and Greeks.
– realising that I was catching every tenth (or probably every 20th) word. And, as often for me with Maori, a good sentence or two after it had been spoken, but still, not bad for a girl 26 years back in London.
– we regularly see semi-naked women and fully-dressed men on all our stages, what a treat to see the opposite tonight!
– the camp/gay over (and under) tones. So … this one was a interesting for me. I’ve seen Pandarus played as gay/camp before, it kind of suits the interfering/busybody uncle concept. But to make two of the warriors lovers as well was a nice leap. I’m often uncertain about the pairing of butch lover with the camp lover. It can seem a ‘safe’ way to present homosexuality, a safe way for straight men (I have no idea if they are or not) to play, and a safe way for a straight audience to watch. BUT, even with my slight uncertainty about the pairing of butch and fey, what was so incredibly exciting was seeing two brown men presented on stage as lovers. All too often the only representation of homosexuality is as white-only and black and brown men are almost never seen, on stage, as lovers, as touching each other in any way other than violently. I LOVED this work for that. (And yes, there is a place in Maori culture for queer/non-straight culture, and was pre-colonisation – useful piece on Takatapui here)
– and strong women and funny women and the haka to open and the waiata and haka at the end and the rain coming down from the open sky just at the point Rawiri Paratene as Pandarus/Panatara was speaking of rangi, and he looked up and held his hands to the rain, and the guys waiting to read out the letter while a loud plane flew overhead, and hearing the bells of St Paul’s chime the hour at ten o’clock, and the wonderful live ‘music’ of percussion and traditional wind instruments, and brilliant costuming and moko and the enormous physicality and all that. All of it. Great.
– (actually, one minor complaint – I could do with maybe one less taiaha-as-knob gag. just one less would do.)
I think this is a great way for the Globe to be celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday. As a writer I get that the language is lovely, I really do, (I spent two weeks when I was fifteen learning all of Hamlet’s soliloquies, wishing I was Bernhardt) but as a theatre-maker I also think it’s about the playing – and that can happen in any language.
Oh and a standing ovation. Appropriately.
Here’s the site for the company.
Edited to add, here’s today’s Guardian review – four stars are not easy to get!