Shakespeare and a Seven Year OldJuly 19th, 2012 at 15:02
We have a new TV. This is a big deal for us because the previous TV had been with us for 14 years – I bought it with the first cheque I earned as a writer! Also, Raeli hates any change at all and got immediately sad and nostalgic about the old one as soon as the new TV was wheeled in.
But oh my. It’s not a super fancy TV by today’s standards, but it’s big and lovely and clear and we got Apple TV around the same time – so not only can we look at iTunes purchases and DVD rentals (and subscribing to BBC iPlayer OMG), once you combine the whole thing with AirParrot I can mirror my computer on the TV and thus can finally screen my Digital Theatre purchase from December on an actual screen. And oh yes, it’s been a great distraction this week as we sat out our quarantine misery.
Given that Raeli was still lying wanly on the couch from her week of fever and dreadfulness, and that Jem was napping in the midst of her own fever and dreadfulness, it seemed a good time to give in to her occasional request to watch David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing.
It was a surreal if excellent experience. It’s a marvellous production and was lovely to watch it on the big screen in all its splendour. But watching Shakespeare with a seven year old is always going to be a teaching rather than entertaining experience – Raeli was watching with fairly good attention, and even laughing and enjoying the performances (the recognition factor of the Doctor and Donna went a long way towards keeping her interested) but it was clear early on that they might as well have been speaking Swahili. Or Dogberry.
So I translated regularly, providing synopsis of scenes and occasional sentences and words, mostly when she asked, but sometimes ahead of time so that she would be more likely to appreciate the scene. And of course, it being Much Ado About Nothing, there was also some social history to unpack, particularly in the quite violent and angry scenes surrounding Hero’s “disgrace”. She could understand Claudio being cross about Hero appearing to um, kiss another boy, but couldn’t wrap her head around why everyone else was so mean to her, and why Hero’s father in particular should be so angry. I did get to point out how important it is that Benedick is on Hero’s side, and that he turns against his friends to support her (and thus, proves himself to Beatrice).
David Tennant is so good in this performance. They both are, of course, but his shifts from cheeky slapstick comedy to intense angst and drama are quite beautiful. He may be my favourite Benedick now. KENNETH, I’M SORRY.
Then there was the 1980′s aspect of this particular production including explanation of fashions, the Falklands war, Princess Diana, etc. And why they’re all constantly smoking. At least Raeli knew who Miss Piggy was, even if she wasn’t entirely sure why Benedick would choose to dress like her for the masquerade…
It was fun. Raeli was in stitches in the two leads’ main comedy scenes, and I was impressed that she only once asked to skip ahead, in a short talking scene between Leonato and his wife. Once all the kissing started, towards the end, she squirmed uncomfortably, wailed and screamed into pillows. She’s kind of anti-romance.
Which makes it all the funnier that, after enjoying Strictly Ballroom again, she has returned to her ongoing campaign to convince me to let her watch Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet. I have told her that they die at the end, and that the whole production is a bit too violent for me to comfortable with her watching it yet – and, once I explained how Shakespeare’s tragedies tended to end in mass deaths while the comedies tended to end in mass marriages, Raeli insisted that she preferred tragedies.
Heh. I’m still not letting her watch that particular version of R&J until she’s ten. But other Shakespeare… yeah. I think we’re going to do this again. The trick is finding a really good production, preferably with familiar actors and geek cred.
Or we could just watch Much Ado About Nothing again.