Thursday, 18 April 2019

I find myself again with my dear old friend, William Shakespeare…

I never thought to hear you speak again.
Shakespeare: Henry IV, part II (IV.v.90)

I was walking back into the arms of a lifelong friend – sadly, one not seen for quite some time. Hence the ferocity, sincerity, and length of the resulting hug. I wasn’t quite sure why I was there, though, to be honest. Although I had enjoyed the plays I had (relatively) recently seen him perform in – Henry IV, part I, Henry IV, part II, and Death of a Salesman – I was not a major fan of Antony Sher; and his presence on stage is therefore usually not enough to pull me in.

This is not why I had avoided his King Lear, though: that was because Michael Pennington’s incredible inhabitation of the role had ‘spoiled’ the play for me: in much the same way as Pippa Nixon’s perfection (in 2013, goodness me!) had ‘ruined’ the RSC’s current production of As You Like It. Which is one reason why a short run of a new two-hander was the occasion for my re-entry into the RSC’s hallowed headquarters – particularly to be enfolded in the arms of my favourite theatre, the Swan – rather than one of Will’s very, very best, in the main auditorium.

With being away from the place for so long, physically and mentally – I had bought too many tickets in the interim, only to cancel them again and again at the last moment because of my health… – I wasn’t aware that Kunene and the King (directed by Janice Honeyman) even existed. However, Michael Billington’s perspicacious review lit a spark deep inside me. Although it would take a while for the kindling to fully ignite.