Personal

We kick off our quest with a RSC live broadcast of Troilus and Cressida at Vue Wood Green. Troilus and Cressida is one of Shakepeare’s rarest performed plays, probably because it is rubbish. The plot is confusing, all moments of high drama are ultimately fudged, and the play just kind of stops suddenly and one of the secondary characters hurriedly delivers a gross-out speech to distract us all from that fact. Set seven years into the Siege of Troy, Troilus is Paris’ brother, and madly in love with a woman called Cressida, whose father has defected to the Greeks. Cressida’s uncle, Pandarus, promised to ah, acquaint them. Meanwhile, the Greeks are all hanging around outside in the city in tents, arguing about what to do and not a little bit annoyed with Achilles, who has huffed off to his tent to hang out with Petroclus and is refusing to set a heroic example to the rest of the Greek army. Troilus and Cressida hook up, but the next day, a prisoner exchange means that Cressida is sent to the Greeks to be with her father, and she makes the best of it by getting with Diamene. Troilus is devastated. A bunch of people are killed offstage including Petroclus. Achilles kills Hector in grief.  The play ends. Hamlet it is not.

What the RSC did with it though, was pretty clever. Set in some dystopian steampunk universe, with high-octane acting, shirtless men and one of the best percussionists in the world providing the soundtrack, they did a pretty good job of entertaining me, which is ultimately really what these plays were written for.

He actually only got round to putting a shirt on for curtain call.

The RSC went all out on diversity, going with a gender balanced cast, making the relationship between Achilles and Petroclus explicit and getting a deaf actor to play Cassandra.

Charlotte Arrowsmith was pretty good at Cassandra – she signed most of her lines and had another actor vocalise the important bits. It has to be said that I didn’t in fact notice that she was Deaf until I saw the interval interviews, so well done on a great performance.

Charlotte Arrowsmith as Cassandra

The RSC to make the relationship between Achilles and Petroclus explicitly sexual and it really, really worked. They didn’t just shoehorn in some queers because it’s fashionable, it was written that way. Whatever Shakespeare’s original intentions were with that dialogue, he made a deliberate editorial choice to make it ambiguous enough in 1604 that you could interpret it as super gay and thank God I live in 2018 where that vision can be realised.

This is fine.

My laurel crown has to go to Oliver Ford Davies, however, who stole every scene he appeared in as Pandarus. Given that Troilus and Cressida are both boring characters, Pandarus’ creepiness and voyeurism was really funny and a highlight of the play, as well as delivering what was one of the funniest lines:

“PANDARUS
Amen. Whereupon I will show you a chamber with a
bed; which bed, because it shall not speak of your
pretty encounters, PRESS IT TO DEATH: away!”

The only thing I was disappointed by was the fact that we were only one of four attendees at this live broadcast. I have to blame this on Vue making it almost impossible to find and book the showing. It took me several goes, and having to shift from my phone to a desktop computer, to be able to buy a ticket. I hope they fix this, because I really appreciated being able to nip up to my local cinema to see a show being aired a hundred miles away, and I don’t want this cultural gift to be taken away from me because of poor ticket sales.

A good night out. Looking forward to the next one.

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The Mourner’s Kaddish is the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. This is mildly ironic, as it doesn’t mention death as all; instead it affirms the power and majesty of the divine. It is usually said by relatives in the presence of a public prayer service: as to stand in public and praise God as as God has taken away a loved one is a profoundly powerful spiritual act.

I was recently invited to say Kaddish at the memorial service of Reverend Donald Watson by his husband, Reverend Stevenson Graham. You can read a statement from Stevenson available on the One Spirit Foundation’s website about Donald.

It was an honour to do, but the traditional English translation would not have resonated with the people present, so I created an alternative translation that you can read below, taking inspiration from Reb Zalman’s alternative version. A copy of the sheet that I used with the transliteration, my translation and a traditional translation can be downloaded here.

 

Great and holy are the names of the One in this world created by divine love.

May that love transform our hearts in your lifetimes and in our days, in the lives of all who struggle, swiftly and soon. Let us love one another now.

May the blessings of that love flow forever into our world and worlds beyond.

And that divine love,
that sacred energy,
may we shape it
and bring it to life
so it may be truly seen
and given its time
and be seen as beautiful
and uplifting
and joyful, through our own being.

Beyond all prayers, and blessings, and healings and consolations that we can give, is the One from which we come. May we remember.

May a blanket of peace fall upon us from the heavens to comfort us and all who are struggling.

May the One who unites heaven and earth, bring compassion to us, to all who are struggling and to all sentient beings.

Amen.

 

Donald, you will be missed.

Watson, Donald with Toby.thumbnail

1946-2015

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