Annette and I went to see a performance of Richard II yesterday by the Rude Mechanicals, a theatre group in Ann Arbor that casts mostly students as actors. There was a bit of excitement at the performance which I shall now relate.

The power went off a few minutes before the play was scheduled to start, it would have been amusing if this was the Power Center, but alas it was the Video Studio. Since they had to cancel the show and we had about 25 minutes before they had to clear the building out due to regulations, the cast decided to do as much of the play as they could as quickly as they could! That was a lot of fun with the actors perfectly enunciating the lines at double the speed. John of Gaunt assured the audience that the upcoming duel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke would unfortunately have to be stopped by King Richard as it was too dangerous to do it in double time without adequate electric lighting. I was maliciously hoping that some people who did not know the play well enough would protest at this roughshod deviation from Shakespeare’s immortal work, after all doesn’t every history play have a decent swordfight or two? I am sure the madcap Duke and King from Huckleberry Finn would have been proud of this performance!

Fifteen minutes into this, someone came in and announced that they had found an alternate venue with power (surprisingly not the Power Center) and we all went to the other venue, some people helping to carry the props. Ultimately, we got treated to almost a street theatre performance of Richard II with the ensemble in their everyday clothes. A very fashionable lot I might add, which made me look at the regular fit jeans I had on with a little bit of chagrin.

The cast used a couple of chairs and came up with stage management ideas as they went along but the performance was very effective as the power of the words came to the fore. In changing the venue, they had also lost the University of Michigan musicians (violins, cello, piano) who were going to accompany the play with tastefully done music. Instead we had Henry IV and the Duke of York improvising a hodge-podge of jazz, show-tunes and classical music parts on a piano that happened to be on stage. If you were close enough to stage right near the piano, you might have heard mutterings about how being a versatile piano player fluent in many genres was more in line with who he really was than a  usurper of thrones.

After the performance, we stumbled our way back to our cars using the light from a few solitary stars and the VA hospital.

Disclaimer: Most excellent Theophilus, the above is a faithful recording of what happened with the occasional stretcher. I’m not telling what’s true and what’s not and neither is my friend Falstaff.