Saturday, 2 October 2010

The play I saw at the Globe yesterday, Bedlam, was about mad houses in the 18th Century. It presented a new and effective way of bringing up the topic of mental health in the arts: deal with the topic in such an incredibly naïve way that the audience leaves bewildered, wanting to know the reality of the situation. The play was I think meant to show how backwards the 18th-century approach to madness was, but didn't find any way of showing an alternative. For instance, while the governor decreed that it was wrong that we lump all kinds of madness together, the characters of the play, despite the excellent efforts of the actors, were clearly divided into three groups: not mad, mad and lovely, mad and mean. Also, in a play criticizing the backwardness of the 18th-century custom of laughing at mad people for entertainment, it just kind of happened that most of the play's humour was, um, laughing at mad people. Oops.

Not to say that the public wasn't entertained, but many left a bit embarrassed too, I think.

The opera afterwards was better, because it didn't try to tackle any issues at all, other than that men and women both engage in boorish behavior, that fire on stage is cool, so are giant black balloons, disco balls, and people being lifted off the stage into heaven (to be fair Bedlam also had a characted descend from the sky on a rope). The music of Agostino Steffani was very good, employing lots of variety, and most of the singing was good too if not very baroque in most cases - but in baroque opera that's unfortunately still quite the norm.

Today I have to pack to go back to Basel early Monday morning - only back for 4 days at the end of next week so I'll bring as much back as I can this train ride. Also, shopping for my costume for tomorrow's end-of-season party with the theme Kings, Queens, Rogues and Strumpets.

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