After the mock exams, a small group of Lower Sixth English students were treated to a weekend of culture, theatre and Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. We had heard from the Upper Sixth that the weekend was unmissable, and it was certainly that! Once we arrived, we were given some time to roam free and explore the birthplace of the Bard himself before getting ready for our first play at The Swan Theatre – Owen Horsley’s take on Oscar Wilde’s one act play, Salomé.
The following morning we continued to tour Stratford, beginning at the house where Shakespeare was born, through where the markets would have been held in Elizabethan England, and ending up in Holy Trinity Church, confronted with the grave of Shakespeare himself. After learning all about the city and its development over time, we stopped for a light lunch in the park just outside the RSC then went back inside for our second play, Vice Versa by Phil Porter. Despite not being a typical RSC production, the playwright’s comical take on the Plautus plays involved a misbehaving monkey (much to our disappointment, just an actor dressed up...), a lot of physical comedy and several references to the current US President.
After the show, we were treated to a backstage tour of the RSC. We began in The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and, having the whole theatre to ourselves, watched them beginning to change the set from Julius Caesar to Anthony and Cleopatra for the performance later on that evening. We then went backstage, to the dressing rooms, and to where the actors prepare, to see how they organise the makeup and costumes. We learnt how they make wigs specific for the actor, and the different methods used to make an actor ‘bleed’ on stage; for a single performance of Titus Andronicus they use around three litres of fake blood! Following this, we climbed to the top of the theatre to see how they manage the lighting and technical aspects of a performance.
Our thanks go to Mr Harman and Miss Freeland for organising such an enjoyable trip – one which would encourage anyone to study English Literature A Level!
Olivia L, Lower Sixth