Sunday, December 21, 2014

A lively finish to 2014

Kate Dolan as Portia, painted by John Everett Millais (1829–1896)
We brought our program for the year to a close on Saturday with a moved reading, led by our secretary Rosalind. But really, it's all Rob's fault. Rob put together a most scholarly collection of research into the court scene from The Merchant of Venice and laid out the fruits of his labours in our newsletter, Ariel

The court scene has to be one of the most widely performed excerpts from Shakespeare. I checked YouTube to see how many versions had been uploaded, and found over 1700. As a matter of interest, I sought other famous scenes and speeches: Mark Antony's 'Friends, Romans, and countrymen' takes the cake with nearly 40 thousand versions, with Hamlet's soliloquy coming in second at 32,500. (Many of these, of course, would be accounted for by young hopefuls putting up their audition pieces.) The balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet has been uploaded in 24,000 versions, with Hal V's Crispin Crispian speech showing up over 7,500 times, including a couple by pre-schoolers! The Merchant's court scene only has 1700 versions, but that's still a respectable showing.

At this point, Rosalind picked up on Rob's research and came up with the idea of a moved reading. I've been with the club over ten years and in all that time we've never done a moved reading. In fact, I have never done a moved reading before in my life, and I was surprised at how hard I found it. It's impossible to do Shakespeare half-heartedly - my inner Gratiano wanted to make rude gestures at Shylock whenever he got the chance, even when the Duke was watching. I suspect that in reality, poor old Grat would have been kicked out of court, but this time the Duke was in a mild mood so he got away with it. Of course, every time I gave Shylock the finger I had to take my eyes off the script, and while I know that scene reasonably well, I don't know it off by heart. And therein lies the difficulty of a moved reading.

We all enjoyed the exercise, and members who were not reading (and were therefore a captive audience!) agreed afterwards that it had been enjoyable to watch, too. Perhaps we might make moved readings a regular part of our calendar.

Also at this meeting we celebrated the wonderful contribution made by  Roy Shannon, a member for some decades, who has served in various capacities, most notably as secretary for many years. Frances had commissioned a framed copy of Sonnet 29 as a memento for Roy. Although Roy wants to take a back seat and enjoy the ride for a while, we hope he will continue to attend meetings.

All-in-all, 2014 has been an enjoyable year at the Shakespeare Club of WA. We've learnt a bit more about Henry V, King Lear, Measure for Measure and The Winter's Tale, and we've also had some very happy times just drinking coffee and munching cake!

We have a social get-together in January, and in February one of our favourite guest speakers, Professor Chris Wortham, will pay us a visit. In March we hold our AGM, when we vote on activities for the coming year. I wonder which plays we'll choose this time?

PS - A slight correction to the above - Rosalind tells me the idea for a moved reading came from Frances, our president, so kudos to all three - Rob, Frances and Rosalind - for a whooping end to the year's activities!