Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stratford-Upon-Avon: 1

Stratford-Upon-Avon= William Shakespeare

Last week I spent a couple of nights with friends in Stratford and somehow found that:

Stratford-Upon-Avon= William Shakespeare= Trees!

Wherever I went Shakespeare was prominent but the symbols I seemed to end up with were images of trees…

Appropriately, I stayed with a Shakespeare expert- ex. Head of Drama at Wolverhampton University and author of “The North Face of Shakespeare: Activities for Teaching the Plays”, James Stredder and his wife Kathy. Surprisingly, it was warm enough to have tea in their garden, a delightful garden full of Spring flowers and trees- Apple trees, a Pear tree and Greengage tree among others. James went to school at Malvern College where my father was Art Master and it was rewarding to hear him speak so warmly of his memories of both my parents.

On the first evening we went to a Royal Shakespeare Company preview production of “A Winter’s Tale”, which I found both visually exciting and emotional- Director: David Farr, Designer: Jon Bausor. Books were used as a dramatic theme: as the casts’ lives fell apart, the first half of the play climaxed in hundreds of books falling from collapsing bookshelves; the Bear who pursued Antigonous in Bohemia was a magnificent puppet clothed in book pages as were the dancing Satyrs. But of course what stayed in my mind was a tree with leaves of paper which descended from the flys for Perdita to make her entrance and for her and Florizel to climb.

The next morning, Kathy Stredder showed me round Stratford, pointing out the many buildings supported by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Again, it seemed to be the trees that caught my eye and became my Shakespeare symbols- so here they are:

The Birthplace- where Shakespeare was born in 1564: tourists queue to enter, obscured by a gnarled tree.

New Place- the site of the house where he lived from 1597-1616: Yew hedges.

The Tomb- Holy Trinity Church where he was both baptized and buried (1616), in the chancel: a prehistoric monster-like cedar tree and a cut yew tree fronted by someonelse’s tombstone.

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