The Royal Shakespeare Company’s headquarters and the cultural capital of England is in Stratford upon Avon, housed in what is surely one of the ugliest and badly designed buildings in the world.
The stage and seating are superb, but very little else is either aesthetically pleasing or easy to navigate and use.
It looks like a power station....
.....it feels like a prison
Surely the architect should be forbidden from practising again and sent to Siberia?
To add to the desecration created by this white collar vandal, a fine copse of ancient oaks which once proudly stood in front of the theatre was cut down to be replaced by a bland lawn and rectangular path pattern.
‘Man was born for happiness as a bird for flight’ - wrote the Russian writer V.G Korelenko, and in Revelations in The Bible it says that ‘there shall be no more pain and there shall be no more tears'.
Perhaps W. Shakespeare had both of these thoughts in mind when he wrote ‘The Winter’s Tale’ around 1610, with the proviso that we can’t just inherit a happy and pain free life - we have to earn one and deserve it, and if we take it away from others, we have to earn it back again.
The plot of the play is absurd, but life itself is absurd so that the drama provides a perfect medium through which resonates the cruelty and tyranny of our own little lives which we find mirrored in the disjointed and extravagant adventures of these characters on stage, who seem to live in a bizarre confabulation of classical Greece and Christian saturated Sicily and Bohemia, defying logic except the meandering logic of the heart.
Elena and I were in Stratford again to see the play and renew our search for the lost spirit of Merrie England, Shakespeare’s England, the period when complete bastards like Francis Drake murdered and plundered on the high seas to impress Queen Elizabeth in the hope of a monopoly or two.
This spirit has been lost somewhere in a shopping mall and the global banking cartel, the former by the common consumerate and the latter by the self deluded ‘ masters of the universe’ who seem to think that shuffling money around the world is tough guys work and justifies danger money in return.
In Shakespeare’s day you had to risk your life to make a fortune and since lives and livelihoods were often on the line the language was straight and sharp :
‘ We are but plain fellows sir’
‘ A lie, you are rough and hairy’
This is sterner stuff than the former Energy Minister Mr Huhn is capable of, who was only able to confess his lies to the police and his forcing his wife to lie on his behalf with the evasive sentence ‘ I am deeply sorry for something that happened a long time ago’
Something that happened?
A lie, thou smooth skinned sop, something you did deliberately and would do again given half a chance!
We will probably be sued by Mr Huhn for this accurate amendment with addition.
A mental patient rang the social services, care workers and mental health workers to tell them that she was dangerous, had killed before and would kill again. All these ignored her and she went on to behead and kill an elderly woman.
The social services stated that the calls she made were a ‘ missed opportunity’
You’re not kidding.
Ah well, from the play we made our way again to The Thatched Tavern, the best pub in Stratford, which on our last visit had run out of beer.
Gini was friendly unaffected and helpful
We settled down to good solid simple fare - Falstaff would have appreciated it, but the cleanliness of the toilets would have astounded him.
Look at these - Elena was nearly arrested for loitering with indecent attempt in the ladies, as was I in the gents, as we were so determined to capture these gleaming and hygienic examples of a facility that, in a British pub, is usually a stinking and dangerous affront to the senses.
The Gents! (photo by Mark Rapley)
.......and The Ladies!
How much better was the food and service here, at a fraction of the price, than we were fleeced for at a recent visit to the posh St John in Farringdon in London - actually, the service was good, but misleading insofar as we were sold a dish on the grounds that there was only one left which turned out to be awful.
Restaurants in London get away with murder for the same reason that people do - nobody has the courage, or the energy, as they once did, to protest or complain or intervene.
We are all too timid, listless and lifeless, our ennui is endless, we regurgitate opinion pumped out ready made for us like the ready made plastic meals we eat from our supermarkets that are slowly strangling and wringing any pungency and taste from British life.
........It’s not all bad, at least we are free, free to set up in business, drink and eat where we want, listen to what we want, free to abuse these freedoms or ignore them as we wish.
We decided to drink too much and abuse the freedom to drink and abuse our bodies at The Riding House Cafe on Great Titchfied Street, London W1.
This place is a hang for well heeled media and rag trade types, the beautiful people - how did I get in?
They were free to turn me away, for being too old and not wearing Converse plimsolls, but maybe they could smell my debit card burning a hole in my pocket.
The crowd of free dancing young made us feel young and free too - enough said, you know the rest, and thank God for the modern world and paracetamol.
We were made for happiness, but there will always be pain.
Unless otherwise stated all photographs by Elena Bruce