Happy Birthday Shakespeare

Posted: April 23, 2014 in A Bit of Everything

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard IIIToday is St George’s Day.  Today is Shakespeare’s birthday.  These are widely known facts.  What is less widely known is that today, well later today, four wonderful women will be performing Shakespeare, Richard III no less, just above the remains of the theatre he started his career in.

And those four actresses are my four actresses.  Well, they’re not really mine, they are not commodities that I have bought.  They are the four women I have been working with, directing and devising our production of Dicky 3 with for the past couple of months.  The ‘mine’ was not one of possessiveness but rather of pride and possibly a slight need to align myself with them due to how brilliant a job I think they’re doing, I’m trying to leave my paw prints all over them perhaps.

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard III, Things to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside ShakespeareAnyway – what prompted me to write this was my arrival at the theatre last night for the beginning of the last week of our production.  We’re on at The Rose Bankside.  For anyone who’s seen Shakespeare in Love, The Rose was the theatre in that, owned by Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush), and buried underneath an office block for hundreds of years, now it’s archaeological remains are half excavated and have a small performance space over looking the foundations of the playhouse itself.

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard III, Things to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside ShakespeareI was nearly at the theatre and remembered that as there are no toilets at the space, it being literally very old remains, a little platform to make plays on and a bit of a box office, therefore I took my normal detour into the Globe, which is just next door.  I bumped into one of the afore mentioned brilliant actresses and agreed to wait for her in the foyer.  I was stood there, staring into the distance, just thinking about my day, when my eyes fell upon the enormous banner slap bang in the middle of the entrance, proclaiming that it is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.  I remembered that the Globe’s production of Titus Andronicus opens today, to coincide with old Will’s official birthday, that everything about the Globe is celebrating England’s national day for a hero greater, in its mind, than St George.  And the Globe is only a reconstruction.

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard IIIAs we left and walked towards the Rose, I could see the gates to a courtyard further down Park Street.  Gates to a block of expensive looking flats, the car park of which covers the remains of the original Globe.  A split second later we’re walking into the, much less grand, foyer of The Rose and through the curtain and into the space itself.  The red lights are already on.  Red LED’s show where they found the foundations in the original excavations back in the eighties and provide an eerie backdrop to our play.  The darkness stretches from the playing space, receding into black, from it these bright red lines shine from a huge pool of water, showing where the stage, walls, seating and yard would have been.  Or some of it.  Some of it is still buried, right underneath the stage I’m standing on when I’m thinking all this.  The stage my actresses stand on every night, saying Shakespeare’s words, breathing life into the characters he drew.

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard III, Things to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside Shakespeare , Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Victoria Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte IveAnd then it properly struck me (yes, it sometimes takes time for the penny to fully drop) The Globe, and probably anyone else remotely interested in theatre, will be making a huge fuss about it being 450 years since Shakespeare was born.  And so they should.  But here we are, doing a production of one of his plays, walking across a space that he would also have walked across.  Our Richard III is soundscaped with live operatic singing; Elizabeth Graham, our opera singer and composer, spends half the production stood in front of the foundations, singing across them to us, singing through air that would once have had a building there and a stage and actors and lots of Elizabethan’s enjoying a show.  Shakespeare would have performed on that stage.  And now we are.

Shakespeare in London, Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare's birthday, Shakespeare 450th, fringe theatre, things to do in London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, The Globe Theatre, Richard IIIWhat it was that struck me, like a huge sledge hammer round the side of my head, was how very very lucky we are.  Well maybe lucky isn’t the right word, we’ve worked incredibly hard to get here.  But what we definitely are is privileged. Extremely privileged.  The Globe can celebrate, I’m sure Stratford will be half crazy with birthday celebrations.  But we little band of players will spend our evening underneath an office block, cold, in need of the loo, watching our breath drift into darkness.  And we will be celebrating the birth of a man who’s work has transcended time, nearly five hundred years, and yet is fresh, vibrant and full of meaning to anyone who wishes to take it on, perform it, see it, learn it.  Shakespeare indelibly marked our culture, our literature, our art and therefore our lives.  And we will be celebrating his birthday in the very place he started performing, writing, dreaming about that very work.  That’s breathtaking.

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