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Friday, March 16, 2007

Dominic, Shakespeare and Me

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant evening at Bristol University’s Wickham Theatre listening to a talk given by Dominic Dromgoole, the Director of The Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank. A full and appreciative audience heard Patrick give anecdotal and passionate thoughts on Shakespeare, his plays and how these fitted into Shakespeare’s own history, travels and family life. He referred often to his own walk of pilgrimage from Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon to the Globe Theatre which he wrote about in his best-selling book “Will and Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life”.
Although Dominic is 20 years younger than me, I gave thought to the similarities and differences of our childhoods.
My father was, in his prime, a Shakespearean actor of some repute; Dominic’s father Patrick was also a leading director and producer. Dominic remembered as a child having his father recite Shakespeare to him and his siblings before bedtime and being entranced by the words and the cadences, the beginning of Dominic’s love of drama. For me the experience was different, I did hear my father practice his lines, was taken occasionally to see the plays, but I cannot remember being deliberately recited to in that way. Often my father was away performing on stage in the evenings and so my brother and I saw little of him at bedtime.
But our house was full of books. Available to us were most of the major works of literature, plays and poetry among many other genres such as art, history and detective fiction for the lighter moments and train journeys. However I sadly admit that I was an avoider of literature for most of my school years. Perhaps I rebelled against the arts because I could not compete with two extremely well read parents or with a more studious younger brother. In the many years that have passed since my schooldays I have learned to appreciate all the branches of the arts with the possible exception of the opera (sorry opera!) and have in more recent years gone out of my way to improve a knowledge that was sadly lacking by the time I had reached my late teens. After the talk, I spent a few moments talking with
Stephanie Cole OBE, one of the UK’s finest character actresses and who had known my father. She is now President of the Bristol University Theatre Collection the organisers of the talk, and she urged me to read Dominic’s book – I certainly will.

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