The Proscenium and the Percipient

As Stephen King once wrote:

Let’s talk about fear, you and I.  Let’s talk about fear.

But not just any fear.  King already beat me to talking about fear in written fiction (though that doesn’t stop me from going at it every so often, of course) and King already beat me to talking about fear on film (again, something I occasionally have made a foray into).  But I want to talk about a type of fear — a variety of what Noel Carroll calls “art-horror” — that King doesn’t take into account in his Danse Macabre, and which Caroll (as I recollect) does not even mention in his own treatment of the genre.

I want to talk about theatric horror.


There are two ways you might respond to the idea of theatric horror.  The first is that it is ridiculous: a man wearing a bedsheet onstage is an actor playing the ghost of Old Hamlet, and nothing more; it is (this line of thinking implies) silly to be scared by anything onstage because, quite paradoxically, all of it is illusory, so anything that appears unnatural (like a ghost) is, in fact, naturally explicable (a man in a bedsheet).  The other way to think about it is that theatric horror should be about the same as cinematic horror, that if you can be scared of Jason Voorhees on a screen then you damn sure can be frightened by a man wearing a bedsheet.

The key thing to take from both of these examples is that both make the assumption that horror is participatory.  This is no big revelation; all fiction is participatory in varying capacities.  This mostly takes the form of making the viewer/reader/audience’s desires the same as one or some of the characters’ desires.  It’s about interest, and it’s about sympathy.  You want to know why Old Hamlet’s ghost is stalking the battlements, if it’s telling the truth or not; you want Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to get together; you want to figure out what the fuck is going on with that island and the polar bear and the time-travel and you hope to god it all makes sense in the end.

But horror is special.

You don’t want the zombie apocalypse to happen — and listen, I know it’s fashionable to be excited about zombies and the end of the world, but trust me, almost everyone who insists on proclaiming they’ll have a good time when the shit hits the fan will be among the first to either die or become a quivering, sobbing mess.  This is what Noel Carroll calls the paradox of horror: it is a genre set up specifically to show us things we hate or despise, things designed to make us unhappy, and we flock to it.  So yes, horror is participatory, but it is participatory in a way that is distinct from the way other genres are.  The closest thing to it is tragedy, which generally focuses on a handful of repulsive things, but by definition there is a catharsis, a final release of tension; horror, on the other hand, has no such obligation.  At the end of, say, The Blair Witch Project, the story doesn’t actually end.  It just stops; the monster is still on the loose, there is no return to order.

The idea is that horrific things do not end, terror does not end, and above all, you are subject to the same fears and forces that govern the lives of the characters.  The toys and props of horror aren’t put neatly back into the box and hidden away at the end of the game; they continue to litter floor, and you step on them in the middle of the night when you least expect it.

So horror, despite its paradoxes, is quite a participatory thing indeed.  And it should be noted that of the modes of storytelling I’ve brought up — fiction, film, television, theater — it is the latter that is the most participatory.  After all, it’s not words on a page and it’s not an interplay of light from a projector — things are happening there in front of you, and it’s the closest you can get to it actually happening.  Given the participatory nature of horror and the participatory nature of theater, the two ought to be a match made in heaven.

So how do you make a play scary?

I’ve recently seen two horror plays, and the remainder of this blog entry will be me outlining the way each production attempts to develop an atmosphere and, above all, a feeling of terror in the audience — the percipients.  A percipient being, of course, one who perceives; it’s also a pseudotechnical term tossed around by some parapsychologists to describe those who ‘perceive’ themselves as having had supernatural experiences.  Added to that, it sounds fortuitously similar to participant, and in case you couldn’t tell, that’s going to be a cornerstone of my discourse.

Now: Play number one.  The Woman in Black, currently running at the Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden, a few blocks from where I work.  This thing has been on forever — for me, almost literally, since it’s been going nonstop since 1989, when I was barely a year old.  It’s been through its share of actors, too — the cast in that trailer the website is running is a completely different cast from the one I saw.  That’s a notable, if tertiary, facet of the play: it has a cast of two.  Three, maybe, but then things get a little complicated.  I’ll explain that in a bit.

WiB is obviously a pretty successful venture, having run for 21 years, and I personally think it mostly succeeds as a play and as a piece of horror fiction.  I’m not going to say it frightened me — it didn’t, I don’t frighten easily — but the people in the audience who kept screaming seemed pretty scared.  Of course, the people who were screaming were mostly teenaged schoolgirls — the curse of the matinee showing, from what I hear — and they were screaming at the ‘jump-scare’ bits, things like doors slamming and so on.  I’m not going to fault the play for that.  I tend to look down on jump scares in film only when they are predictable and when they are the only mechanism used (or overused); suffice it to say that WiB‘s jump scares are very often unpredictable and they only become grating if, like me, you have to listen to a few dozen sixteen year old girls shouting every time.

Where the play succeeds most admirably, I think, is the more insidious horror it attempts to instill through use of atmosphere and two or three wonderfully executed images.  My favorite was the titular woman in black, lying corpse-still in a madly careening rocking chair which then threw her forward with such force that she seemed to fly and, without any misstep, landed on her feet (assuming she has feet, below her tattered skirts) to glide soundlessly across the stage.

The plot is often billed as being an MR Jamesian ghost story, which is half a truth and half a lie.  James’s ghost stories have a very particular pattern and a particular way of presenting the supernatural that is wholly absent in the play; where the two more happily coincidence, however, is in the manner of narration.  I have a love-hate relationship with Jamesian narration; it seems like sometimes he just decided to be as fucking roundabout as he could in getting to the story he had to tell.

In order to create what he called a “pretense of truth” he often sets up webs of narrators to tell a single story.

A typical James story will be narrated by the first-person-I, a scholar or antiquarian who is presumably James himself; this narrative voice will do such wonderful things as tell us, rather blatantly, that he is not telling us everything he can so that he may explain details more chillingly later, or he may off-handedly dismiss a secondary character as nameless because he’s just not important to the story.  Below the James-narrator there is often a second voice belonging, supposedly, to one of his friends or acquaintances, to whom the events of the story occurred; though James will talk about the character in third person, his narrative voice occasionally gives way to the other character’s first person narration of the events in question.  The secondary narrator, for his (and it’s almost always his) part will often find an old manuscript — a court transcription, a diary, whatever — that also relates events in the first-person voice of someone who is long dead, often providing a clue as to the nature of the hauntings.  The text-within-the-narration, with its archaic syntax and occasional rambling passages in Latin, will often consume a large portion of the narrative structure.

If this all sounds a bit complicated, trust me when I say that it is.  Sometimes James gets so caught up with himself it’s impossible to tell who is narrating what and when and how.  If you’re also thinking this all sounds awfully postmodern, keep in mind that James was writing in the 1900s, and had no real reason to be this damn complicated.  His narrators are like nightmarish Russian nesting dolls, each one trapped inside the other and more removed from the reader than the last.

Now, The Woman in Black very admirably follows up on this tradition of being obfuscating as fuck by having the same narrative confusion, but on stage.

It works something like this: an older man, sort of bumbling, wants to tell a story to lay his conscience to rest.  He consults an actor, the other main character, to help him work on his public speaking skills for this purpose.  The older guy, Arthur Kipps, is a terrible speaker, though, and so the actor (who finds the story interesting and has designs on making it a play) takes over Arthur’s role for the purposes of flashback.  So right there on stage, one character literally becomes the other, a lighting change telling you that you’ve entered a flashback.  The real Arthur, for his part, becomes every other character in the play, changing his outfit or glasses slightly and affecting multiple accents to fill various roles.  So then suddenly you’re not watching these two guys put on a play about Arthur’s experience, you’re actually watching the memory — until, for one reason or another, we jump back and Arthur turns into the actor and the other actor turns back into Arthur.

It all gets very confusing, as you might imagine; you never know if the people on stage are people “on stage” practicing their play in an empty theater or people in a haunted house, and the fact that they can go from one to the other at any time doesn’t help.  When the ghost, the woman in black, finally shows up, is she actually there?  Is she on the stage with Arthur and the actor, or is she part of a flashback, a memory?  The implication, quite horrible indeed, is that if she is in fact on the stage in the play’s “present” then she is also there on stage in front of you.  And since she operates sort of like Kiyoko from the Ju-On films — she passes on from person to person, seeking vengeance for the wrongs done to her in life — there’s the equally unsettling implication that the woman in black, if she is there, is now after you.

This is underscored by the play’s curtain call.  As the audience applauds, the two actors you know quite well by now come out and bow, try to run back stage, come back to the continued applause, bow, and leave.  Just them.  Only those two.

And, after they have gone, the woman in black appears at the very back of the stage, just visible, staring out at you.  She does not smile, she does not bow; she only stares.  For her, it seems, the play is not over.

Then she disappears, and you’re free to go.  Or so you think, anyway, but the play has already taught you that the woman in black can show up where you least expect her, be it an ancient house in the marshlands or a London park on a sunny afternoon.

We should also take time to consider the other play I saw, Ghost Stories at the Lyric Hammersmith.  There are a few things to note about this play, the first being that it is new and has a modern day setting, unlike The Woman in Black, which was written in the 80s but takes place in the early 20th century. The second is that it is co-written and directed by Jeremy Dyson, one of the writers for a black comedy television program that is very near and dear to me, The League of Gentlemen.  What this means is that the story is very consciously influenced by horror films and at certain points it becomes as bizarre as all get-out.

Ghost Stories is also the better of the two plays.  I’m wary to talk much about it for fear of spoiling it — not that I expect anyone reading this to see it, really, but I am loath to give away the play’s secrets.  In structure the plot works something like this: you are part of an audience watching a Dr. Goodman present a short seminar on ghost stories, which he collects from various people.  As he replays recordings of these experiences to you, the audience, the action on the stage takes over and we “see” what is happening in flashback.  There are in total three vignettes of this type, linked by Goodman’s lectures on them, giving the entire thing a sort of classic anthology movie feel — think Creepshow or something of that variety.

The play’s resolution held no surprises for me, but it was well executed; I will not discuss it further, except to say that if The Woman in Black is an MR James story, then Ghost Stories follows, appropriately enough given Dyson’s own apparent interest, in the footsteps of Robert Aickman.  Aickman is woefully under-read, I think, and this is not helped by the fact that his work is almost entirely out of print and very hard to find in any other way — in my travels through used bookstores here I found a shop that had two of his early collections (first editions, about £95 each) and both volumes of his collected ghost stories (£400).  At any rate, there’s a quote from Neil Gaiman on that Wikipedia page that I feel gives a very accurate description of what it is like to read an Aickman story: as a reader, you are slowly overcome with a sense that something is horribly, terrifyingly wrong, and by the end you know it is, and yet afterward you can never figure out exactly what went wrong, where it went wrong, and how.

Ghost Stories is less coy about the why and how parts of the equation, but it does indeed do an admirable job of slowly breaking down the audience’s complacency.  In other words, while watching Ghost Stories, you think you’re seeing one thing, but you slowly begin to understand that you’re really witnessing something else entirely.

I’m sure that’s vague to the point of being useless, but it’s the way the play goes, and I really don’t want to say any more about it.  They even ask you kindly after the show not to tell anyone!  And, anyway, I hear John Landis was in the audience a few nights ago, which (if his career weren’t dead) might bode favorably for a film adaptation.


This isn’t a post about horror films.  It’s a post about horror theater, and I sincerely believe that Ghost Stories could not work as a film.  Neither could, I think, The Woman in Black, though the BBC apparently tried.

I have come to understand that the way theatric horror works — and the reason it is unique — is that the audience participates in a way completely unlike their participation with other genres and other forms.  The common trend in both plays I’ve described is that the barrier between the audience, the percipient/participant, and the action on stage is broken down — the proscenium, the fourth-wall, is presented as permeable.  You leave the Woman in Black thinking you might be her next victim, but you don’t leave a production of Oedipus Rex thinking you’re going to murder your dad and bone your mom.  (At least I hope not.)

Likewise Ghost Stories, with its wraparound frame of a parapsychologist’s lecture, makes you personally a part of what is happening.  It’s simpler than WiB‘s layering of narration, and while I actually think WiB is very clever and successful in that regard, it’s also a bit cold.  Ghost Stories‘s technique is simpler, perhaps cruder, but far more effective in bringing the audience into the world of the play.  In other words, while the former is a technical success, I believe the latter is a general success.

To go back to MR James, when writing on his ghost stories, he claimed his multiple narrators and pretense of truth were required to make the reader think, “If I’m not careful, this could happen to me!”  This is the point of theatric horror, I think — even more so than a horror story or a horror film.

I also think this is why horror theater is not a widely considered part of the spectrum: it’s really easy to do it badly, so there’s not much of it.  The percipients have to be participants in the fullest sense; they have to feel what is going on, they have to be sympathetic, because you (the writer/actor/director/whatever) are essentially asking them to make themselves feel intensely uncomfortable.  It’s not a request many people are inclined to comply with, and if this sort of thing were to fail, it would do so spectacularly.

This may be a lot to base on only two plays, but it’s all I have to go on, so it’s the best I’ve got.  It’s an allegation supported, I think, by the rather famous and experimental Punchdrunk company, who stage their plays in actual buildings, having the actors go about their business while the audience wanders around, observing and ignored.  In other words, they do away with the proscenium entirely.  From what I hear, Punchdrunk’s Faust was absolutely fucking terrifying.

Punchdrunk’s approach also underscores another observation I’ve made about theatric horror, and perhaps theater in general.  You’ll recall that in The Woman in Black, part of the action takes place in an empty theater — the characters refer to the theater multiple times, talking about how empty it is.  Of course this garners a few laughs, because the theater is not empty at all.

But it’s a rather uncanny notion, nonetheless — to be outright ignored by another human being, for him to pretend you don’t exist.  There’s a similar sort of dynamic in Ghost Stories and — hell — I feel like the same sort of thing goes on in almost any play.

When theater works well, there’s always that uncanny feeling that you are in a place you shouldn’t be, that you have somehow become unseen or insubstantial.  Horror plays tend to involve the audience more directly perhaps because the actors need your consent to make the monsters real, and so you’re invited, in a sense, to become part of the play.

In other words, in good theater, the audience should feel that they are real ghosts.

Dunsinane @ Hampstead Theatre

And now for something completely different.

Unlike the other plays I’ve talked about in this space, Dunsinane is a modern play that premiered near the beginning of February.  However, because I am completely monomaniacal in my interests, there is of course a Shakespeare connection: it’s billed as a sequel to Macbeth.  Which it is, sort of.

Obviously doing something like this has the potential to blow chunks of epic proportions, but I was pleasantly surprised by Dunsinane.  In fact it is… Not Bad At All.  Of the plays I’ve seen here, it’s number two — right behind that Measure for Measure production I didn’t really talk much about.  But anyway, I’m writing about Dunsinane now.  Let’s do this.

It should be noted that David Greig, a playwright of no little renown, makes a smart decision and does not choose to make Dunsinane a straight sequel to Shakespeare’s Macbeth; rather, he places his play more distinctly within historical reality.  Macbeth (who is never referred to by name and never appears on stage) is a well-regarded king who has ruled for fifteen years after seizing the throne from the weak and tyrannical Duncan; Duncan’s son, Malcolm, has meanwhile convinced the English that Macbeth rules against the wishes of the people of Scotland, and so a contingent of English soldiers led by Siward and Macduff (one of the handful of Scottish nobles to turn against Macbeth) storm the castle of Dunsinane and implement a bit of regime change.

That should sound kind of familiar, and it’s intentional.  The play mirrors the Iraq situation, with mixed results.  Much better is the way it blurs the line between actual history, Shakespeare’s play (Birnam Wood does indeed come to Dunsinane — it’s the opening scene), and Greig’s own imagination.  This mixture also allows Greig to bring Shakespeare’s most famous character, Lady Macbeth, back under her real name — Gruach.  She died for Shakespeare, she lived historically; she also had a son by her previous marriage, another detail preserved and one that invalidates Malcolm’s claim to the throne.

Malcolm, for his part, turns out to be a corrupt jackass who simply wanted the privileges of being king and not the responsibilities.  He’s also ruthless; he wants Gruach (who he’s captured) and her son (who has gone into hiding) killed to consolidate his power.  The Englishman Siward, the protagonist of the play, only wants wants stability and peace — as he calls it, justice — in the country he has invaded, and he’s willing to commit himself and the English forces indefinitely to enforcing a stable regime in Scotland.

I think it’s a great setup.  There are, in fact, a lot of really great things about this play.  It’s RSC-sponsored, so production values and set design are no problem; the actors are all generally strong, especially Gruach, who proves to be just as overwhelming a presence as a wronged mother and monarch as she does when she’s a batshit crazy regicide.  The structure of the play, though it’s four acts based on seasons, still manages to have some neat nods to Shakespeare, such as the mixture of Siward’s higher tragedy with the banter of his soldiers, vulgar young boys who discuss sex and homesickness before encountering with Heavy Stuff like death and warfare.

There’s actually a heavy dose of comedy; the opening scene of the march on Dunsinane is played mostly for laughs, underscoring how ridiculous it is to have soldiers pretending to be trees.  This is intercut with more serious scenes, as you may expect, but even Siward and Gruach have highly comedic lines.  Malcolm, for his part, is the worst; he’s played as a spineless, pseudo-Tony Blair parody, a leader who equivocates and lies but has no solid ideas for what he plans to do.  The humor written for his character is so brash and forthright, so damn modern, that it actually broke my suspension of disbelief, especially when thrown up against large, serious, questions of justice, warfare, and colonialism.

That is the play’s biggest fault: it doesn’t know what the hell it is, or wants to be.  It’s either a silly allegoric satire of the Iraq War in period dress, or it’s a serious treatment of the motivations for and effects of doing what you think is the right thing, and how far some people are willing to go for what they recognize as justice.  It’s either watching ill-equipped, unprepared young men die horribly while making sex and shit jokes, or it’s watching a committed idealist be slowly destroyed by the corrupt world around him.

All in all, the play actually has very little to do with Shakespeare’s Macbeth other than setting and a few revisionist takes on shared characters.  Thematically it’s in a different ballpark entirely.  I’ve talked before during the Psycho series about the concept (borrowed from a professor) of the “rewrite” — and in one sense Dunsinane is an attempt to rewrite Macbeth.  But that’s only skin-deep; Greig wants to call Shakespeare out on his historical inaccuracies, his limited understanding of Scottish culture, and rectify these mistakes.  But on a deeper, more profound level, Greig isn’t working with Macbeth at all.

This is clear enough in the last scene: Siward, with only a single foolish young soldier to keep him company, confronts Gruach in the midst of a bitter snowstorm.  We’ve been watching this man break down for the past two hours, we’ve seen his hopes shattered, we’ve seen him betrayed, and now we see him, hunched, obsessed, perhaps driven mad, crying out for revenge and justice in the midst of a storm.

No, Dunsinane isn’t Macbeth; it’s King Lear.

Which is interesting in and of itself, since by the time this entry is posted (remember, I’m writing a week in advance and autoupdating) I in theory will have seen the RSC’s new production of Lear running in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  And later this month, I hope to see the new RSC-sponsored play and counterpart to Dunsinane, The Gods Weep — which, when you read the plot synopsis, also happens to very obviously be a Lear rewrite.

Will something come of this?  Only time will tell!*

*Also assuming I haven’t met with some horrible accident during my week of being homeless.

Twelfth Night @ The Duke of York’s Theatre

This was a Royal Shakespeare Company production, and not just any RSC production, but an RSC production directed by Gregory Doran.  Doran is most recently famous for taking a huge risk in 2008 and casting Doctor Who‘s David Tennant in Hamlet, a move that apparently paid off in spades.  I obviously wasn’t here to see it, and I haven’t yet gotten my hands on a copy of the DVD, but I’ve heard good things (also, Patrick Stewart as Claudius? Daaaaamn).  Anyway, in addition to his Hamlet cred, in 2000-ish Doran put on a Macbeth that I think, despite its few faults, might be the closest thing to definitive we’ve got.  So I have a lot of respect for (and expectations of) Gregory Doran.

It really saddens me, then, to say that his Twelfth Night is not that good.

Which isn’t to say it is bad, really.  The word my professor used, and one that I think is most appropriate, is “patchy.”  The play stopped and started, came and went, and ended up feeling generally uneven.  Doran tried his hand at casting a TV actor in the meatiest role, this time famous (over here, anyway) grumpy old man Richard Wilson as the puritanical steward Malvolio.  Malvolio, as it happens, is not even a main role, but 12N is one of those plays where the subplot is more famous than the actual plot; Malvolio is the character people care about, and putting Wilson in the role was meant to draw more scrutiny, speculation, and (most importantly) audience members than any other aspect of the production.

Needless to say this is what most of the reviews focus on; in earlier stagings, apparently, Wilson wasn’t impressive.  This was his first turn on Shakespeare, but by the time I saw the play (it was very near the end of its run) I thought he was adequate.  A little stiff and hollow, perhaps, but that is probably the best way to describe the whole production.  During the first two acts, all I could say about it was that it was definitely Twelfth Night, with various actors playing various characters I know are in the play, all with the expected lavish RSC set design and high production values.  Aside from that, it was lifeless.

Things picked up in acts 3-5, following the interval, where it seemed like the entire cast had ducked into their dressing rooms and snorted cocaine before coming back on.  The actors weren’t any better, exactly — Viola/Cesario, Orsino, Olivia, and nearly everyone else was still pretty bland (Sebastian, by the bye, was bad and stayed bad) — but the smaller characters like Toby, Andrew, and Fabian seemed to really get into what they were doing, and everyone seemed more lively and happier to be on stage.

The two real bright spots of the production were Fabian, who is really a very small part but the actor had a good control of the character, and Feste, who was the only major character who seemed consistently on.  They really emphasized his songs (we’re talking entire dance numbers), which was odd, considering the actor didn’t seem to be a very strong singer to begin with.  But I give him points for getting out in front of people and singing, anyway, and I give him the benefit of a doubt since it’s cold season and he might have been losing his voice.

But aside from those two performances, the play was very flat.  “Oh look,” the actors seemed to be saying, “we are putting on a Shakespeare play.  What a thing to do!”  (The Olivia was especially guilty of this — also, they made her character a slut, which has its fun moments but overall is unengaging, especially when the player is Very Obviously Acting, as this one was.)

The sole moment of real almost-brilliance, in my opinion, was the ending, where Feste sings his famous bit about the rain.  Like the film version I just linked, it was played as a sort of montage of Feste singing while various scenes occurred on stage around him.  The key difference was that the song was much slower and the scenes were not of journeys ending in lovers meeting, but snapshots of all the characters who ended up on the losing side of things — Antonio the gay sailor, robbed of his bland, uninteresting boycrush Sebastian by an insane cougar, and Andrew Aguecheek, robbed of his insane cougar by a bland, uninteresting boy, and (this was kind of neat) Toby and Maria, who pantomimed a very bitter and angry domestic dispute.  Naturally this ended with Malvolio, the biggest loser in the play, and as Feste finished his song the two of them stood side by side on the stage, glaring at one another, the Fool and the Puritan — and the lights fell.

I actually got chills from that, man.  It suggests, I believe, a very powerful reading of 12N that could make a very, very fine production.

It’s too bad that Gregory Doran didn’t, you know, use it.

Richard III @ Riverside Studios

This was not a very good production.

The thing about R3 is that it works best when the title character is played as an over-the-top hilarious cartoon — a sort of evil ain’t-I-a-stinker Bugs Bunny.  What this means is that you need a Richard who is crazy, zany, hilarious, and carries the production on his hunched back.  Unfortunately, the folks at Riverside Studios decided to attempt deep emotional resonance, and while they actually achieved this to some degree — the Elizabeth was absolutely amazing, especially when Richard proposes marrying her daughter and she rips him to pieces, and the elderly Margaret (played by a man!) was quite convincing as a drunken, curse-spitting old woman fallen on hard times.  The guy playing Richard was actually good, spinning it as a kind of Crispin Glover thing.

Despite this, the play was just boring.  It was far too somber and therefore very grueling to sit through — the last third was nicely abridged, especially the procession of ghosts, but the first two-thirds were plodding.  Richard needs to be energetic and awesome in a love-to-hate-him way; the audience needs to know he’s unquestionably evil, yet at the same time really want to see him fuck people’s shit up.  It simply works better when it’s a crazy Marlovian spectacle.  My evidence: Ian McKellan’s Nazi-flavored 1995 adaptation, which plays hell with the source text (they all do, as R3 is ungodly long and sloppy) but it’s loads of fun and pretty damn stylish.

A more positive note about the Riverside production: Catesby was also very good.   The staging was a sort of modern multinational corporation boardroom setting and they chose to make Catesby a smartly dressed young female secretary with a clipboard and a constant uncertainty about what the hell was going on around her, and who slowly realized she was both in over her head and pretty much stuck in the plot for the long haul.  This worked.

On the other hand, both sides of the stage had this industrial scaffolding that, at various points in the play and for no specific reason, Richard would climb around on despite apparently suffering from palsy.  I think the idea was to make him sleek and dangerous, and the acrobaticsmaybe would recall the “bottled spider” remark Margaret makes about him.  A neat idea, kind of awkward in execution.  SPEAKING OF WHICH: the Battle of Bosworth Field was a dance party.  I am not kidding.  Both sides glowered at each other from across the stage, dancing slightly while techno music played and strobe lights went off.  Occasionally they staggered as if they’d been hit.  It was like watching a Final Fantasy battle screen, which again was pretty neat, but within the context of the play and production completely crack rock.

And that’s all I have to say on Richard III’s Jungle Gym and Rave from Hell.  On Wednesday keep an eye out for my thoughts on the RSC’s recent production of Twelfth Night. Here’s a preview: it’s also not very good!


Just got word from the UK consulate in Chicago that my visa application has been approved and the visa itself is in the mail.  So ends this chapter in the horrible, drawn out saga of Paperwork.

Also, I now have a twitter for some reason, and if you like the random thoughts that pop into my head that don’t warrant 3000 word rants here then maybe you will like that.

Also also, speaking of 3000 word rants, the second part of the series on American Psycho should be up Friday-ish, I am thinking.  The third part might be a little delayed since we are getting to crunch time for school work and the entries are a little more time intensive than anything else I write here.