Thursday 28 November 2013

The Bard in my Bucket - One Year On

You can't find the meaning and rhythm in Shakespeare's prose by seeing it written down; those words need reading aloud or better still to be performed on a stage. So, a year ago, I decided that Item Number One on my bucket list was to watch all of Shakespeare's plays - preferably live. To be honest, it is the only item on my bucket list so far - not sure I'm getting the hang of this mortality thing. But then, as items go, it's quite a biggie; a list within a list, you could say.

Looking back to a year ago, I'd seen a mere 12 of his canon of 38 plays - although many more than once. How have I fared (I hear you ask) since making the conscious decision to try and see them all?

In February, there was The Winter's Tale at the RSC, seen as an understudy run, which was fun.  It was also my first theatrical review for clairethinking and an epiphany in terms of realising how much I enjoy writing about, as well as watching, theatre.

Next came A Midsummer Night's Dream at Bristol Old Vic in March, with some inspirational puppetry from Handspring and a truly remarkable Bottom. This didn't really count as I'd seen it already many moons ago as a school play, but I felt as though I was beginning to hit my reviewing stride a little here.

Third up was Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Tobacco Factory in May. I wasn't at all familiar with this early play of Shakespeare's and found it utterly charming and beautifully played. It goes without saying that Lollio stole the show...

Then I snuck in Hamlet at the RSC with Jonathan Slinger. This production came in for a fair bit of (mainly justified) stick, but Slinger rose above it, giving a nuanced and spirited portrayal of the Danish prince. Again, this doesn't officially count as I've seen Hamlet before and, for some forgotten reason, didn't quite manage to review it.

And finally for 2013 came King Lear at the Theatre Royal Bath in August. David Haig's Lear was transformed into an east end gangster in Lucy Bailey's envisioning of 1960s London. We sat in the front row, had an eyeful of blood and gore and loved it.

Until then it was going pretty well, but with nothing ticked off between September and now, I'm losing momentum. Here's the still somewhat daunting list to go at in 2014:
  • Henry VI Part I
  • Henry VI Part II
  • Henry VI Part III
  • Richard III
  • Titus Andronicus 
  • The Taming of the Shrew 
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • King John 
  • The Merchant of Venice 
  • Henry IV Part I
  • Henry IV Part II
  • Henry V
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor 
  • Troilus and Cressida 
  • All’s Well That Ends Well
  • Othello
  • Macbeth
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Coriolanus
  • Pericles 
  • Cymbeline
  • Henry VIII
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen

Full of early resolutions for the New Year, I've booked to see Donmar Warehouse and NT Live's Coriolanus in January, beamed by satellite to the lovely Little Theatre Cinema in Bath. Mark Gatiss, Tom Hiddleston and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (from Borgen) - what's not to like?

Only twenty-two more to go. Bring it on...

Pictures courtesy of the RSC, Bristol Old Vic, Tobacco Factory, Theatre Royal Bath and Donmar Warehouse.


  1. What a good resolution, although I would tremble to make my way through some of those plays! You have, of course, made me go away and see how many *I* have seen on the stage... and I'm pretty pleased (and a bit surprised) with 15. I watched quite a few when I was studying for the Shakespeare paper as an undergrad, which happily coincided with the RSC's Complete Shakespeare series.

    1. You're right, although it's been fun so far, I have to admit to being trembly-but-determined about a few of them! Your 15 play record is impressive, but then I'd expect nothing less...


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