This was an obvious choice for Chichester Copywriter as the play joins Shakespeare in the last days of his life at his home, New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare is a literary hero and a copywriting inspiration to Kate and his home in the Midlands, with its rich literary culture, is one of her favourite holiday destinations. See: http://www.chichestercopywriter.co.uk/2009/06/love-to-write-live-to-write/.
In Bingo Shakespeare is faced with the prospect of losing the land he bought to secure a comfortable future while he was in his writing heyday. Edward Bond presents a controversial look at how Shakespeare was feeling in his last days using contemporary documents and what is known of our most famous Bard. We are introduced to a man in crisis, with a difficult home life and living in a bit of a depressive pit and this, coupled with the fear of losing everything, is somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare’s own King Lear. Bingo is a tale that gives insight into the social struggles of the day, how the rich took from the poor and how Shakespeare as a well-off man, might have struggled with his conscience. We see how the threat of death can bring money to the forefront of our minds.
The scenery was simple and made a close connection with nature and the change of the seasons, one theme that runs throughout Shakespeare’s writing. Shakespeare’s monologue in the snow blanketed field at the end, delivered expertly by Stewart, was one of the most poignant parts. However, the execution of the young woman (Michelle Tate) and her amazing ability to keep still while she hung on stage until the interval as well as fabulous acting by Shakespeare’s servants, particularly Ellie Haddington, should also be celebrated.
Bingo was quite melancholic but from a play depicting the last days of a great writer’s life it would be churlish to expect anything else. Having said that, the character of Ben Johnson played by Richard McCabe brought some light relief and added a stark contrast of a typical city dweller sampling country life. This also presented the two identities that Shakespeare himself had when living in Warwickshire and then in London.
Having visited all the houses connected with Shakespeare and his family in Warwickshire, it was a delight for Chichester Copywriter to be able to picture the true interior and gardens where Shakespeare spent his last days as Bingo’s story unfolded. However, there were some surprises in the narrative, particularly the hysteria of Shakespeare’s wife and daughter. When visiting Shakespeare’s birth place last year and hearing about how he left his wife the second best bed in his will a historian construed that this was a romantic gesture on Shakespeare’s part as this was the marital bed they shared rather than a cruel dismissal of his troubled wife. But there are of course two sides to every story and Bingo provides fascinating insight into a completely different William Shakespeare that is well known.
Chichester Copywriter has also seen Patrick Stewart star in Macbeth and Twelfth Night at Chichester Festival Theatre as well as in Hamlet with David Tennant in Stratford-upon Avon. It’s fortunate that as a Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart also joined the cast of Star Trek. Kate’s partner Pete is a huge sci-fi fan and basically any performance featuring Captain Jean-Luc Picard, regardless of a Star Fleet uniform, is a play that Pete wants to see.
In the past Stewart himself has commented that his Star Trek role has helped open up Shakespeare to science fiction fans. He has noted “regular presence of Trekkies in the audience” whenever he plays theatre, and added: “I meet these people afterwards, I get letters from them and see them at the stage door… And they say, ‘I’ve never seen Shakespeare before, I didn’t think I’d understand it, but it was wonderful and I can’t wait to come back.'”
I think there is more than an element of truth to this and I’m glad if it means that I get to satisfy my urge to watch Shakespeare plays and my other half is just as happy to come along with me, catch a glimpse of a hero and learn his own admiration for Shakespeare’s writing at the same time. Anything that helps my copywriting and maintains a happy home life is a winning combination!