Theatre

ROMEO AND JULIET BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Juliet: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Rome…

Romeo: YO!

Juliet: Eh?

Romeo: I said, Yo!

Juliet: Who on earth are you?

Romeo: I’m Romeo, sweetcheeks, and [with a sweeping gesture] this is Juliet’s garden; only there’s no bouncy castle and you’re not Lyndsey Lohan. What have you done with Lohan? And, more importantly, where’s the fucking bouncy castle?

Juliet: Me thinks thou art out of thy mind, sir!

Romeo: I’m calling my agent. [Romeo takes out his cell phone, dials and speaks] Yo, Bruce? It’s me…I’m at the shoot…No, it’s not going well…It’s Lohan…What? No, no I haven’t…Because she’s not here, dude…I went up to the window…and there’s some flat-chested English chick…and I was promised tits, Bruce…we’re not making this movie without tits, Bruce…that’s the whole movie: chicks in low-cut tops…it’s what the public want…’Kay…’Kay…Fine. [To Juliet] Bruce says I signed the contract and even if I was high I can’t back out, so, uh, let’s get on with it…do your bit again…your line.

Juliet: Good lord…Er…Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Rome…

Romeo: YO!

Juliet: Er…Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet. 

Romeo: Huh?

Juliet: What man…um…art thou that thus bescreen’d in night so stumblest on my counsel?

Romeo: I can’t understand a word you’re saying, sugartits.

Juliet: Good heavens! Thou art a fool, an imbecile!

Romeo: Look, I’ve got the script right here. [Takes out the script. Reads] Romeo and Juliet: Zombie Apocalypse by William Shakespeare…[flicks through the pages] Window scene…Juliet at window, in LOW-CUT TOP…she has been grounded by her mom for skipping class, which is lucky for her because the school was overrun by zombies…yada, yada, yada…she sighs…her chest heaves…and she says: I wish Romeo were here…which is my cue…me, Romeo…Romeo says: Yo!

Juliet: Zombies? Verily, I know not what this word means, but I do know there are none in Romeo and Juliet! ‘Tis a play about young love…doomed love, for the families of the lovers are at odds with each other…this is the balcony scene where Juliet and Romeo agree to marry. The play is hundreds of years old.

Romeo: Yeah, well, that was the problem! It needed bringing into the 21st century, so we zombied up that bitch.

Juliet: You what the what now?

Romeo: Nevermind. Look, my script says nothing about marriage. We kiss…there’s tongues…your chest heaves…

Juliet: I assure you my breast doth not heave!

Romeo: Don’t I know it! And this aint L.A., so clearly someone fucked up.

Juliet: The play is set in Verona, you idiot. It begins with a brawl…

Romeo: [Looking through script] Yeah, we kept the brawl…and added guns and, uh, some big explosions. BIG.

Juliet: The Montagues and Capulets are sworn enemies; thou art a Montague and I a Capulet.

Romeo: I’m a what now?

Juliet: Montague!

Romeo: The script says I’m a young college student, but not like a geek, although partly geek…like, geek chic…but with an edge. Part James Dean, part sissy brooding Vampire dude from Twilight. A bit feminine…but also unpredictable…looks 35, though meant to be 18…likes Hip Hop…or Grunge…or whatever the fuck is popular just before the movie hits the screens. Now, you, you’re meant to be feisty…

Juliet: ‘Tis one thing thou hast got right! Juliet, like many of Shakespeare’s female characters, is strong! She defies! She does not what she is told! She will not marry Paris and become his joyful bride, for she doth love sweet Romeo!

Romeo: Feisty chicks are the best. Ok, so, like, we might be able to make this work, since I signed that contract and all and there’s no getting out of this clusterfuck of a movie. Look, I’ll give up the zombies, because they’ll probably be out of fashion by the time this goes out anyway. But I’m keeping my motorbike. And you gotta unbutton the top button of your dress there, because, like, we gotta sell this thing. What you say?

Juliet: [undoing the top button of her dress and sighing] Fine. Could you please excuse me a moment? [Aside; Juliet removes a cell phone from her cleavage, dials and speaks] Gary? It’s me. Who is this moron you sent me? I was promised Jay Baruchel!

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KING LEAR BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Scene: Lear and his wife. In bed. Both somewhat drunk.

King Lear: [tapping his wife on the shoulder] Good woman, tis the case that I feel frisky this night.

Mrs Lear: [turning to face her husband] Ah, tis so? Do not tarry, husband; make my womb thy castle and storm the gate!

King Lear: Thou, wench, thou! Good wench! The moon half turns its back on us, to look over its shoulder while pretending to look not!

Mrs Lear: A fie on the moon and on thy speech which puts off when ye ought to be putting on!

King Lear: But I have no coat to put on.

Mrs Lear: Tis a warm night, proceed with bare arms, my lord.

King Lear: Just to be clear, wife: we’re talking about birth control aren’t we?

Mrs Lear: [sighing] This preamble is not to your benefit. Desist, or you may find the moat hath run dry.

King Lear: Noted.

Lear and wife commence erotic fumbling. Then, a burst of light and smoke. Before the bed: [P], a time traveller, sent back from the future, Marty McFly style, to issue a warning. 

[P]: [to Lear] Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Here [tossing him a packet of three] sheaf your sword. You do not want children, believe me.

Exeunt [P].

LIFE IS A DREAM BY PEDRO CALDERON DE LA BARCA

I’ve long felt that our grasp on reality is tenuous at best, that reality is, in fact, a tricksy sprite that it is difficult to get a handle on. Not only is it subjective, and open to interpretation [i.e. while I may believe that I am Napoleon, that don’t make it so for everyone else, even though it does make it so for me], it is also something that can abruptly change [I may not think I am Napoleon for 24 years and then suddenly decide that I am]. Our perception of ourselves and the world around us is dependent upon many factors, including the functioning of your brain, and your senses, all of which can deceive you. Everyone has, at some point, had experiences where their reality has been challenged, even if it is a small-scale thing like thinking you have heard something that no one else seems to have heard.

[You hear that?

No. What?

Come on, that banging? You must’ve heard it?

I didn’t hear any banging, you’re imagining it.

Like fuck I am, you’re deaf!]

On a personal note [just for a change, and all], I’m reminded of an ex-girlfriend who I was convinced was cheating on me, although I had no hard evidence. One night, when she was staying over, I woke to find that she was not next to me; without getting up I looked around, only to see her in the corner of the room huddled over her phone. I didn’t mention it straight away. but a week or so later, during an argument [as you do], I brought it up and she denied that the incident had ever taken place, that she had never got out of bed and taken her phone to the corner of the room. I maintained that I saw it with my own eyes, but she was so adamant that I had imagined it that I started to doubt myself. Had I dreamt it? Was I half asleep? Was I, like those who spy ghostly figures during the night, seeing things in the darkness? Even now, long after we broke up, I can’t be sure. The thing is, our reality is not only dependent upon our senses and brain etc, but is at least partly dependent, also, upon other people. If someone tells you that something that you think is the case, isn’t, or vice versa, and is convincing enough, then your reality itself can be changed.

In de la Barca’s Life is a Dream, a three act play written in verse and first published in 1635, the main thrust of the action centres around a young man who has been imprisoned by his father, the king of Poland, after a premonition that were he to succeed him he would bring violence and ruin to the kingdom. The king, however, perhaps being tickled by guilt, devises a plan whereby he will release his son, who does not know that he is a prince, and install him on the throne and observe his behaviour in order to see whether the prophesy was true. If, and here’s the fun bit, it turns out that the prince is prone to violence he will be returned to his cell and told that his release and brief reign was a dream. Will he be a good king? If not, will he buy all that it’s only a dream stuff? Would you buy it? You’d want to say not, but I’m not so sure any of us could make that claim with any certainty.

Aside from issues regarding the nature of reality de la Barca raises other interesting questions, such as is it better to live in ignorance, or to know the truth? The prince is to be told that his brief reign was a dream because the king believes that it is preferable to being imprisoned as a disgraced prince, but is he right? During my reading I kept returning to a situation I have witnessed more than once, where someone has terminal cancer and yet isn’t told. For me, the truth is important, is always preferable, even if it hurts. Life is a Dream is also an exploration of that age-old debate around nature vs nurture. The king is under the impression that it is fated that his son will be a tyrant, and so locks him up as a preventative measure; being a tyrant is, then, something that he sees as being part of one’s nature; de la Barca deals with all this very cleverly, because the prince has been in jail for most of his life, and so could say with some justification that even if he is released and behaves tyrannically what would one expect of someone who has been treated as a criminal? The king has, he would say, created the beast, created the criminal, by treating him as such, by raising him in a way that is likely to result in extreme resentment and anti-social behaviour. If you were watching a performance of the play, at the time it was written, you’d also likely pick up on the theme of whether one has a duty to one’s king or a duty to one’s loved ones, but that, as a modern reader, didn’t interest me.

Well, isn’t this pleasant? I haven’t written anything negative at all yet, and I won’t, really, because the play is very good, although it isn’t perfect or amazing. The most significant criticism one could make is that it’s too short; it is only three acts, three short acts, and there are plot points that de la Barca seems to race through but which, to be effective, needed more space given to them. For example, Rossaura, who is looking to avenge her honour, is pretty pointless as a character. Her whole storyline could have been cut and it wouldn’t have adversely affected the play, in fact it actually works as a distraction because de la Barca seems to assume you’re aware of certain things without making them clear, such as that initially she was trying to pass for a man.

It is difficult to make an informed judgement about the playwright’s language because this is, of course, a play in translation from Spanish, and in terms of the two editions I checked out the quality varied wildly. In the edition that I read, and which I am reviewing, it was impressive enough, though, and there are a [small] number of memorable and quotable lines. It is worth noting that I did not read the edition pictured above, which is a verse translation of Life is a Dream, but a more recent rendering into prose [as translated by Michael Kidd]; I chose that edition because I wanted to focus more on the writing and less on the structure of the verse [which isn’t, apparently, particularly startling or impressive, and certainly wasn’t in the verse edition I looked at]; Kidd explains in his introduction that he made the choice for prose partly for this reason, because the language loses a great deal of its beauty when one attempts to impose a rhyming structure on it. In any case, Life is a Dream, in either prose or verse, will only take you roughly three hours to read and it is well worth 180 minutes of your [waking] life.

OTHELLO BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Bonjour mes amis!

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It is I, Pepe Le Pew, the alarmingly rapey cartoon skunk. I ‘ave been asked by P. to review zis pièce de théâtre by ze great William Shakespeare. He ‘as left me some notes; and at ze top of ze list ‘e ‘as written ‘black and white’; like a skunk, no? Ze coming togetherrr of black and white is a beautiful thing! See, my Penelope, my turtledove, my cherie, she was just a black cat, but ze white paint it give her a stripe, and then, ah, c’est une fille superbe! I am told in zis zat ze man and ze woman are, what you say, mixed race? A couple métis? Ah, to taste of every flower in ze garden is a good thing, no? Making ze lurve to a beautiful woman zat is life! But not everybody agree with Pepe; some people don’t like ze man and ze woman to come together to make ze sweet lurve if they are not ze same race. Desdemona, who is ze little chicken-fillet in zis storee, her familee zey are angree! She iz young! She iz white! Ze young ones they are, how you say, ripe? Míérs! But zey are rebellious! Aah, sweet rebellion, “LibertéEgalité, Fraternité!” Othello, who is ze man, ze wooer, ‘e is black, and ‘e iz old! Ze people, Desdemona’s parents, zey do not approve; like ze Romeo et Juliet, no? But with ze more adult thème? Othello, ze wooer, ‘e is ‘appy though. Très belle femme! Who would not be ‘appy with zat? But ‘e is, how you say, lacking in confidence about ‘imself; is ‘e too old for ze woman? Non! But ze man when ‘e ‘as ze beautiful ladee ‘e can go crazee. Devenir fou! ‘E lose is mind! And rememberrr, ‘e is black; she is white. Zis is ok, no? But for ‘im, zis sows ze slightest seed of doubt. Enterrr, Iago! Zis man ‘e is bad. Mauvais homme! ‘E pretend to be Othello’s ami, his friend, and uses zis opportunity to manipulate ‘im, to whisperrr in ‘is ear. Iago, ‘e is jaloux, of Othello, of ‘is woman, of ‘is poste, ‘is position. ‘E want to ruin Othello, and so ‘e plays on ‘is doubts about ‘imself, ‘is fearrrs. ‘E tells ‘im zat ze woman, she is playing ze games, zat she wants another man, a white man! Ah, ze woman zey play ze games, this is true, no? Zey run away, so that zey can be captured, true. But, zis woman is no game-player! Iago is un grand manipulateur! ‘E is very clever, no? Needling the most tender places of ‘is friend’s ‘eart. And so, Othello, he too become jaloux. Shakespeare, ‘e is very clever, too, no? How ‘e structure ze play, zis two-fold jealousy; ze two zey need each otherrr, zey feed each otherrr; one cannot have un grand manipulateur without a willing manipulatee. A touching tragedy! Othello ‘e was most ‘appy and was consumed by ‘is own doubts, ‘is own feelings of inferiority! Ah, and in ze end, zey all die. C’est la vie.

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Apologies to all French people.

For the uninitiated: