Sunday, 26 April 2009

Bard, birtrhday and bunny

To Stratford-upon-Avon on a breezy blue Saturday for the celebrations of William Shakespeare's 445th birthday.

Delegates from a selection of London embassies (some excitingly costumed) join theatre luminaries, local dignitaries, academics and troupes of local schoolchildren for a cheerful round-the-town parade.

Most wear a sprigs of rosemary ('that's for remembrance') and carry a posies of spring flowers, which are laid on the grave in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church - the end of the procession.

The atmosphere is celebratory, good-humoured and far from po-faced. Very English, I guess.

Later, I saw the brand-new production of As You Like It in the Courtyard Theatre.

Perhaps the show's most memorable effect came during the interval, expressive of the rustic themes of daily life in the Forest of Arden.

As the audience returned for the second half, Corin the shepherd was busily occupied skinning and butchering a freshly caught rabbit. The creature had been pre-gutted.

I felt this chimed with the production, which had suffered a few cuts of its own: some very familar chunks of the text were missing.

Fortunately, the 'Seven Ages' speech ('All the world's a stage') was spared the chop, and was performed brilliantly by the fine actor Forbes Masson (top centre).

Here's Charles Spencer's review from the Daily Telegraph.

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