I took a weekend visit to the town of Shakespeare, Stratford-Upon-Avon, last weekend.
I had a ticket for The Rape of Lucrece staring Camille O’Sullivan, at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre on Saturday night and I had a couple of free events at the Dell open air theatre in mind for Sunday afternoon. Those events wrapped up with some good wine in Tudor pubs and dinner at WildWood Kitchen, who specialise in good food and really friendly staff, and a nice stay in a cute B&B was a real treat.
The Rape of Lucrece is a poem of lust and politics, and as the name indicates, it is a poem of tragedy. The Swan theatre is stunning, it is a wonderful theatrical venue, a source of pride for the Royal Shakespeare Company and rightly a stage that thespians across the world covet.
Camille O’Sullivan gave what can only be described as a spellbindingly perfect performance which captivated into awed-silence a near sell-out crowd.
People forget, through over-teaching I believe and by not having the opportunity to hear Shakespeare outside of a classroom, that the language is Shakespeare is so often the language of song and sounds beautiful even if you can’t always understand some of it. O’Sullivan’s performance which combined reading with music, song and wider physical performance really encapsulated the best of Shakespeare.
The show is coming to London soon and I would not hesitate to recommend that you go.
Shakespeare wrote The Rape of Lucrece at the age of 28. I am 28. I am nearly 29.
On the Sunday at The Dell on the banks of the Rover Avon, I saw the Oxford Actors Company perform At War With Love, a performance of Shakespeare’s sonnets set against the back drop of World War One. At a time when the war to end all wars is on people’s minds, it is fantastic to see such a young and vibrant theatre group embrace both beauty and brutality to create a well worked and moving show.
Later that afternoon I saw Romeo and Juliet performed by the Birdiedoes theatre company. From the outset this fantastic cast really grabbed the true spirit of the play, showing the star-crossed lovers often as the slightly immature and petulant teenagers that they were, rather than providing a watered down and romanticised version of a very real tragedy brought about by intolerance and hate for others.
From the casting to the intelligent use of a near bare set, this production was leftfield enough to make a play that most know by heart come back to life, while still being respectful enough to the text to be applauded by traditionalists.
The Dell open air theatre is just yards from the grave of Shakespeare, and I think that the big man himself would have smiled on both the Oxford Actors Company and Birdiedoes for their interpretations of his work.
For those who haven’t visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, you really truly must. It’s a beautiful little town and a weekend visit there can revitalise, energise and inspire. While it is all about Shakespeare, it’s all about Shakespeare in a way that you don’t see, or get taught and you will love it.