I think it’s fair to say that 2016 has been a tumultuous year all round. I don’t really talk about current affairs, assuming that those who are here are here for the Shakespeare (and possibly my own idiosyncratic take on it – but mostly for the Shakespeare). But I don’t think anyone can let such a year go by without noting its passing. Which (as you might expect) will be done mostly through the medium of Shakespeare blogposts.
It’s been a year of anniversaries – Shakespeare’s 400th threw up a whole host of brilliant and thought-provoking pieces. The BBC’s Shakespeare Lives! series gave us wonderful modern reinventions – including my favourite, set on a South London estate. The RSC’s live variety show was (unavoidably) a mixed bag, but the Hamlet sketch has helped to brighten many a dark hour since. The Globe went for the deeply ambitious with their Complete Walk, and then were kind enough to share it with those who didn’t live in London. Go on and check it out. I’ll still be here!
The anniversary increased publicity for a number of other activities, for which I am very grateful. There was the archaeological investigation of Shakespeare’s grave which suggested his head might be missing, a more reputable counterpart to 2015’s Country Life expose. Then there was the amazing work being done at The Curtain, which I was thrilled to manage to actually visit in the middle of excavations. There was also The Barbican’s fun-tastic Shakespeare weekender and (at the very opposite end of the scholarly spectrum) The British Library’s informative take on the history of Shakespeare productions and idolatry.
It was also the 100th anniversary of the Somme this year, and the two collided most extraordinarily in the story of the YMCA’s Shakespeare hut.
There have been so many notable deaths this year that it is almost impossible to keep them all in the mind – Carrie Fisher the final funny female domino in a chain that started with Victoria Wood, George Michael vying for airspace with David Bowie. Each of us will find that some of those lost mean more to us than others, and for me the hole Alan Rickman has left has not yet been filled.
Then there have been the political shenanigans which have left the UK with a new Prime Minister, the US with a highly controversial President-Elect, and seen (admittedly on a slightly narrower) stage Emma Rice be appointed, vilified, and deposed as leader of The Globe all in the same year. I felt the production of Imogen which was staged under her aegis (though not directed by her) showed deep flaws in the use of a unique venue (and I hope the same issues won’t extend to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse when I see Othello there in March), but I find the abrupt and public nature of her departure to be disquieting.
I have had an absolutely cracking year as far as the Shakespeare goes (and the non-Shakespeare – with special shout-outs to Dinosaur Park and Groundhog Day).
There has been a full spectrum from the gloriously ridiculous Antic Disposition’s A Comedy of Errors to the breathtakingly sublime Donmar Warehouse Shakespeare Trilogy. I took in a transatlantic Dream, two Much Ados, a very creepy Richard, and even five shows in one week (including Cymbeline – and I refuse to rename!).
Resolutions for 2017
Well, I don’t feel in need of a new resolution yet. Even if I don’t go and see Much Ado About Nothing again (unlikely, given I have tickets booked), I’ve still got about 15 plays to catch. Alas, Birmingham University’s invaluable Touchstone pages, which listed all present and forthcoming Shakespeare productions, seem to have gone offline, so it may be a much more challenging job!
But I think we could all do well to follow the advice of the Countess in Love’s Labours Lost:
Love all, trust a few, Do wrong to none
Wishing you all a happy 2017.