On Tuesday, November 4th our group headed up to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace!
After getting comfortably situated at our adorable Bed & Breakfast we headed on over to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for a brief orientation to the program and information on the Royal Shakespeare Company. Each day we were treated to a Master Class centered on an aspect of theater performance and a critical discussion on the shows we saw.
Our first evening proved to be a real treat! We saw a Edwardian Era Downton Abbey-inspired production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Considering that this had to be my least favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, I wasn’t expecting much. But the RSC pulled through with lots of laughs and made sure we all had a good time. Did I also mention the RSC gift shop? Oh boy. Let’s just say it was a great place to let your geek shine through.
The following morning we had a fabulous Q&A with an actress from the show who played Rosaline. We learned ahead a time that she is also set to play Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, which the RSC conveniently chose to market as Love’s Labour Won. Curiously, the same actor who played Berowne in LLL also played Benedick in LLW. Hurrah for double casting!
However, much of us agreed that Much Ado paled in comparison to Love’s Labour’s. Though it was clever that they remained consistent with the Edwardian setting, choosing to have Much Ado set in post-WWI period, there was just a little too much going on with this show which took away from some of the magic the cast had the night before with Love’s Labour’s. It also didn’t help that the set broke down in the middle of the show. Arguably, this was the most comical part.
The following day was probably my most favorite experience of the whole trip. Our group was treated to an exciting demonstration on wigs and makeup. It was a lot of fun to see my classmates rocking a pirate getup or an Elizabethan lady look. The best part was watching them get to re-enact Julius Caesar’s death, knives, daggers, blood and all!
I was completely blown away by RSC’s production of The White Devil, a play by John Webster, one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. I was thrilled by the modern setting and choices made by the director, Maria Aberg. The finale was probably one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in live theater. And no, it wasn’t just because there was a pile of dead bodies lying around, although that certainly helps.
Other highlights of the trip include visiting the home of Shakespeare right by the Trust and Holy Trinity Church. While I didn’t go inside the crouch due to time constraints I was blown away by the exterior. Oh, and did I mention TEA? If you’re ever in Startford and you have time for an afternoon tea, go check out the Fourteas, an adorable little place that’s decorated just like the 1940s. GET IT?
In my opinion, all the pubs were lovely, but one of the craziest things about Startford is that each night after the RSC shows, most of the cast will make their way to a pub called The Dirty Duck. As someone who is dreadfully start struck, it was a little crazy to be standing in the same room as cast members from LLL/LLW, The White Devil, and Harry Potter, because, you know, this is England. Actors from Harry Potter are bound to show up somewhere.
After 3 nights of eating Steak and Ale pie I was sad to leave, but excited to begin my journey to Italy, which in my opinion has the superior cuisine. Expect to hear about my fall break adventures soon!