02 July 2007

The Nekkid Scottish Play

Okay, first another Pinter story.

I went to see a couple of Pinter's short plays up at Rep Stage and sitting behind me were a couple of high school juniors (or seniors) and their chaperon. Or just an adult friend, I dunno. Anyway, the scenic design included a big painting. The young lady wondered aloud who the artist was and I said that it was Magritte. "Of course! That's it!" (Okay, sure I could have kept my mouth shut and let her wonder in vain, how likely was that? Get real.)

At which point, after identifying a piece styled after the work of a Belgian surrealist, I became (wait for it), the Pinter expert. So they asked me what they should look for in the two pieces we were about to see. Almost as if they thought the evening was going to be on the final and for all I know, it was. I thought for a minute and then said that perhaps my best advice was that they keep in mind that sometimes what was being said was the least important thing that was happening.

They digested this for a moment and then the young man said, "Oh. Like Shakespeare?"

"Uhm, no. Not like that all. Shakespeare is all about the words." And then I spent the last few minutes before curtain silently trying to come up with a better 180-degree difference than Pinter and Shakespeare.

Which brings me to what I'm calling The Nekkid Scottish Play. The Washington Shakespeare Company decided to do the bard's show which is set in the far north of Britain (you know which one I mean, right?) in the nude. Yep. Naked as they day they was born. The article about the show in the Washington Post was called "Staying Within Their Costume Budget."

I hadn't intended to see the show, but it was lit by my pal, Ayun, and any evening spent admiring Ayun's handiwork is an evening well spent. Even if I am acquainted with some of the actors in the cast and will find myself making small talk with them in theater lobbies in the near future. That won't be weird.

After the first few minutes the nakediddity (or however Radar spells that) wasn't that big a deal anymore. It stopped being distracting by the end of scene one and the direction and performances were both good enough that I didn't much care if they were wearing crowns and tabards or just hairy, dirty skin.

But I am left to wonder why. Not why I was no longer distracted, but why they were naked. I couldn't think of anything in How Not to be King or Even Get Kings that was better expressed sans-culottes. If anything was distracting, it was the why, why, why in my head. My theory is that Shakespeare's history plays could be collected into one volume and "Reigning Justly and Wisely; or Not Coming to a Bad End by Being Evil 101" could be taught from it. (Informally called, of course, How to Be King.)

According to Shakespeare and his rather OCD approach to knowing one's place, kings are chosen by something greater than ourselves and ambitious self-starters like the Thane and R III come to learn that they can't jump the line. And a king is every inch a king even when hairy, dirty, and naked, so a naked king, if a rightful king, is still a king.

And as people have heard that I saw it, pretty near the only questions they asked me about it were "Why?" and "Did it add anything?" My answers: "Dunno" and "Not really."

The only thing that came close to being offensive about it was a tasteless joke posted to the G&S list to which I subscribe and WSC can't be held responsible for that.

Tonight I'm going back for a reading of Measure to Measure, which I am assuming will be fully clothed. In the meantime, here's a story from "The Onion," Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended, that could not possibly be more apropos.


1 comment:

Liza said...

The only thing I can think that the director might have been trying to say was some sort of Emperor's New Clothes political point -- which of course, being the WASHINGTON Shksp Co sort of makes sense.