Theatre in the Forest at Home
Red Rose Chain
Can there be more appropriate opening lines to any play now than “If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it, that surfeiting…” We are bereft of live music at the moment, indeed live entertainment of any sort, which is why Theatre in the Forest has become Theatre in the Forest at Home, broadcast on YouTube on Saturday 1st August.
That Joanna Carrick chose to open with scene two rather than scene one threw me slightly for this is a complex tale and one needs to have one’s wits about oneself to follow the plot, which contains a mesmerizing blend of misdirection (Shakespear’s not Ms Carrick’s!), role play, drunken carryings on and Shakespearean wit.
With actors being shot individually in front of a green-green and with backgrounds added during the editing process, this is a production unlike any undertaken by Red Rose Chain. But in doing so, they achieved a production in lockdown whilst abiding by all the rules in place at the time.
The beach hut backdrops presented a Shakespear-cum-Southwold look and feel as if Suffolk becomes the land of Illyria. There is another, more significant, change at play here too. The stage in the forest has become a camera lens leaving the actors robbed of any audience feedback. All cope well in this alien environment, as the romp progresses with some decidedly nineteen-thirties tunes to help it along.
There was even a virtual interval, after which the highlight for me was a very Freddy Mercury-esque rendition of Donovan’s Mellow Yellow, performed by Malvolio (Scott Ellis). “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction!” The words of The Bard never rung more true.
By the time the whole cast were singing about making whoopie I had gotten used to this new form of Theatre in The Forest. But at the same time, I was longing to chat to others beneath the trees. I missed hearing the peacock honking in the fields, or the rooks nesting and the London train heading south. But that would be normal, and normal is not quite back with us yet.