Sunday, October 19, 2008

By heaven, I do love...: Love's Labour's Lost - RSC Stratford 17/18 October 2008

Rullsenberg in Stratford 2008
Lisa in Stratford: proof we did walk and wander the place more than the theatre environs.

Dear God, where to begin?

Friday 17 October
9am I'm in the hairdressers.  I've had no breakfast - time and high anxiety preventing me from consuming anything.  The hairdressers ply me with tea and biscuits all morning as I sit have redlights added to my usual colouring. I come out with some very red sections and a heightened sense of excitement.

Post-lunch, HL and I depart for Stratford.  By and large the sun is up, skies are clear and bright.  I hope for fine weather and a healthy David Tennant.  Anything else is bonus.

Friday - Love's Labour's Lost - the play
We arrive and eat - sortof - and sit outside in the chilling air.  We take our stalls seats in row K to the side of the stage near an aisle and immediately befriend the four people in front of us.  The company of fellow fans, mother and daughter, wife and tolerant husband, takes some beating in situations like this so there is much giggling, and aptly, bawdy humour from us all.

The setting is simple and well used - basically, a tree.  The humour, as mentioned above, is naughty - sometimes very naughty indeed (dairy churning).  And you can't help feel Shakespeare would approve of this production, and not just because of the impressive Elizabethean costumes.  There are a LOT of opportunities for audience reaction, with far more applause between scenes, even within scenes, than is usually allowed or encouraged - at least in the UK theatre.  And there is also interaction.  To be on either side of the stage in the front row (around seat 5-8) is to take your life in your hands, male or female, as there are couple of key moments where you will be gestured to as evidence for Berowne's dialogue.

Of course, it was inevitable that at least one of us would lose it at some point: cue, on one re-entry to the stage by Tennant, an exceptionally audible whimper from the row in front of us.  (I chuckled inwardly, grateful that it wasn't me).  Sure, the doublet and hose doesn't do the lanky physique of Tennant many favours (bulking his hips shortens him in a way that scarce seems possible), but there's a rather fetching moment when he unfastens the ribbons of his top to demonstrate his being "sick at heart" which probably caused a fair amount of drooling.  And his wit, his gait, his bewitching eyes are only overcome in beauty by the - for me - sheer delight in hearing his native accent.  Forsooth, I did swoon.

As Jane Henry indicated though, this is a lovely ensemble piece - albeit that Tennant as Berowne has the greatest number of lines.  There are fine performances from all: with Joe Dixon's hysterical turn as Don Armado capturing special attention and Edward Bennett's widening eyes perfectly conveying the haplessly heart-struck King of Navarre.  Nina Sosanya is, of course, stunningly beautiful, but this is such an attractive production in every sense.  And then there is the language: it is almost breathtakingly fast in its pace of verbal play and sparring.  Keeping up, understanding all of the puns, the rhymes, the Latin, would be hard work for most modern audiences - but rather brilliantly we mostly keep up thanks to gestures, subtle movement of eyes, and intonation guiding us to interpretation.

Having said that though, the timings got well lost on Friday night thanks to extended giggling both on and off-stage: scheduled to be 2 hours 45 mins in the programme including a break, even the website admits to 2 hours 55 mins and Friday ran well over 3 hours (my estimate is to 3 hours 5 mins).  It never dragged. By the bleak, unresolved ending the audience had been enchanted and moved to all emotions.  The handling of the moment on which the narrative turns from action and bawdy humour to dark news happens in the blink of an eye [and even second time around, aware it was coming it was hard to see how the figure arrives on stage].  And with a magical captivating final scene, the delight of the audience for the applause was palpable.

Highlights (everyone): Don Armado's clothes and florid communication; the music and dancing (brilliant choreography); the language, the language, the language.

Highlights (Tennant): Berowne throwing his hat towards a tree branch (didn't make it, shrugged with that keen wit and nonchalance Tennant masters so perfectly) - more on that with the review of our second viewing of the play; the King, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine in and around the tree - and especially Berowne's critique of hypocrisy and subsequent being 'busted' by his three companions; and the declarations of love.  *swoon*

Friday - Love's Labour's Lost - after the play
You have to understand that for years, long-time friend HL has been unable to break her habits to do 'the stage door'.  The nearest she got was once when I had ran up past the Lyric Theatre stage door to talk to Dougie Henshall and she later appeared on my shoulder as he and I exchanged conversation (she scared me half to death).  But she has usually backed away, regardless of my careless devil-may-care actions.

Not this night.  No, she was determined to break her duck and despite heels she scuttled out as the theatre emptied and was running - yes running - towards the stage door.  Of course, as previous visitors will well know, smart people do the show and do the stage door as a separate event, bagging their spot the instant the barriers go up well before the end of the performance. Thus, although we were swift, the crowd was already three-four deep and there was no hope of getting to the front to speak properly or get an autograph.  Especially with Helen being far shorter than I.  Damn it though, I wasn't going to let that stop us attempting.  Not quite thinking straight, especially once he galloped out - all lanky of frame and smiles - I stuck with making my long arms work overtime to have a half chance of a signing whilst H, bless her despite being unable to see a thing (though she swooned at just hearing him) gamely pointed and clicked her camera in the general direction.

With heart pounding, I kept my arm thrust out - more in hope than in expectation that my programme would get signed.  So when his hands reached up and mid-air balance on my own copy wavered with the weight of his signing, I couldn't help but gasp and say "thank you so much for this!" His reply, "It's a pleasure, thank you for coming", with a smile and eyes darting to capture more programmes for signing, was enough to sate my determination.  And I delighted when he dropped suddenly to his haunches to talk to a young girl - Amy - and charmingly made her day with his brief words before wishing a happy birthday (I think also to her) and then, with a wave he was gone.  As others have reported, he's inevitably brief in his time - hell, he could easily spend more time signing than performing.  But oh, to be able to say we had done it.

We glided back to the b&b, high on adrenaline and fiercesome in punching the air with glee SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Not the best pic took of me and my programme but by far the one where I look least awful.

Saturday - Love's Labour's Lost - the play
If souls are to be bought and sold, then ours are in hock forever.  No matter.  For the first time, contacts were approached and against the odds can also attend the Saturday matinee.  It's bright sunny day and we are in fine humour as we once collide with two of those from the previous night and chat before the show.  We have good stalls seats just in from an aisle.  Again, we easily befriended those around us: the two girls to our left asking if we were David Tennant fans (to which we unconvincingly lied in high mocking tones before falling into giggles), and best of all a trio of female family relations behind us - mum, daughter and grand-daughter.  Aged just seven, with ted in tow, she keenly passes admiration for my stripes and we quickly strike up fond conversation with the family including this smart-as-button girl (she was already reading Shakespeare and was well versed in the plays and play-going in a way that was admirable to the point of being breathtaking).  Course, she was also keen to point out she 'loved David Tennant' in tones of swooning adoration that only just beat our more adult intonations.

And then, just a couple of minutes before the play began, the final seat on their row behind us was filled: by Patrick Stewart.  Cue gulps, gasps, and resolute attempts to not embarrass ourselves (though the grandmother managed to exchange a few remarks despite her own giddy delight in this bonus encounter).  It was certainly interesting to hear his laughter amongst ours during the performance - and hear the reports back of his attentive listening to the overflowingly playful language.

Anyway, at second indulgence, knowing the play far better now it sparkled with extra lightness and the different location meant we saw things previously missed (I'd only half read it before attending Friday's performance - and since our young friend behind us had got as far as that this didn't make me feel as if I had got as far as I should!).  Hysterically, the early hat throwing scene was successful this time around which garnered extra applause before he inevitably blew it by mischievously shrugging and saying 'every time' to which there was further laughter and vehement giggling cries from me and Helen L of 'liar!" [which we later thought were frightening liable to be reported back by Patrick Stewart: oops].

Delightfully, our young friend was more than wonderful company for the play - not only did she laugh with vivid pleasure (though heaven knows that she would be a good few years yet to get all the jokes we hoped!) but she also easily expressed the wonderment that the play presents with the lanterns used in the final scenes, and the swooping owl, garnering special gasps of enchantment.  A very special occasion.

Saturday - Love's Labour's Lost - after the play
During the interval, we had gotten into further conversations with our new friends behind us and suggested that, hot on my observations of the previous night regarding Amy, our smart seven year old should go to the stage door (despite her already having been in receipt of a signed programme from DT by postal request). Knowing that, however much we might want to, the likely chance of getting something signed for H - let alone the legions of friends we knew to be in high lust for something - was doomed unless we could magically get a place at the door AND attend the play, this plan now became my mission. I wanted this to work for our young companion for a million reasons but mostly because I knew it was do-able. For who would refuse a child to squeeze between and take up some of their hard-fought-for barrier space?

Despite swift movement, I didn't manage to move quick enough to catch Mr Stewart as he left the stalls (Caroline - I'm sorry!) but we moved at pace toward the stage door and again hit row 3-4 in the barrier pile-up.  When our small friend arrived at the stage door scrum, clutching ted and programme, I ignored the mini grumbles that had greeted any adult attempts to force a way in nearer the front and shouted up "there's a small girl here who would really like to get to the front".  And as expected she was duly wheedled past even the most stubborn of fixed feet to the barrier.  Task one complete.  As David came round, he again expressed his astonishment at there being so many of us there - though it was remarkably good humoured and without shoving (which has marred some signings).  But as he worked his way round - gawd how I wished I had been able to get to the front - I realised he must have by-passed our young friend since she would scarcely have reached the height of the barrier.  

I wasn't having that: "there's a young girl right down at the front" I yelled and he immediately dropped to his haunches again.  I could have punched the air with glee as I exchanged grins with her grandmother.  

We had had brief hopes that the Friday gang who HAD bagged front spots may be able to get something for H, but with regulation one signing per person this fell by the wayside (David was really apologetic and if I had brains I'd have yelled up 'but it's for someone who can't reach the front!' - damn. Still, with me now on camera duty, I was able to shoot higher angled shots, thus bagging this gem.

Still, whatever delight we got from our photos, when our young friend emerged, eyes glassy with delight, clutching her programme neatly signed and smiling, our pleasure was replete.  When we asked what he had said, she paused and with perfect dramatic flourish zipped her mouth and replied "I'm not saying!" (We joked that she may be on a promise for 10 years time).  Hugs and thanks were exchanged and photos shown to each other.  Could the experience have been bettered?  Under the circumstances, scarcely.

For pretty much the first time all weekend, we went to eat a proper meal before Hamlet.

UPDATE 22 October - Ta Persephone! There's a link to a video from Saturday afternoon, and yes, the first voice shouting up is me...


Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

Thanks so much for the write-ups! Beautiful and insightful as always x

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Beautiful and insightful? You did spot the high levels of SQUEEE didn't you?!

But irony aside, my god the acting was top-notch. Whatever else amy be distracting about Mr Tennant, he is undeniably one of the best actors around, easily - almost casually - dismissing any comment of 'stunt' casting. Pah: I feel privileged to have witnessed his performing and wish that those too quick to judgement had better observation of reality.

Michele said...

Sounds like you had a fantastic time.

Marie said...

Aint he lovely? Good pic too.

Jane Henry said...

Wonderful post Lisa! You made me want to go all over again. I loved all that stuff with tree too (he got the hat in the right place when I saw it!) and the banter with the audience. Dear god what a fantastic picture you got of him too!

JoeinVegas said...

Red hair and stripes! You look more adventuresome that he (but it's me doing the looking.
Glad you had such a great time. Here we get Wayne Newton.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Joe: ta, I was thinking of my fans of red and stripes but also of looking as good as possible (because I am shallow!)

Had a blast of a time, as post probably makes clear, and my grins even more so!

Persephone said...

There's a video just gone up at YouTube of the scrum after Love's Labour's Lost on the afternoon of the 18th. You can hear three voices ring out: "There's a little girl in front there!" A woman's, a man's, then another woman's. Is yours the first?

Anonymous said...

Tennant - Buffy - Pulp - Green Wing - Oh my god - you're me!

After my autumn of Tennant-does-Stratford I am not only even more moon-eyed than ever, I also have redeveloped a craving for more theatre.

And I wish I'd made the performance where *the hat landed*

Anonymous said...

WOW! I can't believe I've found this! Your gem of a picture has the back of my head in it and the video you've posted is also mine - very exciting! Loved reading your account of the weekend as well - I got return tickets for both shows on Fri and Sat night, both awesome! By the way, my friend Vicky was the third person to shout "There's a small person here!" - she was quite hyper and felt the need to join in with the shouting!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Hi Methers (if you come back here!) - glad the pic and the later video clip amused. We had a blast of a day and I am now looking forward to a London visit!