I had an indulgent night last night. I watched RSC Live and ate chocolate croissants, by myself, in my pyjamas, on my couch. I enjoyed it for lots of reasons (RSC Live obvs, although the chocolate croissants were immense). The live event had interesting acts, a host of theatre and acting (and real) royalty, and it was funny and tragic at the same time; but the main reason I enjoyed it was because it took me back in time and I was able to have nearly three hours of unadulterated memory lane fodder.
I worked for the RSC nearly ten years ago. My job wasn’t one of the glamorous ones – I was an office bod – but nonetheless it was an amazing experience to be there and be part of that world. I worked on the project to transform the theatres, so during the course of my years with them, I saw them transform from old to new. I remember the smells of the old theatre. I remembering my morning routine when I arrived in the office, which was to walk through stage door, say hello to the to the stage door keepers, collect my post, and then walk backstage behind the auditorium on my route to the green room to collect milk for the office. I remember how beautiful the grounds were and I remember how amazing the transformed theatre looked when all was finished. I remember all of the different theatre spaces, including those for experimental and new theatre. I remember the legends around RSC alumni from long ago and the ghosts that never left. I remember seeing the famous current RSC alumni and trying (and probably failing) to act like I was completely unfazed.
It is a time I will tell my children about when they are older and when I take them to see the RSC to experience Shakespeare.
I have to confess, before I began to work there, I found Shakespeare’s plays pretty boring and difficult to follow. I remember touching on them at school but not being interested until the release of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet in 1996. That was when I realised that Shakespeare’s stories were not boring at all. I think if you try to teach children about Shakespeare by only letting them read the words, you will soon lose their interest. But if you let them watch his plays being performed, it becomes a completely different experience. The first time I saw a play at the RSC brought this home to be me, big time.
In and around the RSC, the local schools in Stratford-Upon-Avon have fully embraced Shakespeare and the local children love to watch his plays and be involved in them. There is even an entire theatre department devoted to Education. I wish they could bottle that and spread it around all of the schools in the UK. I know Shakespeare is studied in our schools but it would be so fabulous if all children could have access to his plays being performed. There are lots of organisations out there trying to make that happen too, including the Shakespeare Schools Festival and the Young Shakespeare Company, but it isn’t mainstream yet.
I hope this latest wave of Shakespeare-love helps to kick-start something wonderful in our schools for our children to be part of and enjoy his work for years to come.