Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting In

         Getting  Inside the Drottningholm Court Theatre
    Go ahead, he said, in Swedish.
    We had taken a bus out of central Stockholm to Drottningholm to see the perfectly preserved, even with its period scenery, 18th century theatre in its palace where time had stood still and one could visit a complete, as though in a time capsule, court theatre of the Enlightenment. The only trouble was that we got there minutes too late for the last tour of the day.
   Horribly disappointed, I pled my case, as a professionally interested and now desperate Fulbright Scholar, to the ticket master by way of a nice lady who translated for me.

    The ticket man, without batting an eye handed me a ring of keys, said go ahead and help yourself to one of the most famous theatres in the world. He told me how to turn on lights, make things work, and not hurt myself, but he wanted me back with the theatre locked up again in under an hour.
    Imagine! Me messing about in Drottningholm theatre, making the rolling seas roll and the shutters slide-- all to my heart’s content! I sat in seats all over the house, tried the royal box, and generally had a hell of a good time.
   Imagine that happening today in times as severe as ours! A stranger given that liberty. But that was back then when we could be easier on each other
By the Way:   I was given a formal tour of the Shakespeare Memorial  Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon  and at one stage was handed over to a costume designer who  showed me his department. Walking along a rack of costumes for the current production of Tempest, the designer reached for one long, filmy, sparkly gown, pulled it off its hanger, held it up, and said, “This bit of nonsense is Gielgud’s  (their Prospero) gown” and then let it fall to  the floor in a heap. I wanted to lunge for it, to rescue and touch it, John Gielgud’s Prospero costume, Gielgud. perhaps the greatest actor alive. The costumer drew  me on and left it there as though it were some mere waste. That’s cultivated British insouciance for you.
    Next day’s matinee, I saw that production of Tempest. At the end, when Gielgud/Prospero spoke the epilogue, he broke up into tears and seemed almost unable to go on. However beautiful and transcendent that moment is, I puzzled over what was moving him so. What did he know about the play that I did not. I puzzled over it for at least thirty years. I think I know now what it is in that ultimate play of all plays to cause a thorough-going professional like Gielgud to break down on a raw, cold January, routine matinee.
 My solution is yours, as we used to say, “upon approval applicants”.


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