Wednesday, August 18, 2010

As You Like It - Shakespeare revisits Lismore Castle

Last Monday night saw the long awaited production of Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It in Lismore Castle Courtyard. It was presented by Off The Ground Theatre who come over from the Wirral in the UK every summer and put on a terrific outdoor show in a number of "Big House" venues around Ireland. I wrote about their last play a year ago in this blogpost (Much Ado About Nothing) and I have been to nearly every show for the past 10 or so years, since A Legend of King Arthur.

This year they didn't disappoint, even thought the weather forecast was for rain on Monday, despite Sunday being the hottest day of summer. We had wonderful hot sunshine ensuring we stayed in the garden all day and had a barbecue to round it off a perfect day. We have been very lucky this summer with a good June and even though July was the wettest on record it didn't feel like that because it was warm and a lot of the rain seemed to fall at night. I can live with that sort of rain allocation, and it keeps the farmers happy too - seems this year we'll have a decent spud (potato) crop unlike last year when the ground was so sodden the harvesters and tractors couldn't avoid sinking to their axles in the mud. We know we'll have a bumper crop of apples as the windfalls are already making their way to Apple Jelly and the first few Apple and Blackberry Tarts have been made - even though the Bramleys are still quite tart they make a perfect tart with a little extra sugar. This is a big change from last year when we had a total of 6 apples from our 3 trees.

How I digress - Shakespeare would be proud of me! I go off on as many tangents as the Bard himself, without the poetry or lyricism. I have learnt so much about Shakespeare from Off The Ground productions as they present the plays in a totally anarchic, quirky and fun manner while staying true to the script and the plot, all the while interjecting song and dance routines from the present or recent past - this year being no exception and I will post some of the video clips here. What I love is the way the songs - usually about unrequited love as so many of these comedies are - are relevant to the play and segue perfectly from the script to the song and back again.

There was a wonderfully moving soliloquy which moved me to tears as it was one of those that my mother recited frequently when I was a child - All the World's a Stage - which I used to know as The Seven Ages of Man. She had a great love of Shakespeare and could recite many of the soliloquies word-perfectly along with lots of other poetry. So as I didn't realise this soliloquy was from this play it came as a bolt from the blue - and I surprised myself by remembering most of the lines as it was being played out. I'm here having a debate with youngest son about the semantics of Monologue vs. Soliloquy and I'm not sure which category this fits, but have decided the melancholy Jaques could have been talking to the other characters or just being reflective.

This year the anachronisms were many and varied - while last year's play was set in the 1930s of tea dances and floral frocks and dandy youths, this year's was a miscellany of ages - from the original Elizabethan doublet and hose and maximum cleavage to - punk rockers in the Forest of Arden! The banished Duke Ferdinand who lives there with his Robin Hood-like band of brothers is festooned in chains and black leather, and there are some wonderful cockscomb hairstyles among his buddies.

The love interests are many and convoluted and you'd need a map to track them all - but as I see the pattern emerging in Shakespeare's comedies there were few surprises - banished brothers, nefarious villains, and cross-dressing youths and comely maidens abound. This play had less cross-dressing than Twelfth Night which was on a few years ago, but as characters go, fair Rosalind made a very convincing Ganymede.

Orlando, the impoverished dispossessed heir to a fortune, loves Rosalind, the soon-to-be-banished daughter of exiled Duke Ferdinand whose evil brother Frederick distrusts her as much as her father; Touchstone the clown loves Audry the goat-herd (should that be goat-herdess?); Silvius the shepherd loves Phoebe the shepherdess - whose accent is pure Chav, and who, to complicate matters, has fallen in love with Ganymede, while Oliver, the evil fortune-hunting brother of Orlando loves Aliena who is actually Frederick's daughter Celia in disguise as she accompanies Rosalind/Ganymede in exile.

Now that was easy to follow, wasn't it? Yes, I felt the very same whirlwind of confusion and thank goodness for the programme notes or I'd be totally lost. As the actors from the company have remained largely unchanged over the years, there's a tendency to typecast them and certainly the lead characters reprise similar characters in the different plays - the buffoon clown and the burly philosopher and the droll wit and the buxom lass and the winsome waif - they're all there and the skill and talent is exceptional.

The key to enjoyment is comfort so it's imperative to come prepared for all weathers - there was an eclectic assortment of fashion and accessories among the audience, with the seasoned veterans bringing sleeping bags to snuggle into as night fell, picnic rugs for the kids sitting on the ground, and lots of scarves, shawls and waterproof ponchos - umbrellas not being very audience-friendly. I had about 4 layers of clothing on under a shawl I got in India 30 years ago, and one of my knitted cotton caps, and as the rain was but a drizzle in the first half, I was quite cosy. I went for a stroll in the upper gardens of the Castle at the interval as it was still quite bright, and I was keen to see the summer gardens as it was April since I'd been there, at the launch of the Castle Arts Summer exhibition.

Here are a few videoclips from the play, and some still shots - you get the idea of the ambience from these - and I will add more when I upload them to YouTube - a tiresomely slow process but worth it to build a nice video library of personal clips over the years - if you like to see them then just check out LismoreLady on YouTube - they're all there!


SusanC said...

Looks like great fun Catherine. I've only been out to Lismore once which is a pity as it's not really that far from me.

This weekend the Fethard Walled Town Medieval Festival takes place. It'll be my first time to attend and I've been promising myself for ages that I'd go. I'm looking forward to it.

What did you use to record your video by the way? Considering the time of evening in the second clip, it turned out well.

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine,'As You Like It' was my Inter cert English play many years ago and I must say I loved it! While I could'nt say I am a lover of Shakespeare it certainly did not put me off him as happens with some of the other exam plays.We had a great teacher for the time who acted out the parts and gave them funny accents!

Stephanie V said...

That sounds like a lovely evening...I remember memorizing those lines which I, too, knew as The Seven Ages of Man.

Digressions into weather and apples is perfectly acceptable. That's the joy of conversation, isn't it? Rain overnight to keep the gardens happy is a perfect system.

We have an outdoor Shakespears festival here in Vancouver each summer. Just Google "Bard on the Beach"
They experiment with different period settings for these timeless plays to great success.

Irene said...

I saw As You Like It in a production in Costa Mesa, California and I was so confused that I hardly remember anything of it. It was enjoyable, but I found it hard to follow. Shakespeare is not my strongest point.

Catherine said...

It was a wonderful evening - I really enjoyed it and look forward to it every August.
SUSAN - I hope you get here sometime - it's only over the mountains after all! Enjoy the Fethard festival, it sounds lovely. I know someone who lives in Fethard, Terry Cunningham. Used to live in Tanzania way back.
I used my trusty Panasonic Lumix DMC FX30 digital camera to record the video. I use a 2GB SD Card which has about 15mins of video in total I think, but I used about half that in total and got plenty of photos. If I just take high quality pix I can take over 500 on the card. I will upload more videos to the blog from the play when I upload them to YouTube.

PEGGY - you would have really enjoyed it if you already had studied it for Inter, we did The Merchant. I think the comedies are great, they have so many common threads running through them, the confused love interests are always hilarious. You'd be amazed at the distance some people travel to see this annual gig. Lots of Cork accents (and posh Cork too!), and plenty of country house horsey types too, with wicker hampers and picnics with wine in abundance - in real glasses too, none of your plastic cup rubbish! I had a bottle of squash and a packet of Tayto I'm afraid, was a bit rushed as I always dash down after work. Still, it's great fun and lovely to see all the kids at it, they don't realise they're getting cultural immersion as they're too busy having fun at the singing and dancing and swashbuckling!

STEPHANIE V - Shakespeare seems to be universal to all ages and periods, transferable to all. It was a lovely evening, and if it hadn't rained a bit it would have been even more perfect. But it's good for the apples too! (Though not for the line of washing I'm looking out at which no-one thought to bring in today when it started raining - no point now as if it's dry tomorrow it'll dry anyway and if not I'll have to re-wash it all again!)
By the way, I looked up the Bard on the Beach - what a great idea! Looks really professional and sadly photos are banned (the actors from OTG don't mind at all, one of them commented on YouTube last year after I posted one of the clips from Much Ado About Nothing (one of the plays in Vancouver this year!). I am very nitpicky and am having a debate with my son about a possible grammatical glitch on the Bard on the Beach site - Look at this sentence and tell me what you think. (it's from the Play Guide section about the play).
"Against this backdrop, the women welcoming them home are ready to engage in a ‘merry war’ at home inviting witty repartee and challenging the men to truly test their metal in love."
I think Metal is incorrect, so does my son, but we wonder whether in Shakespeare's day Metal and Mettle were interchangeable? This is bothering my inner grammar gremlin monitor!
Are you going to the plays? let's hear how they are!

NORA/IRENE - it's very confusing indeed and I just think you have to go with the flow and try to enjoy the moment and not to get too bogged down in tracking the characters - as they go on you get kind of used to who's who. And the programme is a great help! I think I hated Shakespeare as a teenager - The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet were my course plays for sec. school, and of course the learning bled them of any enjoyment. I can recite the major soliloquies though and my teen daughter's doing The Merchant too. I've learnt a lot from seeing them done so well and wittily in these productions. And we missed all the nuances of Shakespeare's wit and double entendres in school (that's what having nuns for teachers does for you - no smut allowed!) Hope all is well with you.

All the best, Catherine