If you read my previous blog on the topic, you will know I complained to the Royal Shakespeare Company that their production of ‘King John’ featured a woman in the title role and I asked for my money back.
As far as I’m concerned, I was mis-sold my tickets because I expected, when I booked, that a man would play the King.I reckoned without the widespread theatre policy of politically-correct casting (called, among other things, ‘regendering’). The RSC’s ‘Director for Audiences and Marketing’, Chris Hill, refused a refund though he did offer to swap the tickets for some other (doubtless equally-PC production) as ‘a gesture of good will’. An offer I ignored.
He told me: ‘I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree on your opinions about Eleanor Rhode’s approach to King John who, in her view, cast the right person for the role irrelevant of gender and the production recently opened to some great reviews following its Press Night.’He then regaled me with what the RSC’s luvvie-in-chief Greg Doran had to say at their last AGM: The first thing to say about Regendering is that it is nothing new. Exactly 120 years ago, this year here in Stratford, on a matinee performance in June 1899, the famous French actress, the divine Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet. It’s nearly 25 years since Fiona Shaw played Richard II; Glenda Jackson has just played King Lear on Broadway. And it’s a process of discovery we have been on at Stratford for quite some time, including Neil Bartlett’s Twelfth Night in 2007, in which Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek, Fabian and even Viola were all gender flipped. For me, regendering is also an opportunity: opening parts to exceptional actresses, for whom the traditional assignment of roles in the canon leaves little left for them to play. Sometimes it’s a provocation, sometimes a revelation, but most of the time, you simply don’t notice, or quickly forget, as gender is not necessarily the primary motor of these characters. But it’s an exploration not a policy.’
This is all very well but I would contend most theatregoers don’t want to see our heavily subsidised national theatre companies distorting the world so flagrantly.I wanted to pursue my complaint through the small claims court but the domestic goddess vetoed the idea. It seems, from a cursory look at theatre reviews, that ‘regendering’ is de rigueur in luvvieland so I am biting the bullet and going to see the damned thing. A review will follow after we have endured it to the bitter end.
Incidentally the production got 4 stars from the ‘Grauniad’ (no surprise there), the ‘Stratford Herald’ liked it but found it confusing, ‘The Times’ awarded 3 stars as did ‘The Telegraph’ which called it ‘jaunty but lightweight’. ‘The Morning Star’, Jezza Corbyn’s top read, might have been expected to be supportive but it concludes: This is essentially directors’ theatre, full of disparate ideas and images which never fully cohere into significant meaning. Poor old Shakespeare.’
Oh and check this out...
Oh and check this out...