Monday, April 25, 2005

Shakespeare's Birthday Weekend

A mighty successful couple dozen hours, all told. More on Canadian politics in due course, as I try and dissemble the rambling and conflicting thoughts of the past few weeks. Each day I seem to hold a differing opinion on the whole environment, from whether an election is on its way and how the leaders are holding up. Whatever the assessments - it has been fascinating to watch unfold.

But for now, "on such a night as this", as I struggle to prepare for another legal tutorial on a less inspiring, much more forgettable topic, behold the top five memories of a most memorable weekend:

5. Political conversation amidst Pimms's and Lemonade and Pints of John Smith’s Extra Smooth at the Chicago Rock Café, amidst plastic St. George’s hats (which we stole) and the video of Tony Christie’s cult song of the year, (Is this the way to) Amarillo.

Followed this with a hell of a long walk home through Tiddington to the Youth Hostel miles and miles away from the city center. This sign en route proved that even in the land of Shakespeare, the English language still gets butchered from time to time. Cooper clearly amazed at the site.

4. Visiting the Home of “Feste” – Twelfth Night’s fool, the day after seeing him in performance. We sat beside him as he sang some of his songs, and then toured the rooms of his house to find:

(a) a Hamlet (Duke Orsino) reciting “To Be or Not To Be” as he bathed, a toaster precariously held above his head;

(b) a Romeo and Juliet (Viola and Sebastian) preparing to part ways in a dimly lit bedroom;

(c) a rabid Lady MacBeth (Maria) struggling desperately to clean her hands and rid the dishes of their damn spots in the kitchen;

(d) and a frustrated MacBeth ruminating on the potential assassination of Tony Blair while sitting in the outhouse (If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well/It were done quickly!)

3. Staring down on the bald pate of Patrick Stewart, in conversation about his experiences as an actor in Stratford and Hollywood.

Jean-Luc in fine form indeed, with hilarious insider information on the good ship Enterprise and touching memories of rehearsing in the very space occupied by the Swan Theatre where we sat listening. Apparently the Captain’s chair was stolen 4 times during the run, several Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Joint Chiefs sent requests to be photographed in it, and he still has one of his uniforms in safe-keeping. A marvellous man.

2. Attending the Shakespeare Memorial Service at the Bard's church. The Sermon was delivered by the President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with energy and zest. Several wonderful lines, but no doubt the best was this beauty: “We celebrate Christ through bread and water. But Shakespeare never lets us forget our cakes and ale as well.” Later, we paid our respects to His immortal remains, the grave stones showered and overflowing with the most colourful of flowers.

Good friend for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here!
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

1. Act II, Scene iii of Twelfth Night, the best of a hypnotic show: Expertly performed, especially the music and general merriment captured so perfectly. Sir Toby emerging as one of my favorite Shakespearean characters of all, the rascal, and Sir Andrew as one of the most hilarious. Feste’s love song for them says it all:

What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.


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