I should know better. I'm trying to save a picture and it's taking too much time and I'm not getting it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so it's said, but in this case, and this morning (almost 7 a.m.) I don't have that much time because another BIG day is coming up and I have to report on yesterday. WOW.
My father used to say there are three parts to every day when you are travelling i.e. away from your usual habitat and normal routine: one, two and three, or, morning, afternoon and evening. Ideally, you should use two parts in order to pace yourself and conserve energy. Well, I guess I stored up extra parts after a do-nothing day like the day before. I hope it lasts through until the upcoming day that will involve another three parts. Well again, what’s the good of a TRIP if you can’t overdo? Case in point: yesterday.
We began in The Lady Violet Room at the National Liberal Club, cheek by jowl with the Royal Horseguards Hotel (home base), closer than that: push through a door off the lobby and find yourself in a marble hall with a huge curving marble staircase leading up to, among others, the Lady Violet Room (I don’t know who she was; I’ll try to find out). where coffee and interesting cookies awaited, and two wonderful speakers from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, there to discuss the Bard in this, his 400th Anniversary Year.
Professor Stanley Wells is a Life Trustee of the Trust and former Chairman, plus Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and General Editor of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare, and the author of several books to do with you know who. He edited the latest one, published in November in honour of this anniversary year, titled The Shakespeare Circle, a collection of essays about Shakespeare’s contemporaries. It looks like a keeper. Check out: theshakespearecircle.com.
Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson is Head of Research and Knowledge for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and is also a multi-published author and editor of books to do (much ado) with Shakespeare. Both men are besottedly in love with Shakespeare and the love and the knowledge oozes out of their pores like fragrance from the myrtle (Gibran).
So it was a love-in, a very rich, informed, dazzling love-in, with special emphasis on As You Like It, on our playlist for the evening, and on the Scottish Play (Mac-you-know), on our Stratford’s program for this season (2016), to be directed by the A.D. (Artistic Director) Antonini Cimolino, who was our host and discussion leader this morning. Quelle richesse!
Scarcely time to grab a bite (I had a cuppa soup in my room with a purloined slice of bread and cheese from the breakfast table – “coldly furnished forth”) before we boarded the bus to take us to the afternoon performance of Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, the Irish playwright (British born and bred) who sprang a full-blown playwright in his 20s with a series of stunning (world hit) plays. After a stage silence of some 12 years, during which he wrote for film and TV (?), he has come up with another stunner, deemed one of the top ten plays of 2015.
Talk about gallows humour, Hangmen is exactly that; it’s a black black funny play about a retired hangman, hung (pardon the expression) out to dry by the abolition of hanging in 1965, running a bar and enjoying a kind of fame among his customers. When I first read about it, I thought of John Millington Synge, one of my favourite playwrights, and of his play, The Playboy of the Western World, (1907), one of my favourite plays, cited in the program notes with its similar message: “state violence is only made possible by the tolerance of an entire population”.
Does that make you think of Ursula LeGuin and her unsettling story about the child in the basement? I’ll deal with that another time. I still have a play to go before yesterday was over.
I had a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers before we went off to the evening performance of As You Like It at the National Theatre, in the Olivier playhouse, such a marvelous complex. I must say, it’s wonderful to be taken to the theatre - no hassle with driving or finding one’s way or parking – one of the great perks of a theatre tour like this. As someone who can’t find her way out of a paper bag, I really appreciate it.
SOW, I tried that as an exercise on a class of very young children I was talking to (in a Playwrights in the Schools program, a service of the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada). I found very large brown paper grocery bags (not easy to find but necessary; you wouldn’t give anyone a plastic bag to pull on) and invited them to put them on and then find/fight their way out. What a revelation of character! There are as many ways to find a way out of a paper bag as there are individuals to attempt it. You should try it. But I digress.
Polly Findlay, the director of the production we saw last night, has an awesome list of credits, so I knew we were in the hands of someone who knew what she was doing. The Forest of Arden becomes a forest of hanging chairs and desks. as the characters escape the confines of the office and regulations and authority. I can’t go into details about the performances because I have to have some breakfast before I get on the bus again to begin today’s revelations.
I just want to say a word about the cleaning staff; they deserve a round of applause and probably overtime pay for the work involved in cleaning up the stage after this play, and not only the stage. I saved some of the coloured paper that fell on the audience to show you. I sprinkled it on my desk and took a picture with my Pad, but then my technological illiteracy hindered me from passing it on. I’ll still try but porridge awaits.