Happy Birthday Will! Verdi’s Otello (Opera North) & The Taming of the Shrew (Propeller)

Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday. I’ve had a good month for Shakespeare as well, here are some thoughts on two versions of two great plays I recently saw in Manchester at the Lowry.

I have always been intrigued by Opera as an artform. To me it sits in a similar appreciation of musical theatre, as the participants must demonstrate tremendous stamina and control in its delivery! I love Othello, I think it’s one of Shakespeare’s best and Iago is just a complete bastard. Everyone loves a good baddie, think Lady Macbeth, Shylock, Demetrius and Chiron and of course Iago himself.

I’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing many operas in my time but I must give the Lowry kudos for playing an Opera North programme very frequently. Together with an open mind I took my seat in front a stage dressed as the inner workings of a versatile prison canteen on a ship. Cleaners appeared soon after, with the buzz of the the performance lingering in the audeince.

Truthfully it was extremely enjoyable, well broken up into the 5 acts with a pause in between for players and audience members to take a breath. On a busy Saturday night the theatre was packed, and with the Italian-English translation prevalent via subtitles a number of non-opera/non-Shakespeare experts were clearly in the house. Iago was magnificent. Surly, broody and as vindictive as ever. I missed a few of his soliloquies, due to Verdi’s heavy edit but the words still remain fresh in my mind regardless. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe……

One of my friends had the unfortunate experience of being assigned the flimsiest and most broken seat in the auditorium. I found this hilarious. As did she. The surrounding patrons did not however. Tutting, shushing and be quieting ensued and I was pretty bummed at how people reacted to something that was out of our control. We don’t always have to be a passive silent complacent audience. ESPECIALLY IF THE CHAIR BREAKS. Especially in pretty intense moments – Desdemona defending herself against the handkerchief. Epic lols. BUT you know what we got as a result of complaining? FREE TICKETS! Hence…..

I burn , I pine, I perish! Propeller’s Taming of the Shrew was something else. As an all male Shakespeare company, the team tour two productions a year ensuring long term employment for most of the company.

I can’t stress how relevant I think this play continues to be. Kate SUBMITS to Petruchio. That’s all she can do. We ridicule Bianca & co in the final scene for disobeying their husbands, and when the play finished I had to pinch myself for such ridicule. Petruchio is likable in the first act. A happy go lucky chappie bursting with sex appeal. They he gets violant and abusive. There is no way out but to submit.

Propeller are all into this play-acting slapstick comedy. Its pretty basic. Its also pretty funny. I wasn’t convinced untill I heard them speak about them afterwards. God their intelligent, they know what they are talking about. They can reach the largest audiences with this kind of performance. And I did laugh my head off. I think even I just get a bit precious about Shakespeare. EVEN as a drama student, who should be pushing boundaries of performance art and being all hippy and modern and shit. I just love the words. I love Shakespearean words. I’m happy to stand as a peasant and watch it in the rain on a wooden stage with little props and breeches and collars. I’d love to see more of Propeller though, I must keep an eye out.

Opera North – @Opera_North, Propeller – @PropellerTheatr, The Lowry – @The _Lowry.


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