Day Two of the Ringling International Arts Festival.
By Kay Kipling
Knowing that it wasn’t possible for me to see everything going on at this week’s Ringling International Arts Festival (although many festival goers can probably come pretty close), I had to pick and choose carefully. One event I knew I didn’t want to miss was Love is my sin, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous sonnets by long-acclaimed British director Peter Brook, whose work I had only seen before on film.
Although it had been a while since I’d dipped into reading the sonnets, there are several I still vividly remember from years ago, and at the very least it was good to hear them again, and to take note once more how often lines or phrases from them have turned up in other writers’ works. Those familiar lines were often given new life, too, by actors Michael Pennington and Natasha Parry, who clearly have given much study to Shakespeare’s words of love and loss.
The production, at the Historic Asolo Theater, is very simple: It begins with a strolling musician, Franck Krawczyk (who offers occasional brief musical interludes between sonnets), as the actors enter and take a seat. Sometimes they are facing us, sometimes each other; sometimes they share the reading of a sonnet, other times they’re more solo. The performance is divided into four sections: Devouring Time, Separation, Jealousy and Time’s Defeat, and many of the sonnets fit quite neatly into these categories.
There are a few moments of humor in Love is my sin, but overall the mood is an autumnal one, looking at lovers parting or unhappy in their suspicions of one another. The cast performs their roles with much feeling and finesse, but it’s probably a good thing the production only lasts about 50 minutes; any longer and some audiences might find the melancholy monotonous.
Quite a contrast was my second show of the day, the “post-post-modern cabaret diva” (as she’s billed), Meow Meow, performing Beyond Glamour: The Absinthe Tour. There was a lot of buzz about Meow Meow well before the festival started; everyone I talked to seemed eager to see her, and her press was glowing.
So does Meow Meow live up to her reputation? Certainly her show, about 75 minutes long, was entertaining and often unexpected. The artist blends lots of physical comedy and interaction with audience members with cabaret songs sung in several languages (including nonsense), and she shifts gears from absurd to touching with practiced skill. But Meow Meow is one of those cases where you don’t want o reveal too much of her act, which is probably somewhat different according to her audience and her mood, so I’ll say no more here except this: Audiences shouldn’t expect a traditional cabaret act, and any fledgling festival that can present the gravitas of Peter Brook’s interpretation of Shakespeare and the antics of Meow Meow in one day is probably off to a good start artistically.
Tomorrow: a look at the work of Aszure Barton with the world premiere of Busk.