I thought it might be fun to reminisce about which plays we've seen and our impressions.
My first exposure to Shakespeare was at high school. Our class had been divided into groups to do scenes from selected plays. One of the scenes was 'the hole in the wall'/Bottom's 'death' scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. A rather tubby girl played Bottom beautifully but I was struck by my friend, Hilda, a great, long, blonde streak of a girl, stoically playing the hole in the wall. It had never occurred to me that a hole in a wall might be a character in a play!
I meanwhile, was cast as "Mrs Pickelpop" in a scene from a melodrama, thus losing my first and only chance to play Shakespeare.
Later, at high school, I studied Macbeth and Julius Caesar. I've never seen Julius Caesar but I've seen many productions of Macbeth - good and lousy.
My next memory is a production of Romeo and Juliet when I was working in amateur theatre (Brisbane's La Boite) in the 1970s. I was 17 then, and the passion of the two young actors, with the added 'zing' of knowing they were an 'item' offstage, made my young heart race. Sean Mee played Mercutio with great flair in that, his first, production. I worked with him in theatre-in-education a year or so later, and he is now artistic director of La Boite.
I think the next Shakespeare I saw was probably Diane Cilento (ex wife of Sean Connery) in the Royal Queensland Theatre Company's (RQTC) The Taming of the Shrew. It was thrilling.
Over the years, I saw several Shakespearean plays in Brisbane's Albert Street Amphitheatre. This is wonderful because the actors can actually gallop in on horses! The short-coming of the Amphitheatre is its proximity to Roma Street Railway Station. Watching The Tempest one evening, an actor's pronouncement that he was leaving was drowned out by a train whistle. One quick-witted smart-aleck yelled from the audience, "Yer better 'urry up mate, yer'll miss yer train!" At which the audience (and the cast) completely broke up!
Bille Brown (Fierce Creatures, Oscar and Lucinda) was wonderful in an Amphitheatre production of Henry V in 1984. My heart did a little flutter as he made an entrance through the centre aisle of the amphitheatre in a pair of very tight tights!
I absolutely hated a 'modernised' version of Macbeth (I walked out). Not that I mind modernised Shakespeare, but this version was a shocker!
I was also greatly disappointed when I went to see an actor (I think it must have been Antony Sher) who was hailed at the time as the greatest Shakespearean actor of his generation. "This I gotta see!" I thought and handed over a week's wages for a ticket to see him in Richard III. I can give it a two word review, "Unspeakably dreary". It was nearly as big a disappointment as seeing Nureyev clump robotically through his Brisbane production of Giselle, or the Moscow Ballet straggle lifelessly through Swan Lake (I think they gave the dancers the day off and put the crew on stage - it was truly awful!)
While not strictly Shakespeare, I also enjoyed Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
I think my favourite Shakespearean play story is that of British actress, Dame Judy Dench. Dench was playing the Countess of Rossillion in Alls Well That Ends Well and apparently had a long, boring wait between scenes.
One night, she arranged to pop down the road to another theatre, jump into another costume and make a cameo appearance in the chorus of Les Mis, before rushing back to complete her Shakespearean role. Les Mis was another dreary, dreary production I hated, but I would have loved to have seen that!
What are your memories of Shakespearean plays?