An unexpected chance on Sunday to go to hear Fiona Shaw reading - or rather, playing - T S Eliot's The Waste Land. This would not be my favourite interprtetation, being exactly the opposite of Eliot's own approach, that reading should be utterly dispassionate and flat, leaving the meaning to the words alone. Sadly, Eliot's own readings, while full of interest merely because he is the author, are a bit dead and even painful - in his slightly censorious, prim yet deep and harsh voice. Shaw goes to the opposite extreme, investing every line with drama and excitment, and entering fully into every character (here she is reading a section, not from the performance, but with just a hint of her dramatic approach).
I found the reading wonderfully illuminating, and Shaw brings off a remarkable tour de force in merely projecting so much focused and excited energy for so long (about 40 minutes) - and she had to do it three times in all, the evening I went, at three different performances over only about four hours. She draws attntion to links you might miss on the page, and I learned much - and I speak as someone who once knew the text off by heart himself! But for me, the page and the printed yext is the thing, and if it is to be read, then Alec Guiness' magisterial reading takes a lot of beating, occasional errors and and all (I can't find a recording, but you could download it here - well worth while).
But Shaw is so brilliant, everything is forgiven her, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The Waste Land always has something new to teach us, and there was plenty on Sunday that was bright and revelatory.
A word about the venue. I had never heard of Wilton's music hall, an almost demolished relic just east of Tower Bridge. Saved by enthusiasts, it is lovely but terribly neglected; it is wonderful that some energetic lovers of art and architecture have bent their efforts to its salvation - and may it prosper and revive, with the aid of a little paint and a lot of pluck!