Finally, I am a convert to Shakespeare. Finally, I do believe, I’m starting to get it. Which is to say I watched a Shakespeare play from start to finish last week without once glancing at my watch. I’d go as far as to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I feel very pleased with myself. It’s not dissimilar to the experience I had the first time I watched the X-factor just the other week. I felt a whole new world opening up to me. Suddenly I had some connection with this thing huge swathes of the population spend their time engaged with. It’s a bit like the difference between going to France as a French speaker and going to France as a non-French speaker. Either way you’ll get by, but one way reaches out whilst the other withdraws into itself. Shakespeare and the X Factor. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Although admittedly Shakespeare probably does penetrating observation with a soupcon more depth. On the other hand, that Simon Cowell… nobody’s fool.
It had been the vicar was supposed to be in charge of my induction to Shakespeare. But that never got off the ground somehow. And now we’re not speaking. C’est la vie. Luckily I seem to have stumbled upon what could turn out to be a rather better instructress. She suggested we start with the easy stuff and I appreciated the gesture. She’s from California you know - a little less snobby than our home grown and occasionally somewhat self-aggrandising literary types. As You Like It. Or As You Like It as George Bernard Shaw apparently liked to refer to it, presumably by way of indicating that he himself in fact didn’t that much like it. Ghastly crowd pleaser I suppose he thought. Personally I’m not averse to a crowd pleaser now and then. Apart from Gauguin obviously. But a Seventeenth-Century precursor to Friends with a bit of cross-dressing thrown in. Smashing. Just up my street as it goes.
I was rather mesmerised by Phebe, the frighteningly un-self-reflexive character who pours scorn upon the skinny little wet lettuce Silvius and his continual professions to her of his undying love, whilst she in turn professes her unrequited and thereby undying love to Ganymede, aka of course the charming and beautiful Rosalind. Rosalind - smart enough to acknowledge the foolishness of romantic love without wishing to ostracise it for those foolishnesses. A balanced life which contains no loss of balance is not a balanced life. Sadly one cannot simply delete those parts of oneself that one finds a little unsophisticated. And denial is far easier, but ultimately far more damaging, than acceptance. No amount of health and safety precautions will ever immunise us against this life. In the famous words of (apparently) one of the greatest heavyweights of all time: “you can run but you can’t hide”.
So, all of this and more, free of charge save for a donation if you feel so moved, at Lamda until 9 December. Complete with well stocked, reasonably priced bar and a beautifully simple and effective set designed by Richard Bullwinkle. Bollocks to Jude Law I say. Check out the next generation in a theatre the size of your lounge.
“If thou remember’st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into
Thou has not loved”
As You Like it by William Shakespeare (2.4.36)