Dear Will Shakespeare
I’m not sure when your birthday is but whether it’s the 21 or 23 April, this is a good day to wish you a very happy 449th birthday.
Your work has given me some of the best times of my life, especially when Mark Rylance infuses the text with his unique touch and more especially when your plays are created on the Globe stage. Measure For Measure and the all-male version of The Tempest (all parts played by only three actors) starring the amazing Mr R were two of the most moving, challenging, and enlightening plays I’ve ever experienced, along with last year’s memorable, beautiful Twelfth Night. I love the Globe; it’s my favourite outdoor space, although I’m not sure I like the high profile commercialism that’s beginning to emerge. You would no doubt love it.
From the heights of Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the depths of the black-cloth-covered Macbeth, that £5 to stand in the yard is always well spent. I’ve been frozen, drenched and baked, sometimes all during one show. It’s sometimes a slog standing there for three hours but I’m rarely bored, and I’m almost always energised by what I’m seeing. I’ve learned that the language is both the most natural thing my ears and brain could desire and yet it can be the most mystical and magnificent; that it sings in my mind for weeks after a good show; that I’m never going to like the shrill ranting of Taming Of The Shrew and that I’m too scared to see the gore-fest that is Titus Andronicus; that Hamlet and The Tempest can be dull and tedious or can reveal the deepest truths about humanity; that I prefer period productions; that for me, modern music rarely works in those productions; that the plays are loved and are profoundly meaningful across the world, regardless of language (thanks to 2012’s Globe to Globe); that the biggest belly-laughs will be had; that humour can be found in the bleakest moments.
I try to see the plays twice in a Globe season, the difference in the later show can be remarkable and teaches me about how plays and players develop as the run proceeds. I’ve learned about myself, about other people, about English history, about Britishness, about 17th century words being so relevant to NOW that I’m rooted to the spot with shock. I love it that through my own efforts to engage with the text I am expected to be an active part of what’s happening on stage. It’s an exhilarating ride through external and internal histories and I’d find it hard to live without.
So, from across the centuries, thank you Will; my life is immeasurably richer for being able to experience your work in a place you would have recognised, with talented actors who can bring the text alive like no others. What a glorious, valuable gift to the world, I salute you.
Eight of the best Globe productions:
Henry IV part I (Roger Allam, Jamie Parker, 2010)
King Lear (David Calder, 2008)
Love’s Labour’s Lost (Gemma Arturton, 2007)
Measure for Measure (Mark Rylance, 2004)
Much Ado About Nothing (Eve Best, Charles Edwards, 2011)
Romeu et Julieta (Grupo Galpão, Globe to Globe, 2012)
The Tempest (Mark Rylance, Edward Hogg, Alex Hassell, 2005)
Twelfth Night (Mark Rylance, Roger Lloyd Pack, Paul Chahidi, Johnny Flynn, Liam Brennan, 2012);