BWW Reviews: REVEL'S WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE Brings Shakespeare Closer To Chinese Audience
When I was six years old, I was sitting in my classroom with my peers, reading out loud poems written by the great Chinese poet Mr. Li Bai. Tonight, here on the stage of Donggong Theater, a six years old Graves was introduced to the world of Shakespeare by his demanding and drunk teacher.
Revel's World of Shakespeare, opened tonight in DongGong Theatre for a limited run, is a one man show, written and performed by Mr. Joseph Graves. The play is about a six years old boy Graves's relationship with Shakespeare and his literature teacher Clive T. Revel (whose last name inspires the title of the play), headmaster of The Chelsea School for Boys in London, England where young Graves matriculated. The first two years of their relationship were hilarious yet stormy, but then it somehow spanned some forty years. This show magically weaves a wildly comedic and deeply moving tale of childhood confusion and exploration, relating it all to the greatest of English writers, William Shakespeare.
What I always fear when watching a one man show is that the actor and the story he offers may not be enough to entertain me for 90 minutes (especially in a show like this, a full 90 minutes without intermission). Fortunately, in this case, the boredom didn't come. Fairly speaking, the book of this play is good, but not outstanding. And the stage setting couldn't be simpler, with merely a table, a chair and a Shakespeare portrait. But none of these mattered, when you had Mr. Graves. Mr. Graves, who was critically acclaimed as Don Quixote in last year's local production of Man of La Mancha, once again dominated the stage. He was the story teller one can only dream of. He was a little boy, an alcoholic teacher, a loving father, and a mental retarded son all in the same show. He was the show. He grabbed you with his body language, and wrapped you around his fingers with his words. We waited, holding our breaths, for the joys and sorrows, the twists and turns that the story led us to.
Although the story was told by the young (and now grown up) Graves, the show itself was, essentially, in my opinion, about the initially unlikeable, complicated yet touching character, Clive T. Revel. The audience was shown the glimpses of the headmaster's life through young Graves' eyes. We laughed when the boy peed himself on the podium under the teacher's pressure, sighed when Mr. Clive T. Revel drank himself to oblivion, and touched when the Master started to bawl as his mental retarded son brokenly uttered the line " to be or not to be". In the end, when Graves, who transferred from the terrified young boy who was about to read his first line of Shakespeare to an actor who have starred in many Shakespeare plays, recited his teacher's last words, "that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything", half the audience were brought to tears.
As Chinese audience, we grew up memorizing our own classical poems, studying the works from our own litterateur, and Shakespeare was mostly an ancient name in the textbook. But tonight, not only young Graves found his connection to Shakespeare during his journey of life, we, the audience, felt it as well.
So when the light dimmed and the show ended, we exit the theater with teary eyes and in deep thoughts, and, as I overheard the girl next to me said to her friend, "we should go read more Shakespeare", became another follower of the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare.
Revel's World of Sharespeare, 8/27-9/01, Dong Gong Theatre, Beijing, http://www.damai.cn/ticket_52164.html;