I’ve been away from LJ for far too long – all summer in fact. It’s been so busy I don’t know where to start describing it. So we’ll begin with the bear, shall we?

Shakespeare’s most notorious stage direction – Act III, scene iii, The Winter’s Tale. We talked a lot about TWT on my Summer School. And Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Measure for Measure, even Antony and Cleopatra. In fact, we did a scene by scene breakdown on 6×4 cards of A&C, put them end to end and it filled a table 15 feet long, which shows what a monster of a thing it is.

We saw Greg Hicks play a very jerky paranoid Leontes and then he came and talked to us about it, which was a real privilege. And I got asked to do a presentation on Shakespeare’s ostentatious stagecraft – you know, those jaw-dropping moments like Hermione’s statue coming to life or, indeed Exit Pursued. In fact I found out more about Jacobean attitudes to bears than most people would ever want to know, and I’ve just finished writing my essay on the topic.

I think I might just be the first person ever to mention Daleks in an essay on TWT. I’ll probably end up taking that bit out.

Did you know there was a bear pit right next to the Globe? Still is, in fact, only it’s the name of a luxury residential developent now.

I like the South Bank. I went down and stayed in Bankside House, run by the LSE, which is literally just behind the Globe and only costs a fraction of Central London hotel prices. You get a decent room and shower in a safe, clean and above all convenient block, and so long as you don’t mind being surrounded by 18 year old American High School students, which doesn’t bother me in fact I quite enjoy it – I can recommend it. Pity they only open in the summer vacations. Anyway, that was how I got to see The Bridge Project Winters Tale at the Old Vic, in which Simon Russell Beale makes an awesome and heartrending Leontes and Ethan Hawke strums and Bob Dylan’s his way through (or should that be thru?) Autolycus. I went to the National and saw All’s Well That End’s Well. For those who saw Hamlet way back when, Oliver Ford Davies was in it as an old king who rediscovers his joie de vivre. A magical production of a difficult, little-known play.

I’m returning to Stratford in October for the first weekend in the new module, Shakespeare and Women. The reading list is both daunting and fascinating. I’m rather freaked out that my first essay on the Women  module is due less than two weeks after my second on the one I’ve just done! Oh God, how will I ever get it all done? But I will.

I stayed in a lovely little cottage in Stratford, in the Old Town, literally five minutes from the Institute and about ten (walking) from the RSC Theatre. It’s a very different town without David T and all the fangirling but it feels like home, and I made some terrific friendships. I really admire the commitment of the students who save all year and then come over from abroad to do the summer school. There were two this year – one from the West Coast of the USA and the other from Canada.

That wasn’t all I did over the summer. I also started hiking the South West Peninsula Coast Path with my partner John (we’ve done Poole to Sidmouth so far) and we had a family trip to Iceland which will probably take us the rest of the year to pay for. More on those anon.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back.


8 thoughts on “

  1. Lovely to see you back, we missed you! But you’ve clearly packed it with all sorts of fab stuff.
    You are not to take the Daleks out of the essay! (how do you feel about posting it somewhere? I would love to read all about the bears…)
    Walking the South West Coast Path is on my very long-term list of Things I Shall Do When My Children Are Grown. I love coastal walking – nothing better than being all day in sight and sound of the sea and getting a different view around every headland. Any pics?

  2. Oh, I enjoyed that!
    I don’t know TWT well at all (only seen it once, and that was years ago at the RSC – I seem to remember their bear was a polar bear skin which had been a rug on the floor during the court scenes, and which was made to rise up and tower over the fleeing Antigonus with glowing red eyes and growling!) but I like your exposition of the idea of the bear as a pivotal moment in the plot, and of the audience’s enjoyment of the simultaneous terror-and-delight of a feared object in a “safe” context. (Thus the Dalek reference makes perfect sense!)

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