All the World’s – a Book…

I hope you had a happy, bookish World Book Day 2011!

I started writing the following post yesterday, with every intention of posting it on the actual ‘Big Day’ – but… time and events had other ideas… So, here’s the finished article; a day late – but hopefully still topical (may whichever day you happen across this post, be a bookish celebration wherever you are in the world!)

Here’s what I wrote on 3rd March 2011:

My son has gone into school today dressed as Harry Potter, his wheelchair wheels sprinkled with wizardly magic (how he would love to be able to fly that NHS wheelchair, broomstick fashion, at Nimbus 2000 speeds! There would be no stopping him; he’d be airborne faster than you could say ‘snitch!’)

As I write this, my daughter will be paying homage beside Shakespeare’s grave. I hope she is passing on to Will a special moment of remembrance from her mum…

Later, she will spend a couple of hours at a workshop with the RSC – followed by a trip to the recently re-opened Royal Shakespeare Theatre, to see Rupert Goold’s production of Romeo and Juliet; a school trip beyond the wildest dreams of my own teenage years!

She’s beaten me to it as first member of the family to experience the new theatre at Stratford upon Avon. For the past few years, I’ve periodically watched its gradual rebirth, gazing across the River Avon at the original red brick façade, imagining the ghosts in its walls stirring, gathering up the memories and poetry of the soul of the theatre as it settles around the new stage and waits for new magic to happen.

My September 2008 trip to see the RSC’s truly riveting, unforgettable Hamlet (David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie – directed by Gregory Doran) saw the RST redevelopment looking like this:

My birthday treat in February 2009 (to see Antony Sher and John Kani in a deeply moving production of The Tempest – its African heartbeat throbbing with the strange magic of the play) – took place in a mysterious, mythological world parallel to these scenes:

And, in June 2009 – another trip to Stratford upon Avon revealed these changes in the theatre:

…all bound up with memories of the truly visceral drama of the assassination scene in Julius Caesar, which I watched through tears of shock and pity, my emotions wrung by the electric, skilful interplay of confusion, betrayal and human frailty moving like a lonely, cornered animal amongst the characters on the stage.

In August 2009, my daughter and I were gifted a very different mood of fun, frolics and superbly handled mayhem in the Young People’s Shakespeare production of A Comedy of Errors – and in June 2010, my friend and I were back in ancient Rome, following Darrell de Silva to Egypt, as he and Kathryn Hunter sparked and sparred in a crackling production of Antony and Cleopatra.

In beautiful August evening sunshine, 2010 – after my daughter and I had been treated to a wonderful Young People’s Shakespeare production of Hamlet – in which Debbie Korley delivered one of the best, most heartbreaking Ophelias I’ve ever seen – I took these pictures of a near complete new RST:

…And also took these commemorative pictures of the Courtyard Theatre, the RSC’s temporary performance space (and template for the auditorium of the RST rebuild) with sad, fond nostalgia in my heart. How I love that ‘big rusty shed.’ So full of memories…

But now, anticipation of my first visit to the transformed RST in June awaits new memories in the making. My tickets – little paper portals to actually be there when Jonathan Slinger, directed by Michael Boyd, inhabits the skin of Macbeth – are tucked away safely and at the ready. My excitement about this production is simmering at heart leaping levels already – it will be the first live performance I’ve seen of  ‘The Scottish Play’ since Peter O’Toole was beguiled by siren witches in the infamous Old Vic production of 1980!

Macbeth is special to me – the first Shakespeare play I ever read. I first opened its pages when I was about the age my daughter is now, and it awakened in me a passion for the Bard that has continued to deepen, grow and embed itself ever more firmly in the fabric of who I am. Now, I see the same process at work in my daughter…

For these reasons, and more, I can hardly wait to see Macbeth come alive on stage in what promises to be an electrifying production – and I can’t wait to get inside the new RST. Tonight though, the magic of the place will be brought home here in the sparkle of my daughter’s eyes, and in her tales of her experiences there. This World Book day, she is caught in those heady, early stages of falling in love – as I was when I first read Macbeth – with the book that truly belongs to all the world:

Just a few World Book Days ago, she too went into primary school dressed in the Gryffindor cloak my son wore today (she was Hermione – big hair included!)

Not long before I first read Macbeth, I was tucked up in bed riveted by Jill’s Gymkhana or avidly following Bilbo Baggins ‘there and back again’ (well, I still am sometimes…some things don’t change… 🙂 )

From Ron Weasley to Romeo, from The Hobbit to Hamlet – there’s no telling where a journey through books will lead…