Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe New Globe Walk SE1 9DT To 5 January 2015.
Sun 2.30pm Mon 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval (approx).
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 December.
Happy hours with fine readings of great storytellers,
If Shakespeare’s Globe and the indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse attached to it were hard fought-for, Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole is making maximum use of the spaces. Apart from Jacobean plays produced in conditions resembling those of their premieres, the colder, darker months see concerts and operas at the indoor Sam Wanamaker – and these Sunday afternoon and Monday evening readings by distinguished actors of work by some of the past’s finest short story writers.
Standing on stage in a room lit by candle-power, the audience on three levels seeming to wrap around like a large family grouped to listen at home, the reader has a direct, intimate connection with the listeners. Interspersing the stories are short musical pieces from an instrumental player. At the first of the series, Anton Chekhov’s stories were separated by piano-accordionist Martynas Levickis (due back for Roger Allam’s D H Laurence session).
Levickis might open with mournful music suggesting the Russian soul but later pieces speed-up to virtuoso displays. Fittingly so; the big surprise for anyone knowing Chekhov as a master of sombre realism is the wild comedy and fantasy of the three short pieces opening Penelope Wilton’s programme.
There –I’ve said her name. And the major advantage of the afternoon was hearing these stories told with Wilton’s suave yet subtle intonation. Always unforced, she presents the contradictions Chekhov diagnosed in human nature with the pointed humour a silent reading might miss. It’s there in the opening story, ‘The Huntsman’ when a single line in a natural-flowing conversation provides information which re-evaluates the whole situation. ‘Fish Love’ is a wry fantasy, while ‘An Avenger’ gives a comically Chekhovian twist to the kind of mental turbulence that might afflict a jealous character in Dostoyevsky.
Funny as these are, and told with elegance and control of narrative development, it’s the longest piece, after the interval, ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’, which shows sympathy with the hesitations accompanying human desire – not unlike Dostoyevsky drained of adrenalin. Little happens, much is implied, as Chekhov, through Wilton’s voice, effortlessly yet skilfully gives a sense of poetic significance to apparently insignificant lives.
‘The Huntsman’, ‘Fish Love’, ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’ translated by Rosamund Bartlett; ‘An Avenger’ translated by Constance Garnett.
Reader: Penelope Wilton.
Accordion: Martynas Levickis.
22 Dec 7.30pm Katherine Mansfield (including ‘The Garden Party’) read by Deborah Findlay.
28 Dec 2.30pm D H Lawrence (including ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’) read by Roger Allam.
29 Dec 7.30pm James Joyce (‘The Dead’) read by Aidan Gillen.
4 Jan 2.30pm F Scott Fitzgerald (including ‘The Strange Case of Benjamin Button’) read by James Norton.
5 Jan 7.30pm Daphne du Maurier (including ‘The Birds’) read by Harriet Walter.