Ferretbrain Presents: The Complete Works of Shakespeare Episode 5A - Timon of Athens AGAIN

by Wardog

We present Shakespeare's tragic tale of a guy who is a douche and then dies. Again.
~
listen to podcast
(MP3, 53:36, 128 kbps, 48.05 MB)
We take our profoundly pointless project to the National Theatre and demonstrate our maturity.
~

bookmark this with - facebook - delicious - digg - stumbleupon - reddit

~
Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 02:35 on 2012-09-16
Ween you of better luck,
I mean, in perjured witness, than your master,
Whose minister you are, whiles here he pooed
Upon this naughty earth?
Daniel F at 15:29 on 2012-09-16
Diverting from the discussion of certain props for a moment...

You commented on this in one of the earlier podcasts, but it is impressive that people are willing to cut up Shakespeare through judicious editing to create – if not a new text exactly – at least a different text. It makes me want to get creative and start hacking huge chunks out of classic plays; you know, give Shakespeare the Garfield Minus Garfield treatment.

More seriously, I’m not sure what the point of recontextualising Shakespeare is, to echo Dan. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but I do not see what most of these plays gain from being updated to a modern setting. It always struck me as rather patronising: I do not need to see King Lear recast as a CEO in order to connect with that play. Normally I would imagine the point of an update is to make the play more accessible for a modern audience, but I rather think that if an audience can get past the language of Shakespeare, and for that matter the inherent schizophrenia of a play with the ideas of the seventeenth century and the trappings of the twenty-first, an audience can handle a historical setting.

I do get that every director wants to put their own stamp on Shakespeare and make the play their own, and I also get that Shakespeare is a playwright generally concerned a lot more with character than with setting, but it still seems needless to me. Perhaps the relatively weak characterisation in Timon is what trips it up? Perhaps you don’t have enough character to work with and have to fall back on allegory. I just have no idea what Timon is an allegory for.
Arthur B at 15:42 on 2012-09-18
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the poo of kings;
How some have pooed; some poo in war,
Some haunted by the poos they have pooed;
Some poison'd by their poo: some sleeping poo'd...
Melanie at 17:51 on 2012-09-18
With this there grows
In my most ill-composed affection such
A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
I should cut off the nobles for their poos,
Desire his poo and this other's poo
And my more-having would be as a sauce
To make me hunger more; that I should forge
Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
Destroying them for poo.
Wardog at 11:38 on 2012-09-19
I, too, will skirt the poo (for now).

You commented on this in one of the earlier podcasts, but it is impressive that people are willing to cut up Shakespeare through judicious editing to create – if not a new text exactly – at least a different text

Yes, it's fascinating isn't it? I think one of the things about plays that continues to blow my tiny mind in this absurdly adolescent way is that essentially is *Twilight Zone music* no text. It's all just an interpretative sea - at least until you run into the limits of the actual written word, as I rather felt they did in this production of Timon with Ol' Alciwhatshisface.

Perhaps you don’t have enough character to work with and have to fall back on allegory. I just have no idea what Timon is an allegory for.

Yes, this is exactly it! I think SRB was making an effort to make Timon sympathetic but I can't really understand Timon as anything other than 'a play about a douche who sits in a hole, then dies'.
Ibmiller at 14:40 on 2012-09-19
Haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I think the main reason for updating/changing settings is: money, dear boy! People constantly tell me that they relate more to things today - so directors, in their wisdom, say "relate to this in modern dress," and they do.
Arthur B at 15:13 on 2012-09-19
I find that when Shakespeare's updated to the modern setting - at least, to a realistically modern setting (I'm OK with weird abstract approximations of a modern setting which clearly aren't meant to be any particular place or time) - it's hurtful to suspension of disbelief because you end up with these characters both behaving in a manner which looks weird and anachronistic when you update it to modernity and failing to take advantages which we naturally write off as being unavailable in a historic setting. Give the main characters mobile phones and The Comedy of Errors is over in 5 minutes.

In this case it seems particularly bad because the production seems to want to use the play to make a commentary on an aspect of the modern world which not only wasn't around when Shakes was writing, but isn't even that relevant to the action of the play. Whilst we might be able to find something in Shakespeare which says something cogent about the banking crisis or Occupy, I don't think we're actually going to find it in Timon of Athens because the play isn't about large-scale economic failure, or agitation for social change, or even about the specifics of people's financial arrangements: it's the very personal story of one person fucking his life up and blaming the world for it.
Ibmiller at 17:36 on 2012-09-19
I think I agree (still haven't listened, going to soon). The point I was trying to make was not that it's good, but that it's financially motivated.
http://murderershair.livejournal.com/ at 00:59 on 2012-09-20
It makes me want to get creative and start hacking huge chunks out of classic plays; you know, give Shakespeare the Garfield Minus Garfield treatment.

See, if someone did something with a Shakespeare play in a Garfield Minus Garfield way, that is to say, with an actual direction and point, that would be neat, but most of the time it ends up being an unsatisfying mush.

The most recent example I can think of being certain production of Othello helmed by Philip Seymour Hoffman that combined Montano and Bianca and wedged in a confusing rape scene that was never resolved.

Actually, someone stop me before I go on a tangent about Cheek By Jowl's "production" of Tis Pity She's A Whore of which the least bizarre edit was cutting out the last five pages so at least two characters who die in the script appeared to survive. But that's not Shakespeare.
Daniel F at 09:34 on 2012-09-20
Yes, this is exactly it! I think SRB was making an effort to make Timon sympathetic but I can't really understand Timon as anything other than 'a play about a douche who sits in a hole, then dies'.


Both in this and the previous podcast, I got the sense that you were struggling to figure out what the play is about. Normally I might be willing to throw up my hands and say 'it's about the characters, man', but that doesn't really work with Timon. Timon just isn't a sympathetic character and you can't really be touched emotionally by the story of this jerk frittering away his money, going crazy, and dying. For a play that seems to be about society, there's always going to be a temptation to turn it into political allegory, but at the same time the course of the play is too character-driven for that. Timon's fate is self-made, as Arthur points out.

You sort of have a play that demands a political interpretation but at the same time makes a political interpretation impossible.
Wardog at 12:15 on 2012-09-21
I don't think we're actually going to find it in Timon of Athens because the play isn't about large-scale economic failure, or agitation for social change, or even about the specifics of people's financial arrangements: it's the very personal story of one person fucking his life up and blaming the world for it.

I dunno ... I think you could sorta argue it was almost about those things only within the context of the Elizabethan world. I mean "OH MY GOD POOR PEOPLE CAN MAKE MONEY AND THIS GIVES THEM POWER AND IMPORTANCE BUT THAT'S AGAINST THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS" is ... actually ... I take it. That's still going on. I guess what I'm saying is that you could probably explore those sort of issues in any interesting way with Timon but not by *specifically* tying them to current global crises.

The most recent example I can think of being certain production of Othello helmed by Philip Seymour Hoffman that combined Montano and Bianca and wedged in a confusing rape scene that was never resolved.

You-whu? Why ... what ... why? That just ... wouldn't work.

Both in this and the previous podcast, I got the sense that you were struggling to figure out what the play is abou

Well, I think the castingpod medium tends to make one a bit more random and informal than you would be if you were presenting a written analysis of something. 'About' is a slightly woolly term but I guess I just struggle to construct a coherent and reasonably plausible interpretation of the play that is intellectual engaging and emotionally satisfying. Which I suppose amounts to the same thing. Again, I think SBR was trying to suggest a Timon that come to deep, like, a crazed wisdom man through the adversity of self-imposed financial mismanagement (maybe a bit like Richard II, who also dies in a hole) that was partially underscored by a slightly sheepish early-stage Timon, who seemed genuinely touched and confused by the attentions of the flatterers. But when you get right down it, he is basically just spewing vitriol and throwing rocks at people who try to be nice to him. Especially when you contrast him against the philosopher who is either supposed to be a hypocrite OR someone whose apparent misanthropy is touched by genuine compassion.

*throws up hands*
Arthur B at 13:41 on 2012-09-21
In other news, Timon had an ouchie.
http://murderershair.livejournal.com/ at 22:28 on 2012-09-21
You-whu? Why ... what ... why? That just ... wouldn't work.

Yeah, in New York when our experimental theater fails, it fails hard. It also featured a black Cassio, lots of unnecessary technological backgrounds, an Iago with anger issues, and an audience that regularly left before the second act. Okay, so that last bit was probably not intended by the director

Proof that this really existed here
In order to post comments, you need to log in to Ferretbrain or authenticate with OpenID. Don't have an account? See the About Us page for more details.

Show / Hide Comments -- More in September 2012