9 comments on “Shakespeare M4M

  1. In my reading cycle (one S. play per month, as it has been for the last 50 years) when M4M’s turn comes round (every 3 years i month) despite this play’s darkness, it does please me as it’s so very interesting and profound. It’s a very dense play with lots of vivid illustrative language expressed by strongly motivated characters arguing or thinking aloud. Of course it contains at least as many absurdities as any other of his plays, and the final ‘resolution’ is laughably unbelieveable as a happy ‘situation’. But one doesn’t judge W.S. on his stories, nearly all of which he got from elsewhere anyway, but on his words, which never cease to astonish. (How could any human being have ever thought of saying THAT!
    I think I’ve only seen it staged once, and on TV once. Strange how, as far as I know, it’s not been filmed, certainly not in recent decades, as it would seem that the storyline, despite ithe unlikelihoods, would play well on screen.
    I know it’s always referred to as a ‘problem’ play, which may be part of the reason why it’s relatively rarely put on, but I would far rather see it than more than a few of his other plays which I could name.
    The parts of Angelo, Isabella and Claudio, as well as the Duke, really have to be thoroughly convincing to make it work. If the actors themselves don’t feel that their hearts are in the role then it’ll show. In the production you saw maybe that was the problem. I’d vertainly not want to miss out on the chance to see it performed live again.

    • Thanks, as always, for the insightful comment. I think the performances in M4M were quite good. The Festival offers a program a couple mornings each week called “Meet the Festival” where 2-3 members of the company come and do a Q&A. It was a happy coincidence that the actors who played Claudio and Isabella happened to be the participants the morning we were seeing M4M. As you can imagine, more of the questions were directed toward Isabella.

      She was in an unusual situation in that the director of this production had been very successful playing Isabella in the 1970’s. That production was so popular they ran it two seasons in succession. The current Isabella was asked whether there were any challenges in that dynamic the director. She said there were none. At not time did the director ever say anything that started with; “When I played the role….”. The young actor told shared an interesting conversation that happened early in rehearsals. She asked the director why she’d wanted her for the role. She is (an admittedly young looking) 40 yrs old, not a classic beauty, and a bit of a “tomboy”. The director told her she was the right Isabella for this time and exactly what she was looking for for this production.

      I didn’t really understand that until I saw the performance. Because there was a bi-sexual subtext for the Duke, the fact that Isabella was smart, articulate and had a subtle boyish or androgynous quality offered one explanation for the way that relationship resolves itself in the ending. It is less clear what the attraction is for Angelo; maybe some repressed issues of his own (he is, after all, one of the Duke’s favorites), maybe just power. The actor who played Isabella was asked why she thought the two men were so drawn to her character. She thought about it briefly and then said it was really a better question to ask the actors playing the Duke and Angelo. That is a bit of a dodge but the more I think of it the more I like that answer.

  2. Sounds like this particular ‘isabella’ had acquired a shrewdness in her answers by learning from experience in not giving too much away – or very little, in fact.

    Funny how (or not), that in S’s plays there’s so much ‘love at first sight’, or, as in this case, an overwhelming immediate infatuation – ’12th Night’ is another one – and R & J has, of course, its mutual and suddenly love-crazy twosome. Suppose it’s a sure fre was to create tension for the audience.

  3. Based on the costume, it looks as if Geraint Wyn Davies is playing the Duke? It seems he does a lot of plays at Stratford. This play sounds interesting, it makes me wonder why it was not taught in my high school Shakespeare class. From your review, it sounds like there could be multiple interpretations of different points in the play.

    • Yes, GWD was the Duke. Are you familiar with him? Aside from one Canadian TV series (Slings & Arrows), I only know him Stratford. he’s been there a lot in the past decade.

      I suspect M4M is not taught in HS because of the bawdy content; pimps, prostitutes and such. All I remember reading in HS was Macbeth and R&J. Maybe if they’d given us a comedy or a history I might have discovered Shakespeare sooner.

      • We read Taming of the Shrew, Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Midsummer Nights Dream, Othello…that’s all I can remember. He was in a TV series called Forever Knight, which I adored, he did an episode of TV’s Highlander, he also did a TV movie with Victoria Principal on Lifetime. I would like to see him perform on stage before he retires.

      • I read about Forever Knight in his bio but am not familiar with it.

        He’s only in his mid-50’s so I imagine there will be time yet for you to catch him. There is precedent for actors working at Stratford well into their 70’s.
        Brian Dennehy was on stage this season at age 75.
        Christopher Plummer was onstage there last season at 81-82.
        William Hutt did The Tempest there at age 85.

        If you are interested in going to Stratford we should figure out a plan for next summer. We’ll always go in August. I think you can take the train. Not sure whether GWD will be there. They have announced the plays but the casts yet.

      • He played a Vampire cop searching for a way to become mortal again. It was on for three seasons.

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