On Friday, we took a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon for Justin’s 10th birthday. Gigi got us tickets for the play “Twelfth Night” at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater. We are staying only about an hour and half away from Stratford and Gigi and I had great memories of visiting the area when we lived here 20 years ago. Seeing the play was the main reason for going to Stratford, we really had not planned anything beyond having a picnic lunch in a park when we got there. I was dubious about the idea of taking the boys to a Shakespeare play, how would they be able to follow the dialogue? Justin especially has a history of simply going to sleep when he is in an audience. Did we really want to spend the money on something that the boys probably wouldn’t understand? Gigi reminded me that this could be one of our literature lessons for the week and we should read the play before we go. We had a copy of the play and on Wednesday started reading it aloud. Shakespeare’s dialogue is not easy reading, and we were constantly stopping to look up a word or “trying” to explain what is going on in the scene. We finally decided to skip reading the actual play (since we kept loosing the boy’s attention) and simply read a summary while quizzing the boys a few times on the characters and the general plot. They actually knew quite a bit.
When we got to Stratford, we picnicked in the park just outside the theater along the Avon river. Gigi and I were asking each other, “So, what do you want to do?” Heck, sitting in the park seemed just the thing to do. There was a jazz guitarist playing music not far away and lots of other families doing the same thing as us. The river was full of swans and geese,which Justin found quite enthralling. There was a vendor selling giant soap bubble wands and several kids were chasing bubbles through the park. We decided Justin could have another birthday present, so we bought one for him. That provided quite a lot of entertainment for Jordan and Justin. They had much more fun with that little purchase than if we had spent money on
admission to the Anne Hathaway house. One thing we did do was go boating on the Avon. We didn’t go “punting”, but hired a rowboat for an hour. The Avon does have a mild current, which made rowing a bit challenging. I had real trouble rowing straight. Jordan and Justin got to try theirhands at rowing. Gigi only got raked by low hung branches twice.
For dinner, Gigi and I had a nice Indian meal while the boys played in the big park nearby. Jordan had eaten two Cornish pasties from a shop when the store woman announced on the street “We’re closing! All pasties
for a pound!” Jordan has taken a liking to pasties and sausage rolls. Justin got his birthday dinner wish – his favorite subway sandwich: a foot-long with black forest ham, bacon, and black olives. Nothing else.
Finally, it was time for the theater. The new RSC building has only been open for two years, and it was fantastic. The seating was horseshoe style around the stage, and there were only maybe 10 rows on the floor and each of the balconies only had about 5 rows. We were 5 rows from the stage.
The performance was simply amazing. Forget that that there were huge swathes of dialogue that we could not follow, the acting was so good, the comedic cues so well executed that we were engulfed in the action, able to follow the plot, and laughed a lot. Sir Toby looked like a crazed Jeff Bridges in capri pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he really played the drunk well. All of the actors were amazing and the nonsense was wild! The sight of a bare chested Malvolio coming out of the on-stage elevator in thigh high yellow stockings with cross-garters and nothing but a black and yellow cod-piece thong (he did turn around to moon the audience) set the entire audience into hysterics. It was so engaging that Justin did not fall asleep once during the three-hour performance. He laughed along with us and kept telling Gigi that he couldn’t believe they would allow the guy to show his behind on stage. Jordan really loved it too. When we left the theater, Justin’s comment about Shakespeare was “He makes good plays” and proceeded to re-count parts of the final scene and his thoughts on it. The next morning, he told me he wanted to see “Twelfth Night” again. Thank you RSC. You have created a new admirer of Shakespeare.