Last Saturday (the day after my mini-meltdown), a friend of mine sent me a message which read, ‘I wondered if you were free tomorrow to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with me in Covent Garden at 7.30pm? One of my Uni friends is in it and I’m really keen to go.’
I’m a little bit ashamed to admit I dithered. ‘Do I really want to spend all that time in buses and trains, and get home really late?’ I asked myself. ‘Can I afford to buy overpriced London food and watch an amateur student production of a Shakespeare play I’ve seen before? It’s all so last minute, last minute things are categorically bad.’
It was this last thought which pushed me over the edge. Last minute things are categorically bad?! Really, Fiona? Stuff that, I’m a 19-year-old student and I’m going to London to see a play!
And so, I did. On the train I read some more of my current time-passer, ‘Daughter of Fortune’ by Isabel Allende, and after that my friend and I enjoyed an acceptably-priced, remarkably tasty Italian meal in the centre of the Covent Garden Market.
After looking at our map for five minutes, we then realised we were siting in the shadow of the very church where the performance would take place and, giggling at out bad geography skills, we took our seats in the pews.
It was, without a doubt, one of the best productions of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen. The acting, though somewhat overblown in one or two of the performers, was overall of a high standard considering none were professionals, and to be honest you could have easily fooled me. Two of the fairies moved gracefully and ferally all at once, embodying not only with their voice but also with their bodies the other-worldly nature of Shakespeare’s creatures. Though half of the costumes were a disappointing classic 1940s get-up – a go-to for the producers of current theatre, it seems; I think I’ve seen more wartime Shakespeare than Elizabethan – the other half (the fairies) were magnificent. Bright, flouncy, elaborate, very circusesque, accented by striking face paint. Oberon was thin and tall as a stick, and his consort, Titania was majestic and fearsome and beautiful. They were without doubt my favourites of the two, and it seemed to me they had been drawn straight from the pen of Shakespeare. Bottom the Weaver’s performance was equally gratifying though for a very different reason – but simply, he was hilarious. The young actor moved about the stage with a confidence and surety of a far more experienced man, and oftentimes had both my friend and myself in literal tears of laughter. It all ran so smoothly and captivatingly that it only occurred to me at the end that there hadn’t been a single Act divide, and I hadn’t been bored once, which can tend to happen in older plays for me as the pace slows or the language thickens. There’s another thing; never before have I so clearly understood Shakespeare’s language because of the way in which all of the lines were delivered. I hardly realised that the expressions were foreign and had no difficulty following what was going on, despite the fact that the play was performed in a large, echoing stone church.
So all in all, a very good show, and I’m glad I went.
Oh, and did I mention? The student company was a company from Oxford, the friend a friend from school who is studying German and History at Oxford in the college where I’d initially wanted to apply (Worcester) before Exeter threw itself in my path, and we spent the whole time chatting about her experiences and my expectations of studying German and living life at Oxford. Yes, the whole thing was dripping in Oxford and not one melt-down in sight.
Insert. Sigh of relief. Here.