My knowledge of German literature is close to nothing. But I’m pretty sure Schiller didn’t use cock, fuck and cunt in his works, didn’t litter them through his plays.
I went to see Sydney Theatre Company’s version of Mary Stuart. I hadn’t done any reading before I saw it, didn’t even know it was an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s play – not that would have meant much to me.
The staging, the acting, and the balance between the two queens, all were great.
The playing of Elizabeth reminded me of Blackadder’s ditzy, spoiled, self-centred, nasty, small-minded Elizabeth. Not sure if Schiller’s Elizabeth is thus and Blackadder was inspired by Schiller or if STC’s Elizabeth was inspired by Blackadder.
What didn’t gel, what struck me as discordant, was the repeated swearing among more formal language structures. Now, I’m not anti-swearing. I swear frequently and with zest. Here the swearing was inapposite, inapt and ill-judged. It was as if someone had popped frequent obscene words in Shakespeare to make it modern, hip and full of passion.
When I read this was an adaption of Schiller, the discordant nature made sense. I am sure Schiller was able to capture emotion, passion, pain without swearing.
It just doesn’t work.
I get the desire to take a feminist angle, to overlay modern sensibilities, but the swearing didn’t fit.
Structurally, I think the play could be edited a bit more. And not just take out most of the swearing. Ninety minutes in and I was like, “Get on with it already. Chop her head off.”
Now I want to see a different adaption of Schiller’s work, in English.
PS: as we walked in, Mr S wondered aloud, whether the dog that was famed to have come out when Mary Stuart was beheaded would appear on stage. The dog was in several scenes. Such a cute and happy dog. Her tail was wagging as she was walked off.
Got a position on offensive language in live theatre?
(Adding to say, just watched Tim Minchin on YouTube and he sung a song with swear words. It fits. I laughed at the song. Not at the use of the swear word. They, on their own, don’t make me laugh. I don’t find bunging in a swear word funny. But I don cringe, if it fits.)