Whispers from the Wings

Four weeks to go ...

February 13, 2014

According to my diary it's now week seven of rehearsals. Four more to go. Things are heating up like a microwave ready meal.

Deatil from Hoefnagel's map of London - dated 1572We've moved from our rehearsal rooms in Clapham to let the Roaring Girl season company take over the whole building and have decamped to Islington. To a church hall. Albeit a pretty grand church hall. With its own balcony. And four red hot bar heaters continually fighting the cold winter outside. It's got what an estate agent would call 'charm'. Or 'a rich history'. You can't quite tell what furniture is a prop, and what is legitimately three hundred years old. And the local organist seems to practice almost every day for at least a couple of hours.

Also, we've had Billy Eliot auditioning in the room along the corridor. So there's been extra attention to which room you choose to rehearse in each day. My ballet is ropey at best.

Shakespeare's London by bike
My ten minute cycle to work has become a seventeen mile round trip through central London. Which, in this insanely wet winter, has been a character building experience. Whereas before, I could grab a leisurely croissant before work, now it's a rush hour scramble with buses and taxis.

On the plus side I get to see the Thames each day, pass by the site of Shakespeare's original theatre and get close to Eastcheape, the area of London often frequented by Falstaff's gang.

It's incredibly hard to imagine the London that Shakespeare would have lived in. Westminster, the court of King Henry IV, was separate to the City of London. There were fields in between them. Charing Cross was a village beyond the city walls. Spitalfields were a bunch of fields; Covent Garden, a garden.

Shakespeare's London by tube and train
By travelling by bicycle you get a more accurate idea of the speed and distances of Shakespearean life. Nowadays, to get from the Eastcheape Tavern to the Court in Westminster you'd probably be best jumping on the District Line at Monument and you could get there in nine minutes.

But Prince Hal has to leg it over three miles. After the robbery at Gad's Hill in Henry IV Part I it takes a day to ride back from Rochester to London. It takes an hour on the train.

What I still struggle to believe is that the population of London was around 200,000. That's approximately the equivalent of Basildon. Or Richmond-upon-Thames.

Image: detail from Hoefnagel's map of London dated 1572. See the full map.

by Martin Bassindale  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare