Ophelia La SéduisanteMonday, July 01, 2013
I have very few things in common with Bard on the Beach Artistic Director Christopher Gaze. Obviously he is the better man. But we do share two loves (not including our two very lovely and patient wives). One is that we both have a copy of Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human on our bedside table.
The other is a shared passion, an admiration and appreciation of beautiful women. I hope that what I will write below will not besmirch Mr. Gaze’s impeccable reputation. If anything I will be the one that will be suspect.
Let’s get the matter of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet out of the way right now. The opening of this play on Saturday in which both my wife Rosemary and I were in attendance was a striking success re my wife. She does not like much. Of late, and only lately, after 46 years of marriage I have found out she doesn’t like parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs, my wonderful French cheese omelet, cucumbers, egg plant, and the list could go on forever. She will not watch films that have too much violence, over the top sex and or undue swearing. In the next few weeks I plan to surprise her with a DVD viewing of Hysteria.
But she loved Hamlet. A few years ago we saw a production of Sartre’s No Exit courtesy of the Electric Theatre Company. She loved it, I was surprised and I am now to believe that neither Jonathan Young nor Kim Collier can do wrong.
Can you imagine if those purveyors of Shakespeare costume dramas were to hire out one of the Bard’s plays to the Electric Theatre Company? You do not have to imagine that. The reality is this year’s impossible-to-miss Bard on the Beach Hamlet in which Kim Collier directs her husband in Hamlet. My only comment is that somehow, and I am sure, this wonderful combination came courtesy of the vision of Christopher Gaze and his aide de camp Dean Paul Gibson.
I could impress readers here with my knowledge of the facts, via Harold Bloom that Shakespeare had a son called Hamlet (to be correct Hamnet which was the name in the English version of the Danish story). I could tell you that Shakespeare had a fondness for playing old men and that one of his roles was that of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet the ghost. Bloom writes much about this striking fact. Can you imagine what Shakespeare, in a time when there were few women playing female roles in his plays, would make of a woman directing her husband in Hamlet? Best you read Bloom's book yourself.
Kim Collier’s Hamlet, complete with panoply of devices designed in California, had both Rosemary and I riveted to our seats. In the past I might have criticized Young’s absolute mastery of diction (it distracts sometimes) but here it is perfect. Even if I were not familiar with the story, understanding this Hamlet was a piece of cake. Not only that Jonathan Young’s Hamlet looked exactly like my vision of Shakespeare Prince of Denmark, an intellectual nerd ( I did not spot a pen set on Young’s front pocket) who could not get himself out of a knife fight if he tried. Thankfully he had lessons when he disappeared in England and he almost mastered the use of a Smith & Wesson.
All of the cast are just right and I particularly liked Allan Zinyk in sun glasses. He could get a job with the American Secret Service. A standout for me besides Zinyk and Ophelia’s father Polonius played by the always funny (even when serious) Richard Newman is Bill Dow. In Twelfth Night he almost competes with Jonathon Young (Feste) as Toby Belch and in Hamlet he is Claudius, Hamlet’s usurping uncle. Be aware, Mr. Gaze that Bill Dow is a very good director. It was in this version of Glengary Glen Ross that I became a real fan of the man.
Here I must diverge into my fascination for Rachel Cairns as Ophelia who was Viola in Dennis Garnhum’s Twelfth Night that I saw a few days before.
I am in dangerous territory. If I were a youngish 30-year-old man my comments here would be seen as normal. But knowing that this blogger is a most mature 70-year old (a viejo verde in my native language) puts me in a questionable position. But Mr. Gaze would probably agree that our admiration for beauty and talent supersedes false or “improper impropriety”.
|Rosa 'Maiden's Blush'|
There was an added bonus to all the above (Twelfth Night). We were warned to expect some male rear end nudity and the possible appearance of woman’s bare back. This warning had me salivating as men my age are wont to do. My granddaughter Rebecca (about to be 16 and an expert on all things body/sexual) whispered in my ear from our vantage point seats on Stage left, “That’s a very nice glimpse of side breast.” Cairn's towel in the Turkish bath scene with the boys did not hide everything.
In Hamlet Cairns plays the sensitive and then fractured-falling-apart woman who cannot cope with another’s death or abject rejection from the man she loves. I preferred her to Kate Winslet in Branagh’s Hamlet. I thought that I wanted to see more character development but Collier had the difficult task of having to shorten a very long play. So I had to imagine a bit more. Or, if I can correct here, there was little left to imagine in Nancy Bryant’s (Costume Designer) choice of underwear that Cairns wears in the beginning.
I must end all this before I get myself into trouble. There are 8 bodies when Hamlet finishes. I will add two more and then add one Lazarus.
Body Number One:
Body Number Two: My beautiful (one of the few hybrid teas in my garden) Rosa ‘Ophelia’ did not emerge this year. She is dead.
Rosa ‘Maiden’s Blush’ which has struggled in deep shade and diseased with Botrytis cinerea somehow survived and is almost thriving. Why am I citing this rose? Maiden’s Blush is called by other names, Cuisse de Nymphe, Incarnata, La Virginale and La Séduisante. She could easily be named Rachel Cairns, too.