The Rose was a theatre in Elizabethan London. Built in 1587, it was the fifth such in the city and the first to be built on Bankside, not the most reputable part of town at the time. It was joined in the neighborhood a few years later by the Globe, which continues to get a lot of press because of that Shakespeare fellow. The remains of the theatre’s foundations were discovered during an excavation in 1989 and a trust has been established with plans to complete excavations of the foundations and to develop the site as an educational and historical resource.
My good friend Jessica Ruano, who moved to London from Ottawa a couple of years ago, has been involved in a number of projects at the Rose, which is being used as a venue once again for various theatrical productions, including Jessica’s excellent adaptation of As You Like It. When Jessica brought a show to the Ottawa Fringe Festival last year, we got to talking about the Rose and we agreed it would be an interesting venue in which to stage a reading of my play The Lavender Railroad with some of the actors she’s been working with in London.
Ross Mullan as Mother Courage
In many ways, the setting was perfect for the play. It’s underground. It’s dark and murky. In the background you hear an unsteady drip-drip-drip of water. There’s a damp chill in the air. What better environment in which to present a chilling and claustrophobic story about terrible choices in an amoral world?
Sarita Plowman as the Sister
I was very pleased with how the evening went and am grateful to Jessica and her actors, Ross Mullan, Ben Warwick and Sarita Plowman, for bringing the play to life in so dismally perfect an environment. I know that the folks who are managing the Rose have great plans for the future and will be quite eager to see what kinds of productions will be seen in this unique space in the future.
A visit to London is never complete unless I get to spend some time with my good friend Jessica Ruano. Last time I was here, we got to meet Simon Callow after a performance of Being Shakespeare. This time it was to stop in at the Globe Theatre where a group of 21 actors from around the world had gathered for three weeks of intensive work on Shakespeare as International Fellows of the theatre.
We got to see the culmination of their work – a kind of mash-up of scenes from a variety of plays presented in a variety of languages – for these actors have come from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Macedonia, Italy, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Georgia, Serbia and Greece – as well as a couple from Canada and the U.S.
The presentation was an opportunity for the actors to showcase what they studied during their time in London, so there were plenty of styles and techniques on offer for those present to enjoy and admire. It was a pleasure to watch the company at work – for they had clearly become a company – and if I have any criticism it is that they eagerly presented us with too much at once. Because they worked through diverse scenes from Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, and many more, the event ran for over two hours; while I appreciate their interest in showing us everything they’d done, I think an hour would have been fine from the audience’s perspective.
This was my first visit to the Globe, and while I’m certainly interested in seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays performed here during my visit the opportunity to see these fine actors strut their stuff made for a great first impression.
Meanwhile, Jessica and I plan to have a little fun with The Lavender Railroad. More on this anon.
As my good friend Jessica Ruano has recounted, we took the opportunity to meet Simon Callow yesterday after seeing his show, Being Shakespeare: meeting him was one of those things on Jessica’s list of Things to Do. We decided we might as well go all the way in doing this, so we asked for his autograph on our freshly bought copies of his recently published “alternative autobiography, “My Life in Pieces.”
He asked my name; I told him. As he readied his pen, he then asked: T.E. or Olivier? I parsed the question – it took me a moment – and replied: T.E. He accepted that, though I perceived a hesitation and, I thought, a little sigh of disappointment.
It was later that I noticed the blurb on the back cover remarking about his hero, Laurence Olivier.