Beginning of the new summer term, beginning of summer – new beginnings.
When we last spoke we were all just about staggering to the end of the Spring term – Spring chickens and bunnies were agogo and a General Election was as likely as Romeo & Juliet living happy ever after……….Two weeks later…………….Here we are leaping into the beginnings of a brand new Summer term, not a chick or bunny in sight and the political landscape as uncertain as Hamlet’s troubled mind. But hey, we’re not here to focus on that which is, to a large extent, out of our control, but to reflect on a few recent theatrical triumphs and look forward to good times ahead.
Stratford and London were the scenes of our most recent performances of ‘Bard Heads’. You’ll remember that ‘Bard Heads’ is all about what happened next to various characters (some less well known) in six of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Each fifty minute monodrama explores the thoughts, actions, motivations and lives of these characters in the months and years after Shakespeare stopped writing about them. Richard and I wrote the first two shows in 2010, the next two in 2011 and the final two in 2014 – which is not to say they are set in stone, after all part of the joy of being ‘the playwright’ is the ability to amend and update at will – but it is currently the 2011 shows which are proving the most popular. ‘The Third Witch From The Left’ tells the story of Meg (one of the lesser known weird sisters) who found herself on the blasted heath in Scotland facing Macbeth at the tender age of 16 whilst on work experience. Guilt over the riddles and half truths told to Macbeth has dogged Meg’s life and, bizarrely, it seems has prevented her from being able to die. Therapy is the only way forward and gradually she rationalises and comes to term with the part she played in the whole sorry tragedy of Macbeth.
And then there is Osric, the flamboyant courtier and referee of THAT lethal fencing competition which saw off Prince Hamlet and Laertes (not to mention Gertrude and Claudius as collateral damage). In ‘Call Me Oz’ a series of high profile interviews (magazine, radio, TV and police) reveal the full extent of the Elsinore massacre and the repercussions for Osric (Oz) in the subsequent 45 years.
The Bear Pit in Stratford upon Avon is a gorgeous small venue perfect for ‘Bard Heads’ and with the friendliest, most supportive volunteer staff you could wish to meet. What a lovely night we had there! Nice comments too: “Loved it!” “A top night out!” etc etc, sorry don’t want to bore you! Really hope we can return next year with two more from our collection.
Then onto The Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. Now this proved to be an ‘extraordinary’ night in more ways than one. The problem with hiring a venue for one night is that you have to accept you’ll play on whatever set is up for the current weekly show. Normally this is fine after all most venues have storage space so the resident company can remove furniture or bulky bits of set. Not so at The ORL! The resident show was set on a pebbly beach in and around a graffiti strewn pill box, fixed, not removeable……..The challenge for the audience was not to be distracted by the genitalia and phallic symbols scrawled across the pill box itself and the challenge for us as actors was not to break our ankles on the pebbles whilst incorporating the odd setting into the show. Good job we know the playwrights………
Success however and everyone survived unscathed both mentally and physically. We had a lot of support from friends we’d not seen in years and many from the business whose opinions we greatly respect. It was truly gratifying to hear lovely compliments from them not only about our performances but also (almost more pleasing really) about the writing. It has left us with a hunger to get all six pieces seen more widely and also a desire to write something else. All ideas on that front gratefully received incidentally! No, really……….
So now we are back and girding our loins for the summer term. Lined up are productions of the The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in primary schools in Peterborough and Luton, more Tempest workshops in Bolton and then a weekend of ‘Bard Heads’ in Cornwall in July. More on that in the next couple of months. For now though, as we hold our breath, our noses and our nerve in the run up to 8 June, let’s look forward to the new term, the new tax year, new seeds coming up, new plug plants growing and generally celebrate new beginnings.
All the best for now.