Today I have mostly spend in the Barbican Centre where Sura ( I told you she is excellent company for most occasions) and I watched Roman Tragedies by Toneelgroep Amsterdam. That’s right: plural. We just sat our way through six hours of Shakespeare. In Dutch. With surtitles for those who did not understand the language though I have to say, they got short-changed. Apart from the general shoddiness in the translations, the improvised sentences were often the best and the funniest.
Improv? In Shakespeare? I hear you (aspiring) thespians think. Yes, so it was a free-flow translation of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Free-flow in more than one, there were no intervals the plays just moved on into eachother. It was also set in modern times, with movable set and the audience was actively encouraged to join the actors on stage and see the parts of the play from the sofas that made up the set. The bar was on stage as well, as were a few computers with access to the internet and the hair and make-up table for the actors. It was ace. We managed to get the best places in the audience though so we only went for a quick wander around during the mini-breaks (which were the set changes and were 5-10min every 30-45 min or so.) Time was counted down on the tv-screens which were spread on stage. They also functioned as a place for the surtitles for audience on stage – everyone else just looked on the big screen on top of the stage. They also used cameras to film and project on screen, enacting news bulletins but also clever use of stage as they didn’t have to play everything to the fourth wall, and could just do a scene in the backcorner. ( is that upstage, stage left?) All was seen from different angles by the cameras anyway.
It was a great way to spend a Sunday and it made me a little melancholic on the way home. Toneelgroep Amsterdam has excellent actors .Some I saw tonight for the first time, Fred Goessens, Marieke Heebink (comedy genius) and Chris Nielt. Others like Frieda Pittoors and Fedja van Huet I had seen in the Leenane Trilogy ( another play that goes on for hours – but really gripping and at the time the staging was controversial with Virgin Mary statues that were broken and people walked out in disgust.) Fedja had broken his leg at the time and as he had two characters to play he played one on crutches and one in a wheelchair.
This time it was actor Hans Kesting who was in plaster but who managed to portray a powerful and charismatic Mark Anthony all the same. It was strange to think that I have seen this man stark-naked during a performance of Bacchae in Amsterdam. ( Again: Dutch…) It was an excursion for Latin A-levels I believe. We were 17 and the first one who spoke said: ‘Did you see that tattoo?’ Yes hadn’t we all seen the tattoo which he has on his lower belly…. It became even better when we bumped into him whilst waiting for our teacher to come out of the theatre and had a chat whilst he got his bicycle.
The memories reminded me that all this ( Leenane Trilogy, Bacchae) was seven years ago, maybe even nearer eight than I’d like to admit. It was before I moved to the UK, when I last lived at home: I was opinionated, passionate and excited. I couldn’t wait for my life to begin, for my chance to experience it. What it meant I couldn’t even grasp but to have the freedom to make something of your life…
So here I am: in my bedroom in London, typing this something which I wouldn’t even have thought of back then. To be honest as I am nearing it, I am also aware that (nearing) 25 wasn’t even on my radar at that time. Short-sightedness or self-protection? Bit of both and perhaps also a certain stroke of not caring: to cross bridges when we get to it, surely is the prerogative of the inexperienced. My heart became a little sad for all the dreams I once had and not yet have realised (yes mother, youth is wasted on the young…) Still let’s take comfort that yet is just a very short word to describe a million thoughts.