The morning speaker was Lord Gawain Douglas- grand-nephew- as he made sure we knew- of the poet and reptile Lord Alfred Douglas. He has the sandy good looks and aristocratic otherworldliness I associate with his family. He talked a bit about the Sonnets and then read us some. By the end he had read us far too many (as someone said it was like being force fed sweeties) but he did read them beautifully.
The afternoon session was led by Miles Richardson- son of the late, great Ian Richardson, an actor in his own right- and (Ailz wants me to make sure I tell you) a god. He got us playing some of the training games they play inside the RSC. For instance we all had to hold a playing card against our foreheads, walk round greeting people and then guess- from the response we got- whether we were high status court cards or low-status aces and deuces- the point of the exercise being to remind actors (all of whom have gigantic egos) that within the hierarchical world of Shakespearean drama it counts for nothing that you're a star of stage and screen if the character you're playing is called Costard. Miles also told us lots and lots of lovely theatrical anecdotes: like how Derek Jacobi is a real sweetie but woe betide you if you upstage him- and how when Jacobi played Richard II all his favourites were played by former boyfriends- and how when David Warner played Richard II he played him as a man who knows himself surrounded by enemies because Warner- as a young outsider promoted over the heads of seasoned company men- was in exactly that position. There are times I wish I'd chosen to become an actor- and this was one of them. Not that acting isn't a hard-scrabble profession. Miles is out of work at the moment; hence his availability for this low-rent and peanuts-paying engagement. As we were saying "goodbye" Ailz suggested he try Dr Who. "Ah," he said. "I'm afraid I'm not gay enough for them."