Much Ado…

February became the New January for the Cleddau crew last week. The time-honoured tradition of marking early January wedding anniversaries with one or more theatre productions in Stratford-upon-Avon has taken a dent over these last two pandemic years.

Realising that a short season of Much Ado About Nothing (4th Feb – 12th March) was to run in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, seats needed to be booked.

Oh, the joy of tramping beside the river on a brisk winter’s day –

just yards from the RSC buildings…

Familiar sights provide nostalgic pleasure –  swans seeking attention,     a trip boat entering    and rising in the lock, the sun glinting on the wind vane above The Swan Theatre,    the crocheted-clad trees in Bancroft Gardens…  

The last visit here had been in early September 2021. Remember that, The Comedy of Errors performed at the temporary outdoor theatre…?

The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Theatre had been constructed to bring back live performance for a four month summer season.  What of that theatre now?

All gone, but the grass is recovering well.

There’s something about the transformed RSC theatre building these days that always sends a thrill down the spine. It’s to do with the floor that runs behind the back wall of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s auditorium.

These boards were retrieved from the stage of the Memorial Theatre during the 2007 -10 Transformation (a major rebuild of the theatre) and re-laid as corridor floorboards. To tread the very boards performed on by the likes of Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft and Ian McKellan… 

Then there’s the thrill of an auditorium gradually filling with audience members.  

To the play, Much Ado About Nothing: the production’s setting sometime in the future in an unnamed African country provided scope for vibrant colours and shapes, for extraordinary costuming and strong geometric stage sets. This was how the stage was set before the play starts.

See here for production photos. The inventiveness of the designers and director, the huge energy of the actors and musicians, a totally engaged audience – what was not to like…? For the theatre-starved Cleddau crew it was a  visual feast, a banquet of eye-popping moments and shared laughter.

Much Ado’s run finishes on March 12th, catch it if you can (or watch it if it gets screened in cinema or on TV).

Northwards then to Cheshire to “Take A Breather”, so to speak,    (bow flash on a boat moored nearby) and to de-winterise the boat.      All was going well, the water tank was refilling, the fire was lit,     the interior was warming nicely – then two watery mishaps caused much ado. How often has it happened before, water from a low pressure tap quietly fills – and overfills the water tank…? With the doors closed to retain heat inside the cabin no crew member noticed the rising tide on the front deck! It takes a long time to dry out a bow deck inches deep in water, two days in fact! 

Then there was another water incursion – while seated on the sofa beginning a late lunch sandwich the Captain complained of “a wet bottom”. He was sitting in a pool of water, rain water having been driven in at the top of a window by one storm or another.  (Which one was to blame?  Dudley? Eunice?  Franklin? Or had the water been delivered maybe by Arwen, or whichever storm followed it…). Luckily most of the water was captured within the layers of protective plastic sheeting laid out below the window; in mopping up though much of it seeped into the upholstered seat and back cushion. The fire’s heat was increased, the long seat cushion was balanced in front of the stove while outside on the front deck water still sloshed about. Definitely much ado…

Dry weather and a fair breeze over the next two days helped the front deck dry out. The Captain, meanwhile, rigged some elementary bird scarers above the boat to try to persuade local gulls and Canada geese to alter their flight paths.

Perched on the offside gunwale the Captain applied sealant to the leaky window, hoping that on the next Cleddau visit there’d be no repeat of the wet bottom episode…

…..

The world is in shock over the tragedy of the Ukraine invasion.

Only two weeks ago decades-old photographs surfaced at home, pictures of Ukrainian folk dancers, taken at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod (circa 1962).

On a first residential school trip away from home a Wednesday afternoon had been spent on the very muddy festival field on Folk Dance Day. Despite the rain and the grey skies those Ukrainian dancers brought memorable colour and movement, agility and joy to a corner of a Welsh field.

Thoughts and prayers go to their descendants today.

Road miles: 342;  boat miles: 0


 

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