27 February 2012

Bingo at the Young Vic

It has been quite a while since I bought tickets for an event over a year in advance, and that is what I did for Bingo.

The draw was Patrick Stewart, as the promotion for the show makes quite clear.

He plays the part of an elderly Shakespeare who has finished writing, left London and returned to his country home which he shares with a wife and daughter whom he cannot stand and a couple of servants whom he respects more.

Shakespeare, a minor landowner, gets caught up in the lard reforms of the time, enclosure of common land, and that brings him in to local politics on the side of the rich. This is the right move for him financially but he seems unhappy with it.

He is also unhappy with other aspects of the then current ways of the world and, through his eyes, we learn about matters like almost casual hangings and bear baiting.

Shakespeare is a troubled soul.

He spends a lot of time sitting in the garden despite protestations from the house maid that he should try and keep warm.

There he talks to staff, family, visitors and, when all else fails, himself.

The other scenes are less idyllic and include a gallows, a bar and his bed chamber which is locked to keep his wife and daughter out.

The conversations continue in all these settings and through them we learn more and more about Shakespeare and his world, neither of which are particularly bright. There is little to see of what gave him the title Bard of Avon except, perhaps, a few glimpses in his monologues.

If I suggest that there is little substance, i.e. story, in the play then that is probably right, yet that is not a problem. The play resounds with the words of Shakespeare and they are delivered brilliantly by Patrick Stewart. The rest of the cast play their part too and are more than just foils to his brilliance.

Bingo educates us on Shakespeare's life and times and offers some captivating side stories as it does so.

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