Zia Mohyeddin’s Shakespeare

At 84, he has the “body electric” to move into raptures; and when it comes to Shakespeare, Zia Mohyeddin could run the text backwards with a flourish. Of course, he won’t do it. But, with his finesse at reading the texts, he could try it sometimes, if he wanted it. Except for that line from Napolean, no matter if he truly uttered it, or somebody else wrote it! Ah, well, it all turned out so nicely, at the NAPA hall for three straight nights. The one I thought the most interesting was the one with the Jew in it. Yes, Merchant of Venice. I mean the great thing about it was how Shakespeare derives anti-Semitism from historic truths. Mind you, nobody, not even Labour’s Corbyn can refute this truth, no matter how secular you claim to be. Another great one was Hamlet, which is always self’s favourite, and as ZM said, most famous lines are from this play. King Lear, his last undertaking that night, the 12th, similarly, had a brilliant climactic speech.

There’s a very scary trait of the Bard of Avon. When he goes into his haunting verse around concrete history, he plays with universal symbolism – and those, by gosh, are murky waters. In Julius Caesar, for instance, he is merely repeating Plutarch, when he describes what supernatural signs appeared around the time Caesar was assassinated, but his context makes you shudder. Those creepy lines, wherever they occur are deeper even than the truth! I thought ZM should have had a few props out there. That was missed. Current props-less theatre is alright, but, here, a bit of formality was needed. A bit of background could be maintained: three to four men standing in the dark behind him, or the spotlight moving around a bit could have created an ambience. I thought there was too much informality.