life outside my walls

I've seemed to be very insular the last few days (weeks?).  But  I have been doing things, reading things, thinking things and seeing other things than just my own four walls.  Theatre, for example: Canadian playwright Miichel Marc Bouchard's "Christina, the Boy King", historical play about Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) that I saw just days after seeing Brecht's "Mother Courage", set in about the same time period, but so different.  Brecht's play was about the stupidity of war and people illustrated in his 'alienating' way through a steadfast survivor blind to everything  but survival.  Bouchard's play was also about survival, of a  pigheaded lesbian woman fighting for her own selfish ends. Courage's worst enemy was herself; Christina's worst enemies were the people she antagonized. 

I saw "Alice Through the Looking Glass", all three of these plays at Stratford. I want to re-read the Alice script by James Reaney because I think it was better than the production. The cast - or director? -couldn't make up its mind whether it was playing to children or adults and the result was unbelievable, not helped by a wild, inter-active, unnecessary, over-done production. The actors didn't believe what they were saying and played down to the audience, except in the opening of the second act when Humpty Dumpty knew what he was talking about.  

This same artificial approach to dialogue spoiled much of "The Sea", an over-praised production of Edward Bond's play, which I love, at the Shaw Festival.   It's a tricky script, darkly humorous but tragic. In the first act the actors played the comedic lines, not believing in what  they were doing or saying. In the second act, Fiona Reid, playing the lead, Mrs. Rafi, a bullying matriarch afraid of old age and retribution, redeemed herself somewhat but her performance had little to do with what she did in the first act. I re-read that play, too, because I was particularly interested in what the old woman (Bond) had to say about age. 

Then I saw an early play by Michel Tremblay, "Past Perfect". I give the title in English but I saw it in French at the Toronto French Theatre. I thought it was an early play but actually it's a prequel to and written after  "Albertine Five Times" (the protagonist from age 30 on) revealing Albertine at age 20 and attempting to explain or illustrate how she became what she turned into later.   I also thought it was an early play because it is too simplistic and breaks a lot of the basic rules of playwriting., e.g., the characters tell each other things they already know in order to inform the audience, and they stand there and talk at each other, too much.  I'm pretty rusty at my French conversation and the accents didn't help (e.g. pronouncing 'soeur', sister, as 'sarr', but I didn't need to analyze any finer points of the characters' arguments because they were not only loudly argumentative but also one-dimensional. 

I had never seen/heard Verdi's "Macbeth" (1847, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave), the composer's tenth opera and the first one of Shakespeare's plays he dramatized musically.  It's easy to see why, for the major set pieces he set to wonderful music. I was blown away.  The plot goes kind of wild at the end, whisking over MacDuff's birth history and ending with a musical outpouring of Italian paisano fervour. Lady Macbeth was very sexy - I always thought that she was the prime catalyst of Macbeth's behaviour - and Macbeth was suitably tortured.  I love the Met on the widescreen!

I was reading, too.  Just finished David Mitchell's newest book, "The Bone Clocks" (more anon) and almost finished Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) "The Cuckoo's Calling". (I read mysteries/thrillers while I pedal on a recumbent bicycle every afternoon.)  And I just started "Tell" by Frances Itani.  Too soon to tell.  (Sorry). 

And of course,  I'm still working on my book, trying to solve the riddle of life in my last two chapters. 

Well, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, "The world is so full of a number of things/I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."  

And thankful.