A Delicate Balance


Thursday, August 16, 2007

You have to love getting up at 8:30 to have your breakfast before going to see three hours of Shakespeare. Okay. You don’t have to love it… but I sure do. The Histories had their Press Day today: almost 11 hours of Shakespeare for those who were in for the long haul (audience and actors alike). I could only see one. Though I hunger for the experience of more.

Michael Boyd’s Richard II begins when two large metal doors in an enormous upstage column open to reveal the Court, who then proceed down the rectangular stage in a silent dance. All you hear as they step in precision toward their King is the sound of a single step in the repeated phrase where the foot is scraped along the floor. When the dance is finished and the Court parts to allow the entrance of the King, the bloodied body of the Duke of Gloucester is miraculously discovered in their wake, and the King placidly steps over the corpse as he ascends to his throne.

Richard II directed by Michael Boyd as part of the History Cycle.

It’s breath-taking. As is the entire production. If you’ve really been following the blog, you’ll know this is the second time I’ve seen this one. It was just as awesome, if not more so, the second time around. Three hours that go by in a blip. And an audience who sit enwrapped by this beautiful play and this extraordinary production. God, I love the theatre.

I came home at the end to grab some lunch and start packing. Jenny came up the stairs and we talked about our shared experience. How Jonathan Slinger has such astounding control over this part, and the words he has the honour of speaking.

And then, out of nowhere, I began to cry. Tears of grief. Expressing feelings of enormous loss. Loss for my gender. The resonance of this kind of theatre, of Shakespeare captured with so much integrity, is profound in me. I know I am not alone. And the women in this production were fantastic, do not get me wrong: Hannah Barrie, Maureen Beattie, and Katy Stephens all did exceptional work.

But Shakespeare wrote plays for men. Simple as that. And I am not a man. So I grieve. I grieve that I will never have the honour of speaking the words of Kings; of Richard, of Gaunt, of Bolingbroke; of playing in a castle which is essentially the demesne of men. Salt tears. And pain in the pit of my stomach. This is my penetrating loss.

But after art, life goes on. Packing. Sorting out what to take on the two week holiday, and what to have shipped to Newcastle. Laundry. Ironing. A little nap. That kind of thing.

And then off to do my show. To tell the untold tales of women. To see history from another perspective. To share the rare power of thirteen women on stage. To regain.

The party went into the long hours of the night, and was a chance to dance and laugh and share with the Histories company who have been so hard at work. The boys from the Mac/Mac company were there too. And at the end of a very full day, as I crawled into bed at 3am, my feet aching from high heels on a stone floor, things seems to have settled into a delicate balance.


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