Last night I went to see a Bell Shakespeare production of Measure for Measure. I got the ticket through a friend who had a spare. She teaches Shakespeare and through miscommunication had bought one for a colleague who already one. The ticket was in the front row, which was initially a bit disconcerting for someone who doesn’t go to the theatre much, and then there was the anxiety aroused when L_____ told me Bell Shakespeare had a reputation for involving the audience.
Recently, I’ve only gone to live performances with L_____. Her son is in the Australian Ballet, so going to performing arts productions is a way of life for her. Apparently her daughter screens suitors by asking them if they enjoy ballet, maintaining that if they’re going to be part of her family they have to be simpatico. Fair enough. I went to my first opera a few months ago with L_____; an Opera Queensland production of La Bohême. Again, while I wanted to go, I was a bit apprehensive, this time because I wasn’t sure I could appreciate it. I’d watched Madame Butterfly on the ABC but any knowledge I have of music comes from listening to the judgements on Australian and American Idol. It’s undoubtedly sacrilegious to opera buffs, but I went to La Bohême with what I knew from those programmes: if it gives me goose bumps, then it’s good. I did get the shivers at the opera and even shed a few tears when the female lead died.
I’m not sure why I’m such a scaredy cat about so much; just as my fears about the opera were unfounded, so were those about the front row of Measure for Measure. At a couple of points in the play the actors playing The Duke and Lucio entered the stage from the floor, running past my head, but that could not be described as audience participation, so much as an extension of the stage for a few moments. In fact, I wish I’d paid more attention as Lucio ran by, since that character, played by Matthew Moore, was the funniest of the whole show (which is saying something because with the exception of one or two players, the cast was outstanding). Towards the end when he dropped on his knees in front of The Duke to beg for mercy, his timing was so impeccable, it was all I could do not to burst into applause.