Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Called to prayer in The Merry Wives of Windsor

Take the kids to Stratford-upon-Avon for the RSC understudy performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

I loved it. It is an excellent production, with glorious sets and sharp acting, the Shakespearean wit stitched into a setting of present day suburbia with a shade of Alan Ayckbourn; from which place we can know that these wonderfully enduring themes - secrets and lies, marital compromises, infidelities, tricky moral arguments, jealousies and neighbourhood conspiracies - they never end, they merely continue rolling on from one generation into the next.

Go and see it. It is a brilliant way to fill your belly for the start of 2013, with laughter, at the weaknesses, follies, triumphs and humanities of us all.

There was only one annoyance to spoil it. About 2pm, what sounded to my ears like a tinny electronic Call to Prayer. At first I assumed it was a ring tone from someone who couldn't be bothered, was too dense to find an off-button, or (kindly), they just forgot about the phone in their pocket. The audience sighed and the distraction caused Martin Hyder, excellently playing Frank Ford, to slip a line before deftly picking up the drama.

But then it happened again, about 4pm. This time Falstaff sighed and laid his arms heavily on the table.

Later, because I am a nosy girl and have listened to the Call to Prayer early in the morning from hotels around the world, I checked the times. They fitted.

I'd like to imagine I'm wrong. Stupid Grit. It was just a ring tone! And the holder couldn't turn it off because the phone button was jammed!

But if I'm not wrong, and the electronic Call to Prayer issued across the theatre was a new manifestation of ill-mannered selfish ignorance, the imposition of someone's belief system on me, mine, in a context I value, then no, I'm not going to find it in myself to be tolerant.

I don't want my beloved Shakespearean performances to expect the electronic call, where we all must wait while the devotee of this particular practice leaves the audience to respond as required. What I want is for the RSC and all theatres - when faced with anyone who leaves for a Call to Prayer and then expects to be let back in - is don't. Do not allow re-entry.

Instead of lobbying for change in the British workplace - in this case, the stage upon which the actors at the RSC work to a superbly high professional level - I would like to see the theatre workplace space protected, and the attention of the lobby for change focusing instead on any institutions who require such anti-social practice.

1 comment:

Irene said...

I agree with you completely You are there to watch a performance which you should not want to interrupt to exchange thoughts with God. I think you can do that at a later, more convenient time. There is a time and place for eveythin. Let common sense prevail. There seems to be a shortage of this in this politically correct society.