On a bright spring morning I set out for Stratford-upon-Avon in my little car. The A14 and M6 were kind to me as I sailed along from Suffolk to meet Offspring Number Two.
We were on a Shakespeare “Jolly”.
We sat by the Avon in the sunshine listening to buskers, watching the swans, and eating our packed lunch.
Then we climbed into our upper storey seats with restricted views at the RSC theatre and settled down for several hours of Cymbeline.
Cymbeline is one of those plays that is generally considered to be a “Problem Play”. It does not know if it is a Tragedy, Comedy, History, or an early 17th Century variety performance. There were TWO intervals. It was going to be long. It is almost as if Shakespeare threw everything he had got at it for fun.
It is his foray into ancient Britain – with a grumpy king, a wicked queen/stepmother, a beautiful princess, forbidden love and endless misunderstandings. There are lost children (with welsh accents), a girl dressed as a boy, people swapping clothes, a cave, a battle with Romans, a manipulative baddie, a god descending from the clouds, a beheading, poison, and general fooling around. It needs the second interval to give everyone the strength for the long explanation at the end.
We enjoyed it tremendously as we peered round our restrictive pillar. The cast were great, and often hilarious in a Shakespearian kind of way.
We particularly enjoyed it because it is one of the few plays that neither of us had read or seen before so we had no clue if everyone was going to get slaughtered or live happily ever after. (No spoilers. You will have to go and see it). A rare treat, as we are both great fans of The Bard. She has seen 33 of his attributed 37 plays (including Henry VIII) as live theatre performances. I am lagging behind in spite of my advanced years. The rest of the family do not share our devotion, so this is our treat. Other mothers and daughters go on spa days. We go to Shakespeare.
We stayed at the Mercure Shakespeare hotel in Sheep Street, which is very old and black and white. It is a miracle that it is still standing.
So after a meal in town we retired to our Prestige Room (two armchairs, two TVs and two portraits of Elizabethan ladies staring at us benignly).
It was a very quiet second floor room overlooking the beautiful horse chestnut tree on the edge of the restored garden at New Place (Shakespeare’s home in retirement). We could just glimpse the Mulberry tree sculpture through the leaves as we peered out of the mullioned windows.
There was hardly a sound except the occasional creaking of floorboards by the people in the room above us on the third floor.
The next morning, after a lovely breakfast, we had a race back to our room. I went by lift, she went by stairs. She got lost. I eventually found her on the first floor, looking confused. She thought she was on the right floor because the stairs stopped on the second floor.
“But the lift has a button for Floor 3!” I protested, peering round the corner and expecting to see a small twisty magical staircase.
We looked up as we crossed the carpark.
There was no third floor.