June 5th, 2009

British Politics.

I voted in the European elections. There were a lot of fringe parties putting up candidates- and the voting slip was the longest I'd ever handled.

I say "I" not "we" because Ailz gets a postal vote and cast it weeks ago.

I voted for the Lib Dems. It was more a vote against than a vote for.

On the way down to Stratford we had the car radio on for the political news.  Jack Straw was being asked- repeatedly- why he hadn't tendered his resignation over the case of the French students who were murdered by a guy who should have been in prison but wasn't.  He talked about  his "duty". Straw is- all proportions kept-  Nu Labour's Talleyrand. As we were driving home after the play it was reported  that a third Cabinet Minister- James Purnell- had resigned from the government- and while the others- Smith and Blears-  went muttering courtesies, this one has said straight out that Brown is electoral poison and should go.

This morning the election results that are coming in are- as expected-  bad for Labour, Brown is reshuffling his cabinet and the Guardian's Martin Kettle predicts he'll be forced out in days.

As You Like It: RSC: Stratford

The title says it all: As You Like It is a crowd pleaser. It's a frolic, a holiday entertainment- a bit like a revue, a bit like a pantomime- with sudden glimpses among all the yuks of something old and deep and stirring.  

But it's also got more dead wood in it than any other Shakespeare play I can think of.  For "dead wood" read "Touchstone". This production gets round the problem by reinforcing the once topical and now incomprehensible gags with physical comedy. Richard Katz- who has to perform the miracle- is pretty damn good.

But then everyone is pretty damn good.  This is what you expect- but don't always get- from the RSC: acting in depth. Forbes Masson is a commanding- even show-stopping-  Jacques, Jonjo O'Neill a winning Orlando, Katy Stephens a rumbustious Rosalind (pity I didn't fancy her more) and Mariah Gale a delightful Celia. The production, by Michael Boyd, the RSC's artistic supremo- and a safe pair of hands- is intelligent and light on its feet- and acknowledges and engages the audience more than I've ever seen happen at the RSC. Certain characters- Jacques and Touchstone especially- address us directly- and get us shouting back. Now that's the spirit! 

Phew! After A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale and Julius Caesar I was beginning to think of attendance at Stratford as a painful cultural duty.

We came out of the theatre to find Orlando's "poems" taped to trees and walls and railings all the way down the street.

Warwick And Stratford

We stopped for tea at Lord Leycester's Hospital in Warwick. It's a hospital in the medieval sense of the word- meaning something more like a retirement home- in this case for old soldiers. The old soldiers are still in place- after nearly 500 years, but the public spaces are open to the public, there's a small military museum- and, of course, the tearoom. It looks like this.



We bought sandwiches in the Warwick Sainsbury's and ate them by the river in Stratford. There were losts of boats on the water- most of them sculled by girls- and even more swans.

Oh look, a cygnet!



They don't let you take pictures during a performance- and quite right too-  but don't mind you snapping away beforehand; so here's the stage of the Courtyard Theatre as it was at the beginning of the play.