Universal Shakespeare

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.

T.E. or Olivier?

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.

Wrong answer.