The Dell

Stratford at last...

August 27, 2013

walking on stiltsFinally we arrived in Stratford for some last stilt-walking practice and fine tuning by our fabulous musicians.

Then came dressing the stage in all its colourful glory with flags, banners, a giant carnival head and a series of terrifyingly real looking severed heads made by Lovell (a retired theatre designer).

These heads became a focal point for several groups of tourists who took photos of themselves with the heads and then stayed to watch the play. The Dell looked amazing, we worried it might rain, but the weather held.

severed headWaiting, more waiting, and then the play begins: dastardly deeds abound by Richard and death stalks the stage ... we had Mafia style murderers, princesses clutching dollies, brave knights (including a newly recruited two-year-old standing on stage with a sword for the duration), newspaper reading citizens, executions, cursings, escapes, hauntings, great music, circus skills and fantastic performances by everyone culminating in the noisy conflagration of the battle.

On day two we returned to The Dell on a beautiful sunny day. The RSC staff counted an audience of 240, including people from Germany, the Ukraine, some children watching from the boughs of a tree and a retired theatre critic who counted this his 400th performance of Shakespeare.

We narrowly averted a serious wardrobe malfunction involving Richard, white pants and black leggings; Elizabeth Wodeville added a clog dance into the proceedings; the princess took her hobby horse on stage and at the famous line 'a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!' said 'you're not having my horse!' for once leaving Richard speechless.

We had a fabulous time: in our house we are still calling out 'erroneous vassals' and Clarence is still wearing his purple leggings; we might yet do another performance locally, we'll certainly have another celebration party!

From choosing to perform Richard III (the main criteria being 'it has to have a battle'), reading the synopsis, re-telling the story to the children, reading manga versions, cartoon versions, watching film versions ... to casting characters, learning lines, choosing costumes, practicing executions, battles and hauntings ... and finally to the performances in Stratford it has been a long journey.

At some points in rehearsal it looked like chaos with children running around , adults unsure how to interact with them: the children need the adults to give the performance structure and the adults need the children to bring energy and imagination.

Yet somewhere between the woods of Hebden Bridge and the stage in Stratford there is a transformation: we came together and told a coherent story of Richard III, and just as importantly we told a story of how, in these days of generational discord and mistrust, we worked together, played together and performed together across the generations, ages six to 86.

The Dell curtain call

by Ellen Mateer  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare