Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews TRISTAN AND YSEULT and enjoys watching characters suffer over love

Kneehigh, UK
Cutler Majestic Theater Boston, MA
March 5 – 15

Ms. Hen knew nothing of the story of Tristan and Yseult when she decided to go to this play. She knew it was a classic, and the story has been told many different ways. But she didn’t know how fun the play would be. She had no idea there would be lots of music and dancing and people hanging from ropes.

TRISTAN AND YSEULT is a love story, and the play is told with a background of a group of hooded, bespectacled people holding binoculars called The Club of the Unloved. A woman, Whitehands, a prim 1950s lady with gloves, a hat and a purse close to her side, narrates the play, and is a member of The Club of the Unloved. She is part Greek chorus, part tragic leading lady, and Ms. Hen was surprised to find out who she really is at the end.

Tristan is the illegitimate son of King Mark, the king of Cornwall. Tristan finds King Mark and explains the situation. The kingdom is invaded by the Irish, and Mark kills Moreholt and finds a piece of chestnut hair in a locket after he dies. Mark sends Tristan to find this girl, Moreholt’s sister, and claims he will marry her. Tristan goes and finds her, but she heals him and they fall in love.

Yseult and Tristan drink a love potion and wine, and then engage in a love affair. They are drunk and dancing and are lifted on pulleys, and it shows the buoyancy of what it is to be drunk and in love. They can’t keep their hands off each other. But Yseult has to marry the king when she lands in Cornwall. She likes the king, but she doesn’t understand how she could love two people.

What happens with her servant Branigan, played brilliantly by Niall Ashdown, on the wedding night is ludicrous. Stuart Goodwin, as King Mark, is reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes. King Mark and Branigan have a cozy scene while Tristan and Yseult dance in the foreground.

Tristan speaks French, but translates what he says afterwards. Yseult is a moon-faced maiden who puts her hand on Tristan to heal him, as if she were doing a type of reiki, and she succeeds in her mission. Women have been healers in many different cultures.

Frocin, played fearlessly by Damon Daunno, when he takes a picture of them and shows it to the king, foils Tristan and Yseult. Frocin is the jester in the court type, loyal to the king, and willing to do anything to get noticed.

Frocin dances through much of the play. The music in the play is spectacular, running from 1950s songs to Sting to Bob Marley to Wagner. Parts of the music are live, and some of the characters sing in the play. The audience also participates during the wedding scene, the instruction were to blow up balloons and throw them at the bride and groom.

Ms. Hen was surprised when the man sitting next to her cried at the end. The end was emotional, but Ms. Hen didn’t cry. It was a beautiful story about love through ordeals, and the music made it more dramatic. Ms. Hen gives this play five feathers up, because it made her happy and that’s all a hen wants.  

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