Getting drunk with the RSC
Brits on snowmobiles
by Sally Mitani
Even if you know nothing about theater, you might guess that the Royal Shakespeare Company, based in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, is to Shakespeare what the Vatican is to the Catholic Church. When it comes to town October 24-November 11 for its third and final residency, the last of a deal brokered by departed U-M president Lee Bollinger, you can expect to see classic British stagecraft at its best.
"Residency" is perhaps too ambitious a word. It's more of a time-share: the entire visit lasts less than a month. If you can't afford or can't score tickets to any of the three plays, you can still enter into the spirit of the thing by attending some of the many lectures, workshops, and receptions, many involving cast and crew, that take place throughout autumn. (A recent press release claims over forty public events and ninety-five discrete private events. Perhaps they meant "discreet.") On Tuesday, October 3, for instance, there's a panel discussion on Julius Caesar at Rackham. If you sit near the front, you may have your own moment of glory when it's broadcast on channel 22.
When the RSC was last here, in 2003, the three productions (Coriolanus, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children) were glorious, and I popped into as many of the ancillary events as I could. Late one night after the opening performance of Midnight's Children, I walked over to the community reception at Zanzibar. I suspected I wouldn't be able to get in the door, as it was to include the well-advertised presence of Salman Rushdie, as well as the cast and crew of all shows. I was surprised to find that though it was nicely crowded, even the big stars were accessible. I made my way to the corner to confront Greg Hicks, who had played the title role in the astonishing production of Coriolanus the week before.
"I thought you were amazing," I said in a slobbery
way that didn't sound like me.
"So nice of you to bother to say so," he replied, crisply British.
"Oh it was no bother. I wanted to say it." (God! Lame! Lame!)
"Well ah I'm glad it was no bother," he said, quickly turning away to avoid another round of this.
I later found myself getting quite soused with two of the more rank-and-file members of the cast, Patrick Romer and Kieron Jecchinis, who were full of stories about their trip to Gaylord the previous day to rent snowmobiles. Clearly a good cultural exchange had been made all around: it's not every day one gets to drink with a Shakespearean actor, and it's not every day a Shakespearean actor rides a snowmobile.
My buddies Greg, Pat, and Kieron won't be coming to Ann Arbor this time, but there will probably be an opportunity for shameless sycophancy with Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame, who will be playing the juicy masculine roles in Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest.
[Review published October 2006]