“Fantastic!” – Shakespeare to the People

Shakespeare in the Park performers and audience, by Erna Bodström, Thespians Anonymous 2012
Performers and audience at the Shakespeare in the Park

“Fantastic!” was the first comment I got when I asked a couple of random audience members about the Shakespeare in the Park performance they had just seen. And no; they were not family members or friends of the cast. In fact, this was the first time they had even heard of Thespians Anonymous.

The first comment was made by Marietta Leino, and her cousin Virve Rouhiainen continued:
“I think they performed very well. The scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream especially was very much fun.”

It was Rouhiainen who had convinced Leino to come and see Shakespeare in the Park at the Night of the Arts.
“Good thing you did that!” exclaimed Leino.

Based on the laughter bubbling from the approximately 250 audience members at the two shows that night, Rouhiainen and Leino were not the only ones having fun. On Facebook, the performance was described as “beautiful”, “brilliant”, “witty and insightful”, and “I don’t care for Shakespeare that much and I still enjoyed it”.

And what was there not to enjoy, really? Well, maybe not the loud thumping sound of the helicopter buzzing around the stage from time to time. But then again…

The weather gods had turned their smiling faces towards the troupe as they brought some Elizabethan magic to the soft night between the trees. Juliet was simultaneously sweet and moody – it wasn’t hard to understand why Romeo loved her so. The physical comedy was so hilarious that it didn’t even matter if some of the Shakespearian English was too strange to understand. Not to mention the milieu, the ancient graveyard turned into a park, now turned into a theatre.

I guess someone might call performing on old graves vulgar, but what else is Shakespeare?
“Shakespeare did theatre for both the common and noble people. That’s why there are some characters, like the Gravedigger in Hamlet, who use vulgar speech, and then there is the high lyrical language,” recollects Leino, who has done her Master’s Thesis in Shakespearian plays.
“And back in Shakespeare’s time, people used to stand in the theatre, just like people are standing here in the park.”

Night of the Arts and the park… What a setting for bringing Shakespeare to where the people are.

Erna Bodström is a diligent theatre-goer and a member of Thespians Anonymous. She has attended theatre performances from children’s plays and musicals to Shakespeare and modern drama and farce, her first love being The Sound of Music.

Two more chances to catch some of the best scenes from the most beloved Shakespearean plays:  Shakespeare in Arkadia on  Thu 27 and Sun 30 September at 18:00 at Arkadia International Bookstore (Old Arkadia, Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 9, Helsinki). For more information see Shakespeare in Arkadia Facebook event.

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