Sunday, April 28, 2013

Outing to Stratford while not in Cyprus

On Thursday, we had a day out.  One of my birthday presents was tickets to see 'As you Like it', in the new theatre in Stratford, by the Royal Shakespeare company.  Tim decided to treat us, and also himself; he's been to see plays a couple of times since living in the UK, but had not been to the new main theatre.

It was a matinee performance, starting at 1.00pm. We allowed plenty of time to get to Stratford, taking lunch with us to eat beforehand. We had no idea where to park, but then Richard spotted one that appealed to him:

It wasn't even too horribly expensive, by UK standards. 

The 'marina' nearby was just for narrowboats: 

We were amused that the small rowing boats available for hire were named after Shakespearean characters: 

We were very close to the big park which contains the theatre, and it was even reasonably sunny:

I wasn't so impressed with this statue, which (at this angle) looked as if it was picking its nose (ugh):

We saw lots of swans in the river, probably hoping for pickings from tourists (though I do know that one isn't actually supposed to feed bread to birds as it's not good for them). 

The new theatre is attached to the side of the old one, which looks very scruffy now, even with some broken windows:

We went for a walk, then sat in the park to eat our lunch.  Around 12.30 we went into the theatre, had some coffee, and then went to find our seats.  Photos aren't allowed during the performances, but I did take one beforehand showing the stage and the layout of the seats: 

'As you Like it' was amazing - it started with two of the main characters in modern dress coming out to sweep the stage... minimalist scenery, and a revolving part of the stage made it work beautifully, and the main actors were excellent. There was some great music too, and one piece in the second half which earned a round of applause on its own.

The RSC are renowned for not doing 'traditional' Shakespeare... and yet, watching this, with the men in modern suits and some decidedly bawdy humour and gestures, I realised that it was probably closer to the original concept which was, after all, contemporary as far as Shakespeare was concerned.  Here are some of the official production photos on the RSC website.

If I have a single complaint about the production, it would be the number of cigarettes smoked by actors and actresses! The air conditioning was good enough that we didn't smell anything, but it seemed like a very odd idea, which added nothing to the show, and was a terrible example to the many school groups watching.

I'm not a huge Shakespeare buff, but I do enjoy his comedies... and, as usually happens, I found that after the first half hour or so the language started to feel quite natural.  Out of curiosity I looked back to see which other plays we had seen in recent years; it really isn't many.  In 2010 we saw 'The Merchant of Venice' in Kurium (in Cyprus), which was excellent, albeit fairly 'traditional' in the way it was done.  The time before that was as long ago as 2006 when we saw 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', also in Kurium, with some very ingenious scenery.  We also saw 'Twelfth Night' in Kurium back in 1999.

We could remember, too, that we saw a visiting company doing something in a cultural centre in Nicosia, the same year that we saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream', but had no recollection at all of what it was.  Just as well I keep these records in this blog: it was the work of a moment to search through and find the event.  But I was very surprised to discover, on reading the relevant post, that in our cultural afternoon in Nicosia we saw, as we did on Thursday, 'As you Like it'.  We evidently liked it very much, but I had completely forgotten and was convinced I had never seen it before....

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