The Libertine

I wanted to write something about the writing of The Libertine. A collective of my favourite lines and monologues, because the writing is truly beautiful. The Libertine is based on the true life of John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, and his relations with the actress Lizzie Barry. 

Mrs Barry: I want the passionate love of my audience. I want, when I make a sweep of my arm, to carry their hearts away, and when I die that they should sigh for never seeing me again. 

Mrs Barry is asked what she wants from the theatre, and she retorts very passionately, almost in a daze with this line. 

Rochester: I cannot feel in life, I must have others do it for me here

Mrs Barry: You are spoken of as a man with a stomach for life

These lines I feel, don’t need a caption. They are melancholic. 

Rochester: But in the playhouse, every action good or bad has its consequences; drop a handkerchief and it will return to smother you. Outside the playhouse there are for me no crimes and no consequences. 

I liked this bit, because I felt it showed the true tragedy of a man who has lost his love of life, who can do whatever he wishes. It showed the truth of the theatre. Everything has meaning, everything has consequence. 

Rochester: Here in this Theatre we can pretend that our lives have meaning…. The theatre is my soothing drug, and my cynic’s illness is so far advanced that my physic must be of the highest quality. 

This just has so much truth to it. To anyone, theatre people or not. 

Mrs. Barry: You gave a divine talent. And yet you choose to see only what is base and mean. You are one-eyes. You look at humanity and you see the monkey, but you close your eye to the angel. When I am on stage, I give wing to the angel, I let her soar over the rowdy Pit creatures until I have silenced them with the flapping of her wings. That is why they have begun to listen to me. Because they leave the theatre with a larger idea of themselves and they become more noble in their daily lives. You show them to be a scrawny monkey in a shabby coat who shits and mounts its mate and they go on their way meaner. 

This monologue is beautiful, revealing of what truly happens when the audience leaves a theatre. Of the effect Theatre has. 

Rochester: I love theatres. They remind me of ships, great rocking galleons floating into battle. 

Because society and life is a battle. And the theatre is your weapon

Etherege: Love gilds us over and makes us show fine things to each other for a time, but soon the gold wears off and then again the native brass appears. 

Love is nothing but an illusion, designed to lure the human spirit out of it’s hard exterior.

Rochester: I am nature and you are art, let us see how we compare

Art imitates life, and life imitates Art.  

Rochester: When I poured away the last bottle of wine I saw the blood of christ streaming onto the floor and it took all my effort not to throw myself on my face and guzzle. But I desisted and my mind cleared and I made an inventory of my life and found much wanting: injuries to divers people: want of attention to my affairs: a lifetime spitting in the face of God, and I knew I was to be cast down. I had long ago discarded the layer of formal politeness with which we negotiated the world, but now I had to wade through the slough of my licentiousness until I found level ground underfoot, a ground of true sensibility and love of Christ. Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing. 

A man faced with losing his vice, and facing the darkest part of his life, begins to see God in his life. A gorgeous monologue, and a perfect ending- not really a spoiler.  Continue reading The Libertine

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Father Comes Home From The Wars- Royal Court Theatre

I went to see this on Wednesday night, as a part of my London Culture and Performance class for Uni. This was the first show I saw at The Royal Court, and I was really excited to visit this legendary theatre.

Father Comes Home From The Wars, is a series of short plays, depicting the struggle and horror of a black slave, Hero, living though the civil war, fighting for the confederacy on the request of his master. The first play (Act) is set on the plantation with his family; The second is set in the midst of the action of the civil war, with Hero, his master and a captured Union Captain. The final, is set back on the plantation, Hero’s return to his family, or what is left of it.

The show began, with Blues music playing on the stage from the narrator. It was a very Brechtian production, from the moment you walk in; you are immersed in the environment. The set and stage was very naturalistic, right down to the front of the stalls. Also the use of a platform behind the action was very effective, giving an omnipresent aura to the piece. The interesting thing about the costumes, is that they were not historically accurate, compared to everything else in the piece, they were a mix between old-time and modern clothes.

The writing was the main thing of note. The ensemble worked as a second narrator, and generally spoke rhythmically, which was very effective, complementing the constant blues played by the narrator on the banjo. Every time it got a little dark, or sad, there was comedy to lighten the mood. A lot of the jokes, came straight after or were a part of the blatant cruelty of slaves during this era, which meant is was very uncomfortable to watch, especially to laugh at. The whole show, looks at Hero’s change through everything he’s been through, and managed to relate to social and political issues in our day. The importance of one’s name, what it means to be free, what it means to own yourself. One haunting image, was of Steve Toussaint, Hero, with his hands up telling the Union Captain, that he couldn’t run away, because he would have to tell a patrol that he owned himself ,“You think they gone leave me alone?” Which is an all too common image of our past decade, resonating deeply with police brutality in the U.S.

Toussaint took a moment to get into his character, however showed the development of his character extremely well throughout the three acts. Jimmy Akingbola, Homer, kept the audience involved in the performance, and involved in the characters. Dex Lee, who played part of the ensemble, but also as Artsy, the dog, had energetic and playful body language, speaking fast, excitable, he perfectly encompassed the energy of the dog, and managed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. His child-like naivety, gave the audience a voice on stage, narrating the sequence of the events as they happened.

The final thing, I have to say, is that I have rarely seen such an audible audience reaction to a show during a performance, showing how invested they were in the characters and in what happened to them. The show was politically relevant and explored deeply into the human psyche from that time, and from our own.

 

The Libertine- Royal Haymarket Theatre

This evening I went to see The Libertine at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The libertine is a play by Stephen Jeffreys, following the true story of The Earl of Rochester. John Wilmot. It was first performed in the Royal Court, and was now revived with Dominic Cooper playing the title role. The Earl of Rochester was a alcoholic, sex-manic earl, who took a particular interest in the theatre.

The performance began as we entered the Theatre, with characters sitting in the Royal boxes, Harlots selling fruit, and actors amongst the audience in the Dress, and I assume the Upper Circle. Replicating the playhouse in that time, creating a rather authentic atmosphere.

I will mention the acting briefly. The acting was very good. Dominic Cooper seemed very committed, and despite the amount of times he repeated that you would not like his character, you could not help but fall for him a little. Apart from Dominic Cooper, the rest of the cast was brilliant, especially Ophelia Lovibond, who played Lizzie, an actress trained by John Wilmot, and his love interest. The cast was Funny, poignant and emotional. The use of tableaux was very effective in isolating the different issues and characters that were speaking. Also creating several comedic scenes.

However, I don’t particularly want to dwell on the acting, as I think the good acting was ennobled by the amazing writing. There were particular scenes, especially regarding the Theatre, with Cooper and Lovibond, which had me completely lost in the acting, in an almost cathartic sense. The scenes in which Theatre was mentioned was written with such beauty and truth. “But in the playhouse every action, good or bad, has it’s consequences. Drop a handkerchief and it will return to smother you. The theatre is my drug.” There was something so reassuring by it. About the words from the alcoholic earl, talking about how the theatre felt like a ship. The words resonated with me, and had such a sense of poignancy and serendipity. Stephen Jeffreys created this amazing character, who you truly felt sorry for, despite all of his alcoholism, and faults. It was a very funny play, which masked the darkness/seriousness of the play. And this character, who truly hated himself, and hated living, and drunk away his sorrow, with the façade that he could do whatever he wanted. Dominic Cooper managed to portray this very successfully.

It was a very enjoyable performance, political, funny, however funny in a very sad sense- If that makes sense. It left you, with a weird feeling. Joyous, from the comedy, however once the characters and the narrative set in, it was rather emotional.

The Tempest- Donmar Warehouse

On Friday I saw The Tempest, as a part of the Domnar Warehouse Shakespeare trilogy. I managed to get the tickets through the Young+Free initiative, offering free tickets to under 25s. An absolutely fabulous scheme if I must say…. The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, is set on a mythical island, looking at all the Shakespeare classics; forbidden love; betrayal- usually to do with the monarch; weird monsters; and of course a comedic duo. This version was set in an all female prison.

The Performance began, before we had entered the theatre. The guards brought the prisoners through the lobby of the pop-up Theatre into the auditorium, before ushering the audience, and giving them a brief on proper etiquette in a prison.

At the beginning I was slightly dubious of the interpretation. They set the scene in the prison, describing the characters, and then seemed to go on with the story of The Tempest with nothing changed. However as the play progressed, every moment you were drawn into the mythical world of Shakespeare, the show brought you back to reality. By blaring alarms, bringing guards, or even just simple props from a prison. And they tied it all up perfectly at the end, with a moment of nostalgia and almost sadness for Prospero.

The show was staged in the round, with iron fencing enclosing the audience in. For the storm, they had several prisoners banging on the fencing behind the audience. The storm was a truly immersive experience. You could feel the chairs vibrating underneath you. The sound and music was spectacular. The whole performance was quite immersive, and very spectacular, a feast for the eyes and ears.

The acting was very intense, being so close to the action, had me on the edge of my seat. Jade Anouka, Ariel, was amazing. There was the genius idea to have the spirits rap, which make perfect sense and worked so well, adding a very urban and modern tone to the piece. She played Ariel, so well, as a mischievous, loving and fun spirit. Leah Harvey, Miranda, and Harriet Walter, Prospero were also very good. Prospero who took on the role of the mother, but also in charge, in this female prison.

Finally, it was a very intense performance and I am so happy it exists. Presenting Shakespeare as it should be, in a modern setting, tackling social issues in our today. I’m very glad I got to see it.