April 15th, 2010

La Loge

Love Is My Sin

This is going to be very brief indeed, since we are packing to go to a cousin's wedding in Houston tomorrow morning, and are not (do you hear me?  Not!) going to take our computers.  Because being off-line for a few days won't kill us.  

In theory.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Peter Brooks and Shakespeare's sonnets.

He's an innovator, is Brooks, even after 65 years of producing and directing.  Two actors, a ratty Persian rug, two small tables, two chairs, three stools.  A musician, a keyboard, and a concertina.  31 sonnets (all taken from the Fair Youth sonnets).  Some incidental music ("derived from Couperin," the Times review said).  A loose structure, based on themes:  Devouring Time, Separation, Jealousy, and Time Defied.

Sonnets are not plays, nor is lyric poetry by nature dramatic, but Brooks did an interesting job of stringing the sonnets together into sets of dialogues.  The most dramatic section, not surprisingly, is "Jealousy," with the two actors (Michael Pennington and Natasha Parry) firing "cruel fair" sonnets at each other like poetic pistols, resolving at last into the affectionate and elegiac sonnets that make up Time Defied.

It was a lot more interesting to listen to than I'd expected.  Neither actor used "poetry voice," and both actors honored enjambment and privileged sense over rhythm. Pennington is more conversational, more dramatic, and more moving than Parry, whose voice is lighter, and whose delivery seemed to me to be a little flatter, more self-conscious.  Perhaps it was because she had nobody specific to be.  She, too, got better in the Jealousy section.

The real star of the evening, though, was Shakespeare's sonnets.  It's different reading them on the page and hearing them spoken.  I heard new things in old favorites, and waited breathless for the turns of verse and emotion in unfamiliar sonnets I must have read when I was in graduate school, but didn't remember.  And I teared up when Pennington started on "When to the sessions of sweet, silent thought."

Some things, you just have to hear.  I'm so glad I did.