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Jun. 5th, 2009

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I voted in the European elections. There were a lot of fringe parties putting up candidates- and the voting slip was the longest I'd ever handled.

I say "I" not "we" because Ailz gets a postal vote and cast it weeks ago.

I voted for the Lib Dems. It was more a vote against than a vote for.

On the way down to Stratford we had the car radio on for the political news.  Jack Straw was being asked- repeatedly- why he hadn't tendered his resignation over the case of the French students who were murdered by a guy who should have been in prison but wasn't.  He talked about  his "duty". Straw is- all proportions kept-  Nu Labour's Talleyrand. As we were driving home after the play it was reported  that a third Cabinet Minister- James Purnell- had resigned from the government- and while the others- Smith and Blears-  went muttering courtesies, this one has said straight out that Brown is electoral poison and should go.

This morning the election results that are coming in are- as expected-  bad for Labour, Brown is reshuffling his cabinet and the Guardian's Martin Kettle predicts he'll be forced out in days.
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The title says it all: As You Like It is a crowd pleaser. It's a frolic, a holiday entertainment- a bit like a revue, a bit like a pantomime- with sudden glimpses among all the yuks of something old and deep and stirring.  

But it's also got more dead wood in it than any other Shakespeare play I can think of.  For "dead wood" read "Touchstone". This production gets round the problem by reinforcing the once topical and now incomprehensible gags with physical comedy. Richard Katz- who has to perform the miracle- is pretty damn good.

But then everyone is pretty damn good.  This is what you expect- but don't always get- from the RSC: acting in depth. Forbes Masson is a commanding- even show-stopping-  Jacques, Jonjo O'Neill a winning Orlando, Katy Stephens a rumbustious Rosalind (pity I didn't fancy her more) and Mariah Gale a delightful Celia. The production, by Michael Boyd, the RSC's artistic supremo- and a safe pair of hands- is intelligent and light on its feet- and acknowledges and engages the audience more than I've ever seen happen at the RSC. Certain characters- Jacques and Touchstone especially- address us directly- and get us shouting back. Now that's the spirit! 

Phew! After A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale and Julius Caesar I was beginning to think of attendance at Stratford as a painful cultural duty.

We came out of the theatre to find Orlando's "poems" taped to trees and walls and railings all the way down the street.
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We stopped for tea at Lord Leycester's Hospital in Warwick. It's a hospital in the medieval sense of the word- meaning something more like a retirement home- in this case for old soldiers. The old soldiers are still in place- after nearly 500 years, but the public spaces are open to the public, there's a small military museum- and, of course, the tearoom. It looks like this.



We bought sandwiches in the Warwick Sainsbury's and ate them by the river in Stratford. There were losts of boats on the water- most of them sculled by girls- and even more swans.

Oh look, a cygnet!



They don't let you take pictures during a performance- and quite right too-  but don't mind you snapping away beforehand; so here's the stage of the Courtyard Theatre as it was at the beginning of the play.


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