Postcard to Myself
Many years later Romeo and Juliet have faded into obscurity, nobody knows who they are or where they went. To the average observer they would appear as a typical couple, but every now and then Romeo likes to remind Juliet of the past.
'All the world's a stage'. This is a scene from Shakespeare's England: an era of enlightenment but also of portents and superstition: it is 'dark night…time when screech-owls cry'. Elizabeth I watches over 'the silver sea…this England'. On the horizon is a ship symbolic of naval prowess and exploration. Elizabeth's reign was one of economic and cultural splendour, of the flowering of the Renaissance (Shakespeare is writing Richard II), and of imperial expansion (her hand is on a globe). War, as always, rages.
In gaining a comprehension of Sonnet 19 by William Shakespeare, I then manifested these sequential illustrations to compliment lines from this text effectively. Shakespeare's sonnets are wonderfully complex engaging with the themes of love, time, decay and death. My evocative illustrations enhance the aesthetic nature of poetry; they rely on ambiguity and leave the text open to multiple interpretations. The symbolic nature of this work has unreservedly unleashed my imagination.
A Map of Shakespeare
My inspiration was to create a visual map of buildings associated with William Shakespeare. It depicts Mary Arden's House, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Hall's Croft, Nash's House and the Holy Trinity Church - buildings connected to Shakespeare and his family, prior to his birth, during his lifetime and after his death. It also depicts The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, The Swan, The Courtyard, The New Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Dirty Duck - buildings associated with his 'rebirth' in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Memories of The Dillen
The Dillen was an RSC production which began at The Other Place and took the audience out around the town. It was first performed in 1983, then again in 1985. It involved two hundred local people and was an amazing experience that brought the townspeople close to the theatre. I used photographs, press cuttings and programmes from my scrapbook made at that time. I hope this box will remind people of this production so that it will not be forgotten. I was lucky enough to be a part of it. Hopefully in the future the RSC may do something like this again.
The Madness of Lady Macbeth
My work is painted wax, a scented, organic substance that Shakespeare would have encountered as he worked. Lady Macbeth, with her ambition and treachery veiled by innocence, has fascinated me since my school days. She is seen here masked, framed in a medieval mouth of hell apparently praying for forgiveness as she attempts to wash guilt from her hands. These are shown 'inside out' and bare. Her exposed, hallucinating brain symbolises her madness with winged forms (faeries?) forming a crown. The skeletal figure may be death, a manifestation of Duncan or her husband.
A life's Journey for a 4/- theatre ticket
My sister and I queued for 4/- tickets. I stood at the back of Stratford theatre ready to experience my first play. I was 11 when Shakespeare's words became alive, and I became alive to Shakespeare. All the world was definitely a stage! One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. Shakespeare's words are for everyone. They are timeless. So my family images are my Shakespearian players. They play their parts with joy, love, drama, tragedy, sadness, courage...
King Lear and The Fool
I have submitted a three dimensional piece which I feel best represents the multi-faceted nature of theatre productions. I felt inspired after seeing the recent production of King Lear to create the piece and I was keen to juxtapose a traditional Lear with a contemporary Fool. The expressions on the models are intended to illustrate the duality of the theatre as represented by the historical comedy and tragedy masks. The masks originate from the beginnings of the art form and it is fitting that we look back to this time as a new era of theatre production begins in Stratford.
Whirls of Thought
Whenever I visit the theatre I usually come away feeling a whirl of thoughts and emotions; content, happy, inspired, excited, sad, wanting more, and reliving the performance over again in my head. I have tried to convey these thoughts and emotions through colour and stitch in my piece of art.
This painting captures a bitter sweet moment in Romeo and Juliet. It portrays that tender fragment of time as the dawn breaks - just before the birds start to sing - when all is hope, all is possible. This image is of Romeo and Juliet lying on their 'honeymoon' bed, and is my epithalamium (marriage song) to youth, love and innocence. The glass fronted box which the viewers look through to see my work will have a decal on it with pale, ghostly text from the play: 'I have more care to stay than will to go'.
The Seven Ages of Mandelion
'As You Like It' is very special to me as the first Shakespeare play I ever acted in. I thought the melancholy magic of its most famous speech was echoed beautifully in the life-cycle of the humble dandelion - Shakespeare's 'golden lads'. I reprinted my original pen-and-ink drawing to fit the display cases, the words of the speech (quill-written; Will would be proud!) visible beneath the surface. The paper should slowly yellow, itself subject to the inexorable passage of time, as the RSC moves into another act of its own 'strange eventful history'.
Home is where the Heart is
In 2003 my then boyfriend began a season at the RSC. We arrived at his digs at 5 Ryland Street – a tiny RSC worker's cottage in Stratford's Old Town - on a cold March day and I was smitten. I spent eight months dashing up the M40 every weekend to 'play house'. Three years, two further RSC seasons and one proposal later (on tour with the RSC in Japan!) and No. 5 was the first house we lived in after we got married. Who knows how many RSC love affairs No. 5 has hosted but this one is still going strong!
What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?
One of The Bard's most visually imaginative plays, and my earliest memory of performing Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream. I've created a 3D forest depicting the scene where Titania wakes to fall in love with Bottom – all due to Puck's mischievous ways. I backed the piece with mirror adding depth to the forest and making the small space appear larger. Despite the often difficult language, anyone can enjoy and be involved in Shakespeare, and with this your own reflection becomes a part of the forest.
A horse, a horse...
Although it follows the Henry VI trilogy, Richard III retains its popularity due to the individuality of the central character. This deformed and murderous man has inspired a variety of interpretations from comic to cut-throat. Laurence Olivier's legendary performance on stage and film depicted Richard as an entertaining villain. Living near Tewkesbury close to a related battlefield, I am acutely aware of Richard's final demise and the loss of his horse.
Gleanings from the front row of the stalls
'Take home a piece of the RSC' was once the slogan of the theatre shop, and may still be the ambition of enthusiasts in the front row of the stalls. Crowns, cushions, weapons, even the occasional actor - all would be promptly returned to the stage if they fell among us. But what of those minor items, too insignificant to prompt a stage management retrieval mission? Should they be left to the tender mercies of the cleaning team? Or should they be borne triumphantly away as a memento of a wonderful evening's theatre? Time some of these scatterings were sent home!
This is Ophelia from the Hamlet YPS production at Stratford. Debbie Korley played her with wild hair and streaks of pale makeup across her eyes and cheeks. Ophelia showed her grief by scattering red petals, tossing them at the other characters, and at the audience. I was impressed by the contrasts; the cold colours for the staging, the black and white costumes, and the blood red petals. Both of my boys, aged ten and fourteen, were equally captivated, so well done to Ms Korley and the YPS for bringing Shakespeare so effectively to the young.
'The Tempest' Out of the Book
Much of the time, particularly in Shakespeare, we experience a play in its written form. A play is born from its script and the words are used as a platform on which to build a presentation which has more layers and levels. I wanted to depict the moment of transition by making the characters come out of the book in the first scenes of the play The Tempest which is a personal favourite.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio. Yes, but WHERE is he? Ah, the fragility of life and of the eyesight! Inspired by the 'Where's Wally?' books by Martin Handford, Yorick's skull, the skull of a grinning court jester (he was after all a fellow of infinite jest) is hiding within a mound of other skulls. But WHERE? This is a small 'sculpture' made from cold clay, mounted on a board. Yorick's skull is hidden within but differs by his grin and court jesters hat.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
This was inspired by my having been cast as Oberon at school, aged nine (am now eighty-three) I still know some of the lines. 'Lord what fools these mortals be!' just about sums life up. I've only seen it once at the RSC, namely the famous Peter Brooke production in the early Seventies, which was unforgettable, not just the playing but seeing a magical forest conjuered up without proper scenery.
Anne Irby Crews
Rose by Any Other Word
This image refers to the quote 'a rose by any other word'. Many believe it is 'a rose by any other name'. It matters not, the meaning is integrated into our subconscious. The image tests the observer, drawing them into completing the words and thus the thought. In Shakespeare many monosyllabic words evoke whole emotions, ideas or stories – spot, fool, king, horse, to be, adieu, rose, stage, food – and more. I chose Rose because it is evocative of many things Shakespearean. Who wrote Shakespeare? It matters not, the rose smells as sweet.
This work attempts to capture in colour and texture, the aggression, bloodshed and decay at the heart of Shakespeare's History Plays. The juxtaposition of distressed and scorched fabric with violent red thread is intended to echo the ruinous effects of warfare on a country with the brutality and tyranny of brother against brother, father against son, son against sire. Amid the smoke and dust of battle and leaving chaos and destruction in its wake, this embroidery represents the tragedy of a bloody pursuit for power, glory and a crown.
Nickleby's the Best
Of all the RSC productions I've seen, the 1980 nine-hour version of Nicholas Nickleby was absolutely the best. So many memorable moments: Nicholas carrying poor Smike; the cast switching instantaneously from hungry people outside the inn to greedy feeders within; the delightful Crummles; bad Ralph; appealing Noggs and so many other characters. Thank you Dickens, and thank you RSC for so much good drama over the years. As schoolchildren in the 1940s we often went to plays at Stratford. Now 65 years later I look forward to great productions in your new theatre. Good luck, one and all.
A colourful gift to Stratford and posterity
As you can see from this battered old schoolbook, I seem to have spent more time colouring in the cover of Henry IV than concentrating on the play when I was a fifth-former in the late 1960s - a period when psychedelic art and music inspired my own illuminated manuscript! I blame boring teaching but it may have been the idleness of youth. In the sixth-form, however, we listened to a crackly recording of King Lear and I was thrilled to the marrow. I have regarded Shakespeare as one of life's greatest wonders and consolations ever since.
Waiting for Curtain Up
My attention was drawn to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, still under refurbishment, from the bridge near Cox's Yard. A downpour had given way to a vivid sunset. The theatre glowed against its backdrop as if longing for a return to the limelight. Fittingly, the view became an unfolding drama itself, first reminding me of a work in the style of a Renaissance grandmaster; next, a Hollywood epic scene. Then, sky, architecture and water merged to give an almost abstract image. A photograph hardly did justice to the scene so I recreated the memory in a painting.
To build...or not to build...
An everyday life on the RSC construction site, and an everyday man wearing the burden of hard labour, just to make living.. Is it just that? Or is this man carrying a joy and laughter of the future audience..? And for me it is a little tribute to my colleagues with which I could be a part of building a history. Well done!
The Merchant of Venice was the first RSC production I ever saw. The line, 'All that glisters is not gold' was familiar, thanks to a certain Led Zeppelin song. It's when I began to understand the vast influence Shakespeare has had on our language. So many of his words and phrases are part of everyday use. I wanted my artwork to reflect that familiarity and recognition. So the text had to be easy to read and in an accessible, contemporary font. The embroidery and beadwork was inspired by the ornate detail and craftsmanship of many of the costumes used in theatre productions.
Heads and Tales
Human nature, relationships and motivations are all exquisitely expressed in Shakespeare's plays and the drama created allows me to empathise with his colourful characters, learn from them and hopefully develop as a person myself. This is why I love his theatre. This work is inspired by the wonderful emotional landscape Shakespeare evokes on stage and stimulates in the audience. The Heads show a trail of feelings through a play and describe the sheer variety of sentiments expressed through the actors and experienced by us in the audience as we enjoy a Shakespearean play.
A New Life
Hamlet said 'God has given you one face and you make yourself another'. I am often surprised by how actors can step on stage and become someone else, create a new life in that space and a new world to get lost in, so much so that no two productions of the same play are the same. I used photos of current ensemble members to create a new image, embellishing the face of Romanian Joanna Trocin, who moved to Stratford-upon-Avon because of her love of Shakespeare. She reminds me that Shakespeare gives new life to his audience as well.
My First Encounter with Shakespeare
I liked my mum singing this to me in the bath - it seemed to be a very intriguing nursery rhyme. It was especially weird and wonderful due to my limited vocabulary and experience at the time. But imagination and music filled in the gaps - you don't need to understand everything to enjoy it. I remember the sun shining in through the open bathroom window in summer so I'd almost feel I was 'under the blossom that hangs on the bough.' My face in the picture looks more wary than joyous, but these memories are very happy.
The course of true love never did run smooth
The course of true love never did run smooth... This wedding cake represents many things. Firstly, each tier represents a different Shakespeare play capturing the love and tragedy within. Secondly, it explores the journey of a relationship from love at first sight, followed by marriage and finally at the top of the cake representing a tempestuous romance. Finally, this piece displays my thoughts and memories of 2010 from performing Shakespeare at university and watching performances at the RSC, all expressed through a hobby of mine, cake decorating.
Ophelia's Watery Grave
Ophelia's passing has been portrayed countless times in paintings and photographs. I set out to capture the drama of her death, a lasting image of Shakespeare's truly beautiful victim of Hamlet. Here you find the contrast of flowers, and the water as the means of her end and her grave. Once she was lovely but we are transfixed now by her pale, dead hands and the still living flowers that she collected in the midst of her madness.
Caliban's speech in Act III of The Tempest is so beautiful. Yet he is not. I believe Caliban and the earth of the island are one, composed of the same energy and lifeforce. To portray this connection I drew the main image entirely with pencil dots, representing their energies bleeding into each other. His speech about his dream is seen hiding behind the image, faint in Caliban's subconscious and peeking cheekily through the branches of the island. The picture is constructed of four separate layers to create the illusion of speech and image blending into one. Eloquence juxtaposed with savagery.