TIMON of ATHENS–comment

by Lynn on July 10, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Olivier Theatre, London. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Simon Russell Beale.

This is not a mini review because this was only the first preview. No one should review or twitter, or blog or anything about a first preview.

But I will talk about the concept. Timon of Athens, both the play and the man, is about a ‘rich’ man who is very, very generous to his friends, who in turn love to receive his gifts, baubles, invitations to dine on fine food etc. But Timon has overspent his savings and no one can tell him to be careful. And when he is in great need for his friends to pay back monies that he loaned them, they baulk and refuse. Timon is so hurt by this that he goes into the wilderness and cuts himself off from all mankind. It doesn’t end well.

Director Nicholas Hytner has a whole stage full of make-shift tents at the top of the production. People in shabby clothes live there. It could be a tent city for occupy Wall Street, or Bay Street, or the City in London etc. Or it could actually be people of Greece protesting what has happened to them in these bad economic times. In any case this is a modern dress production and the idea of using recent financial uprisings as a centerpiece for the production is dandy.

When Timon does enter it’s to great celebration. We are in an art gallery and a gallery has been named after him. The design of the production is simple and elegant. Lots of huge windows looking out onto imposing buildings, draped by large swaths of scarlet drapery. Every body there calls his name. He has a dinner party for 12. Every thing gleams. He gives his friends gifts.

When he renounces the world he enters then as a homeless person in dirty, ratty clothes, pushing a cart full of bags of the stuff he’s collected. He goes through garbage looking for food.

The production stars Simon Russell Beale. He is a short, pudgy man who kind of waddles when he walks. He is also one of the most brilliant actors anywhere. He is celebrated for his Shakespeare and for comedy, tragedy, drama, farce and he can sing too. He is a brilliant actor and probably the main reason the large Olivier Theatre was packed for this first preview.

A great way to end my vacation.

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