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TWELFTH NIGHT AT STRATFORD-UPON-AVON: IMPRESSIONS

The devil finds work for idle minds. (Idle hands? Maybe, but it wouldn't fit this particular narrative.)

My mind was idling. It idles a good bit these days. (Oh, I can put it in gear when the need arises. But the need doesn't arise as often as it did before I retired.) Anyway, there I was, coasting downhill in neutral, when I had a brilliant idea. Why not go see a Shakespeare play? Here in the south of France we are, after all, only a budget flight and a short train ride away from our friends in Southampton. And their son had demonstrated the value of a proper upbringing by marrying a girl who enjoyed going to Stratford-upon-Avon on occasion to take in Royal Shakespeare Company performances. With an economical travel itinerary available and knowledgeable guides willing and able, nothing was stopping us from making a pilgrimage to one of the cradles of the English language. And while the English language and American English have diverged over time, they were still close enough for jazz. Why hadn't I thought of that before?

Did I mention? Shakespeare?

I am not insensitive to those modern academics who point out that Shakespeare lived in a class-conscious, male-dominated, colonial society that didn't understand such human failings as racism and misogyny the way that we do today. I'm not insensitive, I just don't care. I don't believe that those facts take away from Shakespeare's towering talent and the effect that his writings have had on our language and culture. (And yes, I believe that he wrote the plays. Most of them. I think...) So, after deciding to pass on a season that featured Titus Andronicus, not our idea of a fitting first dose of RSC fare, we made our way to Stratford-upon-Avon in the winter of 2018 and caught a matinee performance of Twelfth Night.

Cathey and I thought that Twelfth Night would be a perfect first take on Shakespeare in Stratford. It's a pleasant piece of fluff that I believe has gained in popularity recently due to its gender bending. I'm not certain that Shakespeare intended same-sex love to be the play's central theme. Certainly, our program makes that case. I lean more toward the idea that Twelfth Night is meant to be a bit of a farce, written as it was among and between such more serious works as Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, and Othello. But that's one of the joys of interpreting Shakespeare. Who knows? And Shakespeare isn't available for interview.

This is not meant to be an in-depth theater review. Although Twelfth Night by the RSC has in the past featured such stage luminaries as Olivier, Vivian Leigh, Judy Dench, Diana Rigg, Stephen Fry, and Ian Holm, our matinee was mostly composed of actors appearing in their RSC debuts. Our young British friends  knew several from UK television, but Cathey and I could conjure up not one familiar face. Not to worry. The performance was thoroughly enjoyable. (I could pick nits. I could say that one or two of the leads seemed overly impressed with the fact they were in the RSC doing Shakespeare and tried too hard to...well...act. But I won't.) The venue is intimate given its cachet. (We could touch the stage from our seats.) The staging made good use of a modern, versatile facility. And thus, to coin a phrase, a good time was had by all.

Obviously, the pictures had to be taken in the dark. The one picture of the stage was taken as we waited for the play to begin. Enjoy.







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