I've just seen four plays in twenty-four hours. Three of them Shakespeare. All of them outside. I think that is quite the achievement, and I would go see three more tomorrow were I not just a little bit theatred out. This is all part of the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival, which features a whole lot of plays performed outdoors in Volunteer Park.
Last night I saw "The Tempest", which had a friend of mine in it, and was quite excellent, and very funny. I liked that it didn't attempt to do anything novel with the setting, so they could concentrate better on the characters and the story. And it was truly a blank stage, which was neat.
This afternoon/evening I saw "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "The Wind in the Willows", and "Hamlet".
A "Midsummer Night's Dream" had a vaguely Vegas setting, so Titania had a big feathery headdress and at one point one of the fairies had a big white feathery tail. And Puck had a stripey purple waistcoat, shiny purple tailcoat, and a very nice hat. They had a very interesting set, which consisted of two vaguely bridge shaped blocks and a semicircle block, which were moved around in interesting ways. There was a pug! You could see their backstage, and we kept looking at the pug and wondering what it was doing there, and finally realized when it came on stage. They had music, and it gave the whole thing a goodly air of creepy circus, which was apt with the fairies. However, I thought Puck was the only fairy who really seemed unhuman, which bothered me.
"The Wind in the Willows" was entertaining. I've never read the book, so I can't judge on that front, but I very much liked Rat and Mole, and although it was a little theatrical for my tastes, it was still lots of fun.
"Hamlet" was excellent. Largely due to Hamlet himself. Watching him become increasingly mad was fascinating, and the way you couldn't always tell whether he was really insane or just putting it on, and how he was sometimes completely lucid and sane, and then would suddenly snap and start giggling madly and hopping up and down and jumping back and forth and all. He was always moving around, and for a while he was wandering around barefoot and disheveled, and he kept walking through the audience in a distracted manner. They made very good use of his costume changes: they were always subtle, but very effective.
The other character I particularly liked watching was Gertrude. Hamlet had a scene with her which is apparently only in one version of the play and isn't so often done, which was lovely to watch. I found her much more sympathetic than I would usually think of her.
Ophelia's madness was fascinating. She was in a nightgown, and wearing Polonius's vaguely cassock like thing, and throwing rocks around and calling them rosemary and rue.
Horatio was played by a woman, as a woman. I don't know that this really worked very well, and I always think of Horatio as being more subtle than was played. Rosencrantz was also a woman, which wasn't quite so jarring, but Guildenstern was double-cast as Laertes, which was jarring.
The ghost was well done. He was played by Claudius, and there were various of the actors stationed off to the sides of the audience, echoing some of his words, which created a rather ghostly effect.
Fortinbras was cut entirely (which I didn't notice until the last scene); I think the aim was to focus on Hamlet and his madness.
Next weekend I'm planning to see "Twelfth Night", and maybe "Romeo and Juliet".