Friday, June 03, 2011


We left the urban area and headed for Stratford-upon-Avon, which was a special highlight of our tour. P, C, and me are big fans of the  TV series Star Trek and Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise came to the Royal Shakespeare Company to play the jew Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. I know him as a great actor whose extensive stage experience always showed, whether he impersonated a starship captain, Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, Ebenezer Scrooge, MacBeth, or Professor Xavier in X-men. So we were very much looking forward to this Shakespeare production.

Many critics were a bit negative due to the modernization of the play; the setting was a gambling casino in Las Vegas and 'americanized' speech infiltrated the play. They didn't keep to the original language scrupulously, changing expressions like 'all that glistens' to 'all that glitters' and modern equivalents like 'dollars' and 'car rides', sometimes even resorting to the big American brawl of the South. But that was exactly what made the play so much more powerful; it constantly reminded us that racism and arrogance are not something that belonged into a Shakesperian time period, but are real now and here.
I especially liked the twist Patrick Stewart gave the role of Shylock, the Jewish money lender. His Shakesperian speech already marked him as being different from the rest of the otherwise shallow party and show loving protagonists. And instead of subdueing to the role of a villain who has to end up as the comic relief in the original play, this Shylock mounted up to a tragic figure, a despised person since everybody only saw a Jew and not the man he really was and whom life had made bitter. In the end revenge was denied to him and his future smashed. A great performance no matter what others may have said.

This is Susannah Fielding as Portia and Emily Plumtree as Nerissa. Portia was wearing her blong wig to give her the appearance of being blond and dumb. Maybe she hoped to shun her marriage candidates away, but we already knew from real life that this will end up in the complete opposite.
Since we arrived quite early we had time for a quick stroll through this lovely town with such a vivid life along the river Avon. Here a house boat:

One of the disadvantages of fame is the prices. A lot of expensive brands have stores here and sometimes reductions on dress were as high as the prices for a complete dress in other shops:

The market place with the so-called American Fountain, a gift from American publisher George Childs for  Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Year.

Shakespeare's birthhouse:

The Garrick Inn, a beautiful stud work house:

Beautifully preserved wooden door in the Harvard House:

Stained glass window in the Guild Chapel:

Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church; his wife and his daughter are lying next to him:

Detail from the choir stalls in Holy Trinity Church:

We even managed to have a nice dinner before the play in the Thai boathouse, a nice Thai restaurant with lots of vegetarian and vegan options and a splendid view on the river Avon:

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