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penis-shaped balloons

Are Americans Not Feeling Sam Mendes’s Phallic Balloons?

The Bridge Project — a collaboration between BAM and the Old Vic in London to present the same plays in both cities — was meant to bridge the Anglo-American divide. But there’s one scene in Sam Mendes’s production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale that seems to have American audiences flummoxed: a song-and-dance number involving large, penis-shaped balloons and mimicked fellatio.

"I think a lot of the audience here is shocked and a bit dismayed by it," said Richard Easton,
who’s in the play. "The English music hall has a tradition of really tacky, dirty, sexy stuff, which is all merry and the kids laugh and everybody likes it. I think it’s not truly funny to us here. But probably when we do it at the Vic they'll be laughing a lot."

Mendes, for the record, thinks the audience likes it. "And I have to confess to having given one of the strangest notes to an actor on this job that I ever have, to Charlotte Parry," he told us at a benefit following the show. "'When you stroke the penis, could you make sure that you bite the tip and not the shaft? And also, please don’t spit the foreskin into the house.' She does that very well, I think."

Photo: Getty Images