April 12, 2006, by Peter Kirwan

Seeing Shakespeare Solo; or, Famous People Sell Shows

APRIL 12TH 2006 (backdated)

One problem with seeing fifty plays in one year is finding people to go with you! I’ve had to get organised very quickly, and I have tickets for performances as late as March 2007, and naturally most people don’t have the luxury of planning that far ahead. So, I’ve had to book for most of these productions by myself.

It’s not really a problem, though. I saw ‘Romeo’ by myself yesterday, but my girlfriend went to see it a week ago on a hen night, so I still had someone to talk to about it. I’ve got friends coming to some plays with me, and I know people seeing most of the rest, so I hopefully won’t be in a position too often where I’m the only person who’s seen something. It’s good to talk to people about performances, as half the time you’ll both find that you saw things the other missed, and getting different perspectives always helps me work out my own thoughts.

Not looking likely with tomorrow’s play, however. ‘Antony & Cleopatra’ has already sold out almost its entire run– which is until the Autumn! The reason for this, of course, is that it stars Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter. Now, I’m not an actor–led theatre–goer, but the few times I’ve been in London to see plays I’ve been amazed to see that this is what people mostly talk about. Not about how new or exciting the adaptation is, not about the director and their previous work, but about who’s in it. Famous people sell shows, and it looks like that’s just as true in Stratford as anywhere else!

I’m very excited about tomorrow’s play, but that’s because it’s Greg Doran directing (I saw his ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ last year which was pretty special, and the TV version of his ‘Macbeth’ which was also excellent) and it’s the first time ‘Antony & Cleopatra’, which is a very big play, has been done in the Swan. Of course, I’m very excited to see two amazing actors in the lead roles as well. I just hope that equally exciting productions that don’t have big names get a similar level of interest– I think if you’re only going to see the plays that have Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench or Tamsin Greig in, you’ll probably miss a lot of very innovative and fascinating Shakespeare.

Anyway, that’s all an aside. I’m standing in the top gallery tomorrow, which will be a new experience! Will post again then.

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