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Hijinks Ensue

How I spent my bank holiday

On Saturday I drove down to Stratford upon Avon. I saw several traffic jams and accidents on the way, luckily all heading the other way to me. I went straight to the Youth Hostel, oddly having more difficulty finding it than the first time I stayed there (I think the problem was that the address says Alveston but it's not actually in the village). I grabbed a bit of lunch, then set off walking to Stratford (about four miles from the hostel). I'd gone about 2.5 miles when I realised I had forgotten the piece of paper with my theatre booking reference number on it, so I walked all the way back to the car to get it. Having wasted a lot of time already I thought I would drive into town instead, which I did, only to find that it was incredibly busy and there was nowhere suitable to park. The car parks were all full, short-stay, due to lock up early (before the end of the play), or some combination of the three. So I drove back to the hostel and did what in hindsight I should have done to begin with: caught a bus into town from the stop across the road.

Upon finally reaching Stratford, the first thing I did was to locate the cinema and buy a ticket for Iron Man. I had some time to kill before the showing so I went and got an ice cream from a street seller, then wandered around gawking at the huge number of tourists and shops selling Shakespeare-related tat (what must it be like to live and work in a tourist town?). The film was fairly good, only spoiled slightly by the very uncomfortable seat and the inane running commentary from the people sat behind me. I'm not sure it was worth sitting through the very long end credits to see the brief post-credits scene everyone has been raving about though.

Next I walked down to the theatre to pick up my ticket, only to discover that I had somehow lost the bit of paper with my booking reference on it (the one I went back to the car for earlier), probably when I took it out of my pocket in the cinema to double-check the start time. Luckily the box office let me have my ticket anyway after taking my name and swiping my credit card. It was after dinnertime by this point so I went off to find food and ended up in a fish and chip shop near the river before returning to the theatre in time for the play.

The play was a performance of The Taming of the Shrew by The Royal Shakespeare Company at The Courtyard Theatre. It was really very good; easier to follow than Henry V (the last play I saw there) and surprisingly funny. The star of the show was the brilliant Michelle Gomez as Kate (the shrew). The other actor I recognised was William Beck as Grumio. The most confusing aspect of the play was the framing device. A drunk passes out in the street and a noblewoman finds him and decides to play a practical joke by making him think he is a lord. One of the things she does is to arrange for a play to be performed for his benefit - which turns out to be the 'real' play. After a few scenes the fake lord in the outer play suddenly starts playing one of the main characters (also a lord) in the inner play. The main subject matter of the play is pretty controversial now but I think they handled it rather well. I like the theatre (though I didn't get as good a view from the seat I was in this time), the acting was polished, and the scenery and costumes were impressive. I would highly recommend going to see it, but it appears that I went to the last show and they are starting on A Midsummer Night's Dream this week. ETA: They are doing A Midsummer Night's Dream and A Merchant of Venice for the next few weeks but Taming of the Shrew returns on Tuesday the 27th.

I walked back to the hostel afterwards. The room I was in this time didn't have the noisy wooden bunks but I still seemed to sleep very lightly and woke up frequently. When it reached 6:30AM I decided to get up and have a shower before breakfast. The Stratford hostel is one of those where breakfast is included in the price (you don't get a choice about this unfortunately). Afterwards I made some sandwiches for lunch and headed off to Kenilworth Castle where people from the Morris Minor Owners' Club web forum had agreed to meet up.

I arrived before they had even opened the car park so I had to go away and park in the village for half an hour before returning. The rally seemed to go fairly well. Three travellers and two saloons turned up, plus three more people in modern cars. There was a mediaeval reenactment event going on at the castle which was rather interesting. One of the things I saw was a demonstration of mediaeval court dancing, most of which looked very dull, but they also threw in a country dance that I recognised from having done it at a ceilidh recently (albeit at about twice the speed with five times as many couples in the circle). After Kenilworth Castle we left in convoy to drive around the area but it was a bit of a shambles as we got split up two or three times. We visited an unusual windmill on a hilltop, then a very old church, before finishing up at the JLH Morris Minor garage to have a look at the customised cars they are working on.

The bank holiday Monday I mostly spent catching up with little bits and pieces of things and not getting very much of note done. I am making good progress with my route plans for the AIR and we may have picked up another participant.

Comments

I think that might have been one of the car parks that was full (the town really was packed on Saturday). The fish and chip shop wasn't all that brilliant I have to admit.

The play was surprisingly crude and bawdy in places (in a good way I thought!). I'm not sure how much of that was the playwright's original intention and how much was down to the director's interpretation. I overheard some more conservative audience-members grumbling about it on the way out. Also they had a lot of fun with characters putting on silly accents and mannerisms whenever they were pretending to be someone else (which happened rather a lot in this play).

The framing device might have made more sense if it wasn't suddenly dropped part way through - I kept expecting them to come back to it. The Lady from the outer play kept randomly appearing in the background of the inner play without speaking, until she suddenly became the Widow who Hortensio married (still wearing the same costume).
Likewise, I've never failed to find a space there. Alternatively, there's parking down by the butterfly farm.
If that's the one the other side of the river from the theatres, it was full and there was a long queue of cars waiting for a space to become available (that was the last one I tried before giving up).
The first time I saw The Taming of the Shrew was an RSC production in 1978. I hadn't read the play so the framing device was a complete surprise, particularly because of the very non-standard way it was done. As the audience came in, and with the house lights still up, there was no curtain on the stage so you could see the opening set, a brightly painted corner of an 20th C. Italian piazza, with balconied buildings and street scenery. Before the lights went down there was a disturbance in the aisle of the stalls as a couple of the theatre ushers, later joined by a manager, tried to remonstrate with a noisy and clearly drunk customer. As they tried to eject him he pulled free, jumped on the stage, and as they chased him he crashed into the sets, knocking over the flats, and bringing down the balconies before collapsing in the middle of the staqe. Only then did the lights drop, apart from a spotlight on the drunk, who turned out to be Jonathon Pryce, who played Petruchio. The play was actually done with very minimal sets, though it didn't stint on the props, Petruchio and Grumio made their entrance on an motorbike. It was a fantastic cast in that production, as well as Pryce it had Paola Dionisotti as Katherine, David Suchet as Grumio and Zoë Wanamaker as Bianca.
That sounds excellent!