It Doesn’t Get Much Cuter than Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s birthplace, resting place, and many points in between. It’s a beautiful town. Boats up to 60 feet long, and no wider than an NBA guard is tall, ply the canal. Musicians play under gazebos in perfectly manicured parks. Tudor-style houses slouch here and there. And, of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company theater is front and center. Above all, this is Bill’s town.
I must admit I am no Shakespeare buff. It’s tough stuff with all of those “thees” and “thous” and “where-for-art-thous.” I probably should have paid more attention to my summer reading lists in high school and challenged myself more. But, I didn’t, and there we were. I felt woefully unprepared, almost like an imposter. (In no way do I blame any of my English teachers in case any are reading this confession.)
“Let’s cram,” I said. “What?” asked Pat. Our hotel room had decent internet. “Let’s stream a Shakespeare play,” I answered. We found A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1968 on youtube and cued it up.
It wasn’t the first time we crammed. We did the same before touring the Alamo in San Antonio, much more for my sake than Pat’s. Literature and history really aren’t my strong suits. I’d be much more comfortable in Pythagoras’ hometown, perusing his proofs. (Math teachers, rejoice!)
The next morning we toured Shakespeare’s birthplace, the Harvard House, Hall’s Croft and the church where the bard was laid to rest.
There were no tickets to be had for the plays that evening, so we drowned our disappointment in a pint — maybe two — of Shakesbeer (haaa) at the Garrick. We vowed to return to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a play.
As luck would have it, we landed a pet-sit for two cats about an hour from Stratford-upon-Avon. Additionally, the owners were both English teachers, so the bookshelves and DVDs were full of great works — including Shakespeare. We crammed again. This time, McBeth. Whoa. That’s heavy stuff, not at all funny like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. We made a vow though, so we bought tickets for Cymbeline.
Cymbeline? Is that a name? A musical instrument? Innogen? Posthumus? Are those male or female? Dead or alive? Or, are they part of the Borg collective? Even reading the synopsis hurt my head.
Gameday: We bade the kitties farewell and drove to Stratford. Our attire was chosen from the limited selection of what we had been carrying around for the last five months and we hoped it was appropriate.
Conveniently, our Airbnb accommodation was located right by the canal which made for a scenic and enjoyable walk into town. We waved to the people on the long, skinny boats and watched them manually lock up and down the canal. There were families of swan, ducks, and geese gliding up and down the canal too.
When we reached town, we sought out a spot for coffee. Shakespeare was a long-winded fellow and we were in for 3 1/2 hours of Oldee Englishee. Double-espressos down the hatch.
We approached the theater and were relieved to see people dressed casually. Maybe no one noticed my trail shoes. Off to our seats; circle level, back row, obstructed-view. Actually, they weren’t bad at all. Far better than the obstructed-view seats at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium where the obstruction was three feet wide and in your lap.
Full house. Lights down. Ominous drumming began. Actors scampered here and there across the stage from all corners of the theater. Oh, geez. I was lost already. The set had spray painted graffiti, neon lights, and a tree stump prominently positioned in the center of the stage. How does this all fit together?
Soon the characters fell into place and the story unfolded. Before we knew it, intermission had arrived. Wow! We compared notes and I found that I wasn’t as lost as I feared I might have been.
We took our seats again and watched the thrilling conclusion. Stolen children were returned to their mother. Lovers were reunited and confidences restored. Everyone lived happily ever after except those who were decapitated or killed in battle. Curtain call. Lights up. We couldn’t believe 3 1/2 hours had passed.
I know many of the nuances of Cymbeline were lost on me, but it whetted my appetite to read Shakespeare. It was also very entertaining to see a live play for a change. I was apprehensive and self-conscious and feared that I’d be a drooling idiot in my back row, obstructed-view seat. As it turned out, I was absorbed by the play and thoroughly enjoyed the story, the music, and the thrill of live theater. Bill and the RSC, you have made an oldee womanee very happy!
Ye Shall Hike, Drink, Live, Laugh!
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