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?

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Hamlet (multiple times).
Julius Caesar
Romeo and Juliet
King Henry V
Much Ado about Nothing
Twelfth Night

Performed In:
Taming of the Shrew
Merry Wives of Windsor
All's Well That Ends Well
King Henry IV
Romeo and Juliet
Julius Caesar
King Lear
Midsummer Night's Dream

The best memory is playing a small part of a servant in Merry Wives of Windsor with another guy I was in high school with, well, there was absolutely no way we were going to be able to lift a basket containing the large actor playing Falstaff, so, instead the director had the actor pop his legs out the bottom, cartoon-style and we chased it off stage...
"there was absolutely no way we were going to be able to lift a basket containing the large actor playing Falstaff, so, instead the director had the actor pop his legs out the bottom, cartoon-style and we chased it off stage..."

LOL! That reminds me of a production of "Into the Woods" I saw, where the cow [obviously a paper mache cow] , Milky White, had a handle on her back, so the actor could just pick her up and carry her offstage!
That's funny about the Tempest. I like Judi Dench as well. Did you see Mrs. Brown? I've not seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead yet, but it is on my list.

The only live performances I saw was in high school, but I don't really remember much about it. One was amatuer, and the other was the Royal Shakespeare Theater doing A Midsummer Nights Dream, when I was in England. However, I was only about 17, and don't recall it all that much. I have a bad memory about some things.
Yes, we saw Mrs Brown - as we love Judi Dench and Billy Connolly as well!

I forgot to mention that I was chatting to the lead actors in Romeo and Juliet backstage one time and they were laughing about their school matinee performances. Apparently, when Juliet goes to take the poison, some kid from the audience would inevitably shout earnestly, "Don't do it! He's not dead!" Pretty hard not to laugh when you're in a small in-the-round theatre with the audience right on top of you!
That's funny, but I sort of hate hecklers.
The kids weren't heckling. They were so caught up in the play they felt compelled to warn Juliet! Truly. The actors thought it was funny, but they took it as a compliment.
The best live Shakespeare play I've seen was.. probably at Shakespeare's Globe a few years ago. It Romeo and Juliet, and although the performance itself wasn't that memorable, the theater is wonderful and the atmosphere was great.

Living in Finland, it's hard to come by live English versions of the plays. I've seen some Finnish adaptations of the plays, Othello most recently (a modernized production I didn't much care for).
The Finnish National theater had a very original and funny A Midsummer Night's Dream running for a couple of years. I went to see that one twice.
They also did King Lear, which was... dark and depressing, like the original.

The list is pretty short so far, but I'm still young!
King Lear is one of my least favorites. Of course, I like the tragedies best. The history and comedy plays tend to bore me, and the writing is not a poignant.
My all-time favorite was a free production of The Tempest performed outdoors on the wide beach in front of the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego (the hotel featured in the film Some Like It Hot). With the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, the actors made their entrances and exits from the sand dunes. It started before sunset and ended as the twilight was fading. An orchestra, of crazy invented percussion instruments, set an otherworldly mood. As if all this wasn't unique enough, the part of Prospero was played by a woman (Linda Castro) - and, somehow, it worked. To open the play, a group of actors, who had been milling about randomly, suddenly bunched together in the shape of a boat and did the storm scene. Hard to describe but it was one of the most magical theatrical moments I've ever experienced. I was so enchanted, I went back the next night to see it again.


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