In his dogmatic moralising of 1577, the puritanical preacher Thomas White was convinced that the plague was God’s judgment on the depravities of theatre: “The cause of plague is sin,” he thundered, “..and the cause of sin are plays: therefore the cause of plagues are plays.” Continue reading
Published by ConservativeHome
My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done
To thee particularly and to all the Volsces
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus…
I was in the Upper-6th. I still remember that Eng Lit class and reciting those words to a horde of A-level Volscians, many of whom really wanted to be Romans, and most of whom were entirely unimpressed by my lilting vowels and crisp, Olivier-like consonants. Shakespeare was my antidote to the interminable Dark Period of teenage angst. At school I could be a Roman, a Greek, a pauper or a king. One day it was virtue and beauty; the next villainy and treachery. There was infatuation and isolation; vengeance and pride; romance and melancholy; and hormonal virility with bouts of exotic cross-dressing trans-sexuality. I lived and breathed blank verse: I was Romeo, Richard, Malvolio and Hamlet. Tomorrow I would be Lear. But, for today, I was Caius Marcius. Continue reading
Published by Dale & Co
It was the beginning of another academic year. I was in the staffroom, at the end of the usual sort of frenzied and frantic day which usually greets the first weeks of a new term. The Head came in and mumbled something, but I didn’t take any notice. No-one else seemed to. I was immersed in a sea of admin, data and trivia – student lists, text books, timetabling and staffing. As I gathered my bags to leave, I over-heard one of the English teachers refer to ‘an act of war’, but I assumed he was immersed in Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon or some such, so before I could become embroiled, I darted out to my car. It was sunny and still quite warm: a hint of Indian summer. I had a chilled bottle of wine waiting for me. I liked going home.
I turned on the radio to find some vacuous mood music, but there was none. Instead, as I drove out of the car park, I heard incomprehensible utterances: something about the Pentagon being hit. My mind hazed. I slowed at the junction and signalled left: something about the World Trade Center being destroyed. I paused at the traffic lights, turned up the volume, and listened. Continue reading
Published by The Spectator
Macbeth, (Royal Shakespeare Theatre)
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Macbeth is the first production devised and created for its newly refurbished theatre, and I must admit to feeling a little apprehensive about re-visiting hallowed ground. I had trod those boards and waited in those wings a thousand times, working with such eminences as John Caird, Terry Hands and the great John Barton.
While I (and every sane person) preferred the thrust stage of the elegant Swan Theatre to the dated Art Deco proscenium and cavernous auditorium of the RST, there was something about Elizabeth Scott’s 1932 creation that merited a degree of reverence and respect – not only because it had won prestigious design awards, but also because this was the temple in which the greats of British theatre had acted and re-enacted their sacred Shakespearean ritual: Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson, Redgrave, Scofield, Ashcroft, Leigh, Dench… To walk quite literally in their footsteps and intone in that same ‘empty space’ the greatest verse ever written was both moving and profoundly humbling. Continue reading