Marathon Shakespeare

Rschv The Royal Shakespeare Company in staging the whole of the History Cycle, 8 plays in 72 hours.  Colin Murphy on the performance in Le Monde Diplomatique:

I couldn’t sleep last night. They kept on coming. Kings, rebels, ghosts, traitors. In my mind’s eye, at 3am, they marched again, spoke, warned. Richard the Second, vainglorious, doomed. Henry the Fourth, stout and fierce, his purchase on the throne tenuous. Falstaff, hale and hearty, but cut through with self-deception. Warwick, twin sword blades slicing the air. Henry the Fifth, the hero king. And Henry the Sixth, almost mystical, his eyes suffused with the loneliness of absolute power.

For twenty-four hours I sat in their company, through eight of the History plays of William Shakespeare, staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) back to back across a weekend in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon (1). The feat was unprecedented: the same company of 34 actors performed 264 roles across 72 hours, in eight three-hour plays.

Over breakfast in my B&B, we wondered whether there was any possibility of redemption or sympathy for the hunchback Richard the Third. At lunchtime I strode into Stratford in search of a quick sandwich, and saw one of the cast breeze by on her bicycle, presumably doing the same thing. During an interval, a man leaned deeply into a stretch against a tree outside. At night, we retreated to the local pub, The Dirty Duck, attempting to quiet the voices in our heads with pints of ale, found the Duke of Exeter and Earl of Warwick there ahead of us, and fell into conversation with them about their roles and the plays.

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