Sunday, 3 July 2016

I might have sav’d her, now she’s gone forever…

But his flaw’d heart
(Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.

They were packing away the superlatives as I left the theatre – along with the chair I shall always think of as Gloucester’s… – no truck seemingly large enough for the caseloads of words needed to describe how unparalleled a miracle this had been; will always be. I was correct in my belief – even at preview – that “I [had] witnessed the greatest Shakespearean performance of my long life”. What I could not have divined, back then, was how, with each performance, yet more jewels of tiny detail would emerge; perfection would be heaped upon perfection… until it came to this. Even the gods – finally, after ignoring (or just playing with) us mere mortals for so very long – wept with grief; and it took all my strength to pull myself together and into the car for the long journey home. A glance in the mirror confirmed that my face was not dissimilar to Lear’s….

Undeterred by having already bade my bitter farewells (and tumultuous thanks) on Tuesday, I was enticed into one last viewing by a kindred spirit (thank you, Mark…) – and, despite having to relive such a tortuous bereavement, it was more than worth the masochism. If there was one thing about this production – apart from the transcendent invisibility of the performances – that proved its greatness; and that will remain with me for ever… – it was its humanity (as also represented by the cast’s poetry reading, last Thursday, for Calais Action). This was an intense family drama on a human level: its humanitarian stance visible in every scene; audible in every line.

Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’ld use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass,
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why then she lives.

So – and please note that this is not to ignore the outstanding creatives who made this miracle possible… – a huge and personal thank you, each, to Shane (so much nicer when ordering a coffee than when plucking out eyes); Catherine (charm and loveliness personified); Beth; Pip; Reginald; Joshua (thanks for the kind pull-quote…!); Gavin; Caleb; Adrian; Scott; Tom; Daniel; Michael (always genial and generous); and Sally – fourteen of the very greatest proponents of Shakespeare that I have ever witnessed; and all, somehow, primus inter pares. (There are some very young names in there, too; and I can only imagine – and hope for – the great heights they will soar to, from such an elevated foundation.)

Never before has a company been so stellar, so cohesive. And I know that I am not the only person who thinks we will never see the like again…. They must be even more devastated at the break-up of this company, this family, than any audience member, though…. I wish them all well. Go break some legs…!

So… sod the seven ages of man… – here begin the seven stages of grief.

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