But his flaw’d heart
(Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
They were packing away the superlatives as I left the theatre – along with the chair I shall always think of as Gloucester’s… – no truck seemingly large enough for the caseloads of words needed to describe how unparalleled a miracle this had been; will always be. I was correct in my belief – even at preview – that “I [had] witnessed the greatest Shakespearean performance of my long life”. What I could not have divined, back then, was how, with each performance, yet more jewels of tiny detail would emerge; perfection would be heaped upon perfection… until it came to this. Even the gods – finally, after ignoring (or just playing with) us mere mortals for so very long – wept with grief; and it took all my strength to pull myself together and into the car for the long journey home. A glance in the mirror confirmed that my face was not dissimilar to Lear’s….
Undeterred by having already bade my bitter farewells (and tumultuous thanks) on Tuesday, I was enticed into one last viewing by a kindred spirit (thank you, Mark…) – and, despite having to relive such a tortuous bereavement, it was more than worth the masochism. If there was one thing about this production – apart from the transcendent invisibility of the performances – that proved its greatness; and that will remain with me for ever… – it was its humanity (as also represented by the cast’s poetry reading, last Thursday, for Calais Action). This was an intense family drama on a human level: its humanitarian stance visible in every scene; audible in every line.
Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’ld use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass,
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why then she lives.
So – and please note that this is not to ignore the outstanding creatives who made this miracle possible… – a huge and personal thank you, each, to Shane (so much nicer when ordering a coffee than when plucking out eyes); Catherine (charm and loveliness personified); Beth; Pip; Reginald; Joshua (thanks for the kind pull-quote…!); Gavin; Caleb; Adrian; Scott; Tom; Daniel; Michael (always genial and generous); and Sally – fourteen of the very greatest proponents of Shakespeare that I have ever witnessed; and all, somehow, primus inter pares. (There are some very young names in there, too; and I can only imagine – and hope for – the great heights they will soar to, from such an elevated foundation.)
Never before has a company been so stellar, so cohesive. And I know that I am not the only person who thinks we will never see the like again…. They must be even more devastated at the break-up of this company, this family, than any audience member, though…. I wish them all well. Go break some legs…!