The old git started up the car, I loaded one wash bag into the boot, and off we went. After twenty minutes sitting in a traffic jam on Battersea Bridge, and a further fifteen minutes filling up the petrol tank, we set off for Stratford-On-Avon.
The sky felt huge and low as we drove past the Art deco buildings on the A4. By 11.30 we were driving into Shakespeares streets.
The wind was cold, the clouds grey and the parking attendants were out in force. So we stopped and made friends with one who looked like my best friends ex-husband. I didn’t trust him one little bit.
We parked in a disabled bay in a disabled parking lot reserved for the RSC, and since we were guests of the aforementioned theatre company we were, for once in our lives,legitimate.
My wash bag and his rucksack were then carried to The Church Street Town House, opposite the Bards school. A softly furnished bijou hotel with delightful staff and an uneven room.
I couldn’t find the lavatory, opening the wooden cupbard and peering into it hoping to find ‘The Lion The Witch and the Watercloset’.
In the end I tiptoed down the hall and realised we had a little suite. Off the grey carpeted hall was a black and white tiled bathroom with a massive shower head, a ton of fluffy towels and Aqua de Palma products lined up on the glass shelves.
A packet of complimentary biscuits for the ladies and a decanter of port for the men – on the desk in the bedroom not in the bathroom silly – were waiting for us. I brought home the biccies whilst the old man left the fortified wine for the next occupants.
We had some breakfast, bacon buttie for him and a croissant for me, two luxury cups of coffee and a cheery smile from the aproned Polish wench.
Out into the Warwickshire air which was biting. First stop BLACKS to buy a pair of extra small thermal leggings to put under my extra small thin trousers, and a half price pair of binoculars for my twitching husband.
Back to the hotel to drop off a gift for a birthday girl and to pick up various neccesseties for a day in the theatre.
I love Stratford its full of locals, Australians, Bardophiles and coaches of school kids being force fed iambic pentameters in cafes with names like ‘Cleopatras Noodle’ and ‘The Flaming of the Stew’. The ‘oosbind and I spent a fare amount of time concocting names for eateries. My favourite being ‘Omlet’…..
The new theatre is smaller than the old. The third floor has the original wall with blue theatre seats still attached to it. A wonderful peice of modern art….
We took our seats, Row ‘C’ for the 1.p.m. performance of King Lear. I left the thick, illustrated programmes on the dressing table in the hotel so all my notes and thoughts, and their thoughts and notes have been left languishing in room number 4….still I dont need notes to remember the rivetting performance of Greg Hicks as ‘Lear’, or the powerful intensity of Daryl D’Silva’s Duke of Kent.
The play lasts a long time but it flew by. The ensemble acting, the lighting, the pauses, the quiet dignity of the piece. I really liked it.
It cannot be easy working in a company with such a legacy and history, working to an audience with expectations who have paid a months wages for the tickets. It cannot be easy living away from family and friends in a town only 26 miles from Birmingham however picturesque and quaint. It cannot be easy working with the same troupe for nearly three years, doing the same plays over and over, for not a lot of money, dealing with egos and sensibilities. But the performances that the company threw at us on Friday lunchtime were applaudable.
My near-as-damn-it-son, who turned in a still powerful performance as the Duke of Cornwall, took four of us to an Italian restaurant where we could stock up on carbs before the evenings entertainment.
After a guided tour of the new building we went down in the lift and took our seats in Row ‘B’, I sat next to the ‘Fool’ from lunchtimes play, the delightfully unassuming Sophie Russell. The lights went down after we were told roughly to turn off our mobile phones. Not realising the the besuited harridan was part of the play. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was full of explosions and bicycles, swords and swagger. Embraces and kisses which were wolf whistled by the groups of coached in students, and sniffles from the young women sitting behind me who were moved to sniff by the death of the star crossed lovers.
Watching Shakespeare all day and suddenly the language fits into the ear better, the stories are more understandable, watching how Will tells and retells moments. At very late indeed we were invited to the after show party, the old git knew many of the actors, and I met a man I had worked with in 1982 on ‘You and Me’. The champagne flowed, the quiche reheated and the noise level grew. Then we all decamped to the ‘Dirty Duck’, the actors pub which has served everyone from David Warner as the Great Dane to Dame Mirren as the Miniature Egyptian, not to mention the spear carriers and the unsung technicians.
I piled up plates of onion rings, neutured sausages and spicy chips for my thespian chums – who have been dreaming of free grub since 1563 – as we sat out in the nippy Warwickshire night and discussed Shakespears audiences, the nature of theatre and where best to get a cheap lunch between matinees.
Clutching my two programmes -which I have left on that bloomin’ dressing table in that little boutique hotel opposite Wills school room, we arrived at No.16 Church Street at 1.15 a.m.
An elderly watchman let us in. Unlocked the door and sent usup to our uneven room.
Only the hum outside the window got in the way of a deep sleep, in huge crispy duvets.
This morning we left at 11.00, after a full English and eggs Benedict. We walked past the controversial Bancroft Garden’s donated heritage lamp posts climbed into the car, without my two lovely prgrammes, and drove back down to London.
We arrived in time to catch the news about the devastation in Japan. The affect it had on me was to go shopping. A crassly juvenile thing to do I admit, but wholly appropriate when everything around you is literally crumbling.
I took the 170 to the Embankment, then a 19 to Harvey Nicks and bought two ‘Wonder Women’ lipsticks from Mac. Then to Harrods to buy a ‘Wonder Woman’ black mascara.’
Then a bus back over the bridge and the 170 back to the ranch.
I went onto Sykpe and called Sybil, in Hollywood, to buy me two Russian red lipsticks, in the ‘Wonder Woman’ casing, as the UK site had sold out. I managed to track down two in Neasdon of all places…
Whilst I was buzying myself with lipstick locations, the water was washing away thousands of peopls lives in Japan. Just what can we do against an angry Mother Nature, is it pay back time?
As I speak Romeo will be putting on his boots and Mercutio will be pumping up his bicycle tyres. The old gits reading his Kindle and I’m preparing for Sundays show which includes sex and drugs and rock and roll. Dr. Wolfgang Weinberger, Levi Roots and Greg Hicks join me for a late breakfast as does paper reviewer Ursula James. Meanwhile the people of Japan are dealing with their tragedy. I wish them peace and light.