BARD FROM THE BARN – Shakespeare’s Greatest Characters in Lockdown
YouTube, Wednesday 1st July, 2020
With theatres closed, indefinitely it feels like, some companies are streaming live recordings of past productions to keep us entertained. Others are seeking to produce new work, using whatever means they can. Last week, I enjoyed a play performed live on Zoom. This week, I’m looking at a collection of pre-recorded monologues, put together by the Barn Theatre.
There are almost three dozen to choose from. You can dip in and out as little or as much as you like, or you can select PLAY ALL and work your way through, so there is flexibility there, and of course you can watch it on your laptop, your smartphone, or your big telly, making the viewing as formal or as informal as you like. You choose the way you watch.
For review purposes, I’m sitting back with a cuppa in front of the big telly.
What plays out before me is an impressive range of ideas and variety of means of presentation, as actors in isolation perform speeches from the tragedies, histories and comedies (some better known that others). In general, the dramatic speeches tend to come across better than the comic ones – that being said, the knockabout comedy of Tweedy the Clown as Dromio of Ephesus (Comedy of Errors) appearing on a sort of Jeremy Kyle show, is very funny!
They’re all worth a look. Some feel like extracts, some feel like short films complete in themselves, like Daniella Piper’s Julia (Two Gentlemen of Verona) tearing up a love letter from Proteus and trying to piece it together again.
I can’t mention them all but here are some of my favourites. Aaron Sidwell (who also produces) appears as Marc Antony, a media-savvy politician giving an address on a rolling news channel – the medium is perfectly suited to his rhetoric; Adam Sopp’s Iago, exudes menace in a triptych of mirrors; Ryan Bennett’s Edgar, where the jerky smartphone filming represents his state of mind; Ben Boskovic’s Richard II, vlogging in his bedroom; Sarah Louise Hughes as Juliet, recording her final moments in a onesie in her bedroom, before she takes the fateful drug; and the pent-up passion of Jasper William Cartwright’s Romeo, who is homeo aloneo.
Some are simpler than others, with directors letting the actors’ talking heads do all the work. Dominic Brewer’s housebound Hamlet, bitter and depressed, for example. Others use everyday technologies to do something flashier: Tricia Adele Turner’s Hermione (The Winter’s Tale) is an Essex girl in a clip that combines social media with reality TV – some kind of commentary here, that these ‘celebrities’ are awarded almost royal status, perhaps? David Haydn’s Titus Andronicus is a deliciously horrific vignette of grisly, suburban revenge.
We get a Benedick taking his daily exercise in the park, Macbeth’s porter receiving a welcome delivery of toilet rolls, and there are a few facetime calls along the way. All human life is here, certainly as experienced over the past few months in quarantine. Taken as a whole, this collection is a chronicle of the present, seen through the prism of Shakespeare.
Producers Aaron Sidwell, Hal Chambers and the Barn Theatre are to be applauded for this inventive body of work. I’m sure they’ll forgive me if I don’t stand on my doorstep to do it.
See for yourself by clicking HERE!