At times I worry that I am slightly narcoleptic. When the lights go down in a theater, I often find myself dozing off. But not this afternoon, for the 1:30 PM matinee at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stratford home had me riveted from the very opening.
How do they do it, I always wonder. Ben Jonson’s Volone is 400 years old, after all. The current production starring Henry Goodman…in modern dress with slightly updated text…bursts into exciting life, then flies by…three hours passing delightfully. It seems remarkably modern, even relevant. In this production, for example, Volpone even appears on the big board, trading on the London Stock Exchange under VLP.
I felt quite pleased that I was able to get tickets for various family members. After initially booking a couple of months ago, our party grew. Then it grew again. And each time I found tickets, generally returns. What the hell. Getting a wheelchair space at the RSC’s smaller Swan Theater is much like booking passage on the space shuttle. Only more interesting. I couldn’t get a wheelchair space today, so I booked a seat at the end of a row. There were, let us say, complications. I was glad that assorted cousins were there to help me into place. While not physically comfortable, the play was so stunning that, well, it was worth every minute.
I can’t comprehend the economics behind such a production. The Swan’s trust-stage design puts everyone within no more than six rows of the action. It’s a small place. A small place with very big productions. An incomparable cast. Elaborate staging. And at the helm this afternoon, the famous English director, Trevor Nunn. Funding? Remember that in this country there is a minister of arts, a cabinet position.
And why not? Just look at the thousands of people wandering around Stratford. The place is a tourist magnet. The theater company must have a significant impact on British balance of payments.
Life is short enough for basic human dynamics to persist, virtually unchanged, throughout. Take relationships with my cousins. When I lived here in the early 1970s, I was a dependent person. I don’t know what other word to use. I was recovering from both my physical and emotional injuries. I needed, and thought I needed, help on many levels. Ghosts of these old feelings return, of course. With family visits, it takes me a day or so to rediscover who I am now in this era of my life.
The younger generation forms a bridge in this regard. I treasure my rapport with them. As an old guy, I loved sitting around dinner last night hearing about careers and companies and futures…while laughing, appreciating both British humor and the general British perspective on life. Part of things. And going home in a few days. I hope I can learn some lessons from my cousin Bob. He faces a serious health challenge…while retaining his humor and general love of life.