Cambridge, Autumn 2007

Michael Grosvenor Myer.

Michael Grosvenor Myer.. "Cambridge, Autumn 2007." Early Modern Literary Studies 13.3 (January, 2008) 19.1-4 <URL:>.

  1. The University American Stage Tour returned to the ADC as usual at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. Their The Winter's Tale was a neat touring production. Director Jeff James's watchword appeared to be "keep it simple", with no sets and minimal furniture, and only eight actors with intelligent doubling; the largely interchangeable courtiers and shepherdesses being quite acceptably rendered by the use of faceless puppets held up by whichever actor was free to speak the lines at that particular moment. (I wonder, in passing, whether the director had seen Avenue Q , the Toni-winning Broadway musical in which half-length glove puppets feature so prominently - and, occasionally, so astonishingly raunchily.) Among the doubled roles, Ed Martineau's Leontes/0ld Shepherd and Owen Holland's Antigonus/Autolycus were notably successful. Mr Holland's well-picked 5-string banjo was a pleasing feature also, and his duo with the ukulele of Camillo (Joseph Ambrose Evans), to provide the accompaniment to a lively cleverly-mimed sheepshearing square-dance, brought an agreeably active element to what was a generally intelligent, but sometimes somewhat static and deliberate, rendering. Altogether this was a performance that one could contemplate going to represent the university in far-off places with equanimity and sufficient pride, which has by no means always been the case. Occasionally, however, projection and articulation, especially from some of the female players, were a bit weak for so late in the tour.

  2. The Marlowe Society has been celebrating its centenary with Cymbeline directed by distinguished ex-member Trevor Nunn. Unfortunately, due to my having been caught on the hop by their moving the usual Spring production to Autumn in honour of the occasion (but why? something to do with Sir Trevor's availability I would guess), and to my having been deprived by some sort of blip in the Arts Theatre marketing office of my usual copy of the season's press-info pack, it passed me by. So what should have been a record of an important Cambridge Shakespearean occasion will be forever lost to readers of EMLS. Lackaday...

  3. Another I missed for the same reason was Mark Rylance's I Am Shakespeare , which I gather is a fantasy based on the authorship question. Can't say I regret that one all that much: it's not a controversy to set my pulses immoderately racing. I was surprised to learn recently, though, that among the doubters was Mark Twain: he who, writing of a similar longstanding dispute, came up with the formulation, "The poems of Homer were not written by Homer, but by another man of the same name living at the same time."

  4. I did, though, contrive to hear about English Touring Theatre's production of Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling arriving at the Arts. It's one of those blood-tragedies which can really leave you feeling wrung out. But, despite a sufficiently bloody climax, this version was surprisingly uninvolving. That indefinable but unmistakeable frisson of horror was lacking. It was a sort of regression-to-the-mean production - the madhouse sub-plot and the hard-to-take-nowadays virginity-test trick were less tiresome than usual, but the main plot distinctly underpowered. It was played Jacobean: a couple of rather self-conscious anachronisms - fumbling round the castle in the dark with the aid of an electric torch; a bundle of banknotes where the text specifies gold coin - came over as half-heartedly trendy rather than as emblematic of anything in particular.

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© 2008-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).