rubbishgroupie: (xander- nefarious)
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On Thursday I went back to school to see the National Theatre's livestream of Coriolanus. I was pretty giddy about the thought. I love the play, I was excited about some of the casting (Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatis and Birgitte Hjort Sorenson), and it was great to be able to get to see something that I wouldn't have got the chance to otherwise.

It didn't disappoint. I came out full of thoughts and feelings about the interpretation, and in that slightly overexcited mood of having seen something that you really loved. I spent the rest of the evening exchanging messages with my friend Hannah about our thoughts (Hannah's thoughts here: Then the next day at work I probably bored my colleagues senseless.

And then I read two rather sniffy articles on The Guardian, and got annoyed. Twenty four hours later I'm still annoyed.

The first one ( is rather sniffy about the fact the livestreaming exists. It seems to bemoan the experience itself (ignoring the fact that you can just not go, really, nobody's going to force you), doesn't like the 'dvd extra' bits and looks down on the audience for applauding.

If we ignore the fact that tickets for Coriolanus are scarcer than grain in Rome and livestreaming means that people who would have liked a ticket but couldn't get one have a chance to see the production there's other issues here. Mainly the fact that not everyone lives in London, or can afford to go. It costs me around £150 just to get to London, adding on transport, food etc. I'm looking at £200 as the base line spend of a trip there (and that's because I'm lucky enough to have people to stay with). I'm not saying I wouldn't go on holiday to see something at the theatre (I'd definitely do that), but I can't afford to do it for everything I'd like to see. Nowhere near. What's wrong with people getting the chance to see things?

I agree with the article that the interval stuff about how sexy Hiddelston is felt weird, but I really enjoyed the before the show stuff.    Maybe it's just because I am the type of person who watches dvd extras. I'm interested in the choices the production makes. Again though, you don't have to watch! (I'm guessing every screening was different, but at the one I was at they let us know when the 'dvd extras' where starting, you weren't frogmarched to your seat).

And applauding? Yes, I think we all get that the actors can't hear us. But, who cares? What does it really matter? (I may think this because I'm the type of person who sometimes applauds at the cinema).

The second article (, about 'star casting', is even more muddle-headed and annoying. It moans about actors from tv and film getting cast in Shakespeare play, while at the same time having to admit that they are 'more than up to the job'. So they're good, but it's bad that they're cast? And it's bad that people might want to go and watch an actor they like, and that Doctor Who being in Richard II might make people who wouldn't usually go and see it buy a ticket? (Full disclosure, I probably wouldn't usually go see Richard II. I struggle with it. I didn't engage with it either of the times I've read it, or when I watched the BBC's 1978 version with Derek Jacobi. The first time it really did anything for me was the 2012 BBC version with Ben Whishaw. Yup, Q from James Bond.)

And then there's the comments (I know, I know, never read the comments). Between the article and the comments I could really see how you could be put off Shakespeare. So much moaning about people going to see something because they like an actor in it, and about how it's dreadful that not all productions are experimental. And so much snobbery. There was more than one commenter moaning about people going to the theatre without having looking up the synopsis of the play. Why should you have to do homework to see a play? By all means do it if you want to, but surely if your audience needs to have studied in order to understand your production you're doing something wrong?

Again, maybe this is a matter of taste. I'd prefer to see a production that's about the narrative, and the characters first, rather than the director showing off how edgy they can be (I remain overjoyed that I didn't see the production of the Taming of the Shrew I heard about where Kate pissed on the stage). A production can say things without overshawdowing the play. But, I don't see a lot of theatre, I get that if you do see a lot of theatre you maybe don't want to see another 'straight' production of Romeo and Juliet. So don't go. It's as simple as that. And don't look down on the people that do want to see that.

And then I started wondering about how far this sliding scale of 'star casting' and the like went? What about Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen doing Pinter and Beckett on Broadway? Well people might go and see that because of Star Trek or X Men or Lord of the Rings. The horror. Or what if someone went to see Twelfth Night because they like Stephen Fry on QI? This must be stopped.

Do I get a pass for Coriolanus because I've read the play even though I was very excited about seeing Katrine from Borgen? But wait, I don't know anything about Roman politics. Should I have read up on that beforehand? Does having read all of Shakespeare's plays mean I can go see any of them? Or infact, does anyone's motives of going to see anything not matter? And is it nobody's business?

Bottom line to my confused and annoyed thought process - don't set yourself up as a gatekeeper. It isn't a good thing to be. (And props to the commenter who pointed out Shakespearean 'star casting' started with Shakespeare.)
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January 2015

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