Shakespeare in lockdown…

May 2, 2020

Since I retired a few years ago, one of the high points of my calendar has been a Shakespeare course in May which I have been fortunate enough to secure a place on each year; I go to stay at a comfortable manor in rural Oxfordshire, there are talks and explorations of plays, and workshops, and a couple of trips to Stratford to see plays which are in performance that season, with some of the best seats in the house. For a one-time teacher of English, it’s most enjoyable – and this year it cannot happen, and so I won’t be going to see The Winter’s Tale or The Comedy of Errors, both of which would have been firsts for me. You see, I had also promised myself that I would try to see all of the canon in my retirement, and thus far, had been doing quite well…

So far I have seen a number of plays for the first time, and others in rather better performances than some of those which were put on for schools audiences back in the day. And what has been becoming ever clearer to me is the wide range of possible interpretations it is possible for a director and actors to give to a play, how a play comes to life onstage, and how skilled Shakespeare was in his craft, in terms of leaving so much open at the end of a play.

Exploring the language, and how skilled actors bring it to life and can shape an interpretation, was the subject of many of our workshops, and we often had the pleasure of these being led by Jane Lapotaire, the well-known Shakespeare actor, who also had many interesting stories from her acting life with the RSC and other companies. More than anything, it has been wonderful not to be the teacher, but to be taught, to learn and to get new perspectives on Shakespeare, to explore and discuss with equals.

I have collected a number of DVDs of performances of a wide range of plays, some which I’d previously seen onstage, others new to me, and I have been somewhat remiss in watching them, so I hatched a plan to make up for my missing Shakespeare week this year by trying to watch them, and I shall be reporting back here.

If you are interested in what I wrote about previous performances I’ve seen, then searching this blog for ‘RSC’ should get you there…

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