Well, the end of 2018 is a bit of a milestone for this blog. I am the end of five years of my ten year Shakespeare New Year Resolution. Half way through. So as well as rounding up the last year, I’m doing a little more thinking about the project as a whole – what it has meant to me, and what I might still try and do with it. Not all of that thinking will necessarily make it into this blog – but rest assured it is happening!
Firstly, a personal bit. I started this thing when my much-beloved paternal grandmother died. In 2018, my much-beloved maternal grandmother died. It’s the end of a generation, and the loss of both of them is such a fundamental shift in my family that I haven’t yet fully come to terms with it. I will do – something – different to honour my maternal grandmother’s memory, but it hasn’t been as straightforward to work out what as it was to start this project. It may be related to this, it may not, but if I think you would be interested I will let you know…
Secondly, some numbers. In five years, I’ve been to 56 productions of 30 plays (and all of my reviews are helpfully collated here). That includes 5 Much Ados (I regret nothing), 4 Macbeths, and 3 each of Othello, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night and Richard III. I’ve managed an average of at least one Shakespeare play a month over the last 3 years, and I’d like to keep that up – although I might retire Macbeth (and maybe Othello) from the mix for a little while. After two Macbeths and one Othello this year I didn’t go and see macbethothello at the Lyric Hammersmith, which I slightly regret. So maybe a breather will cleanse the palette a little and get me more excited about future productions – or maybe I won’t miss them at all.
I’ve set out highlights in previous years – this year, I remember with delight The Globe’s Two Noble Kinsmen and the Young Vic’s Twelfth Night, with thrilling intimacy the Bridge Theatre’s Julius Caesar and All Places that the Eye of Heaven Visits, and with righteous fury the Donmar’s Measure for Measure. And since I apparently didn’t do a 2017 round-up I’ll just bask for a moment in the more-distant-but-no-less-vibrant memories of Antic Disposition’s moving and beautiful WW1 Henry V and the Almeida’s fresh and lovely Hamlet. (Non-Shakespeare shout-outs to the joyous fun of Letters Live, the incredible power of Sea Wall at the Old Vic, and the long-awaited non-spoilered excitement of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).
Thirdly, the future. What do I still have left to see? Just 8 plays: The Taming of the Shrew, all three parts of Henry VI, Troilus and Cressida, Timon of Athens, Romeo and Juliet (yes, really), and of course Henry VIII. Two of these are currently on at the RSC in Stratford, so maybe this will be the year I finally get up there (or maybe I’ll wait for a London transfer…) I will definitely try to get to at least one of the eight, although I know I’ll also be having more bites at the cherry of my favourites (Richard II, you’re up first).
More widely, I am still somewhere in the middle of trying to tell you about the many wonderful places where Shakespeare got inspiration, plot points and sometimes dialogue – it shows quite how big, how diverse, how cosmopolitan the literary world of Elizabethan London was.
And (using that to hint at, but not actually talk about, the big political events of the last year) well, 2018 has been a bit pants all round, hasn’t it? It feels like we’ve all dug in and got through it – and maybe there’s a bit of light on the horizon and maybe that’s just the world burning but nothing is certain yet. So I think in 2019, and based on the unexpected joy I felt at Twelfth Night, we might all need to take a little more time to try and wring some pleasure out of life alongside just coping. So this year’s Shakespeare quote/New Year’s resolutions is going to be:
O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!
A happy 2019 to you all.