Yesterday (April 23) was the birthday of William Shakespeare. It was also St. George’s day.We chose to commemorate the former by going on the Globe Theatre’s Shakespeare sonnet walk. What a brilliant event, and if you happen to be in London on the Bard’s birthday, this is a must do. Even if you’re not in London on that day, you should consider a special trip. Start planning now, hopefully the Globe will continue this tradition. The day embodied what I love most about London; the love of language, the appreciation of a well-wrought phrase.
We started at Westminster Abbey, with reasonably low expectations and the show was running late. We were to be in the last group to leave (the walk is organized of groups of 12 leaving roughly ever 10-15 minutes between 10am-12:45pm from both Westminster Abbey and Shoreditch), and our group was not ushered in to Poet’s Corner until almost 1:30pm.
Any low or uneven expectations were immediately dashed when Mark Rylance, artistic director of the Globe, greeted us in Poet’s Corner. What a treat. If you get to see Rylance act, in a play or on screen, don’t pass up the chance. For those of you who aren’t in London, and can’t easily see him on the state, rent either Angels and Insects or Intimacy.
Now, here is how the walk works. You are given directions, which take you to places of significance for Shakespeare, his plays, Elizabethan london, or all three. At certain of these areas along the way, twelve in all, you are greeted by an actor who proceeds to recite a Shakespearean sonnet — some famous, some you may have never read or heard before (I’ll post the list tomorrow). But you never quite know when or where the sonneteer will appear, which makes for great suprises, good laughs and fun impromtu theatre along the way. Our walk was made all the better with Rylance and his crew joining us. After each sonneteer finished, Rylance would offer kind words or some story about their relationship, and then would invite the sonneteer to join our merry group. So by the time we got finally to the globe at 4pm, we were a crew of almost 30.
Our stops included the Banqueting House, Middle Temple Inn (where we were able to duck in quickly, between weddings — what a glorious room), Samuel Johnson’s house, and St. Pauls. All in all, so fitting and perfect an event for London, and a great reminder of the reverence for the spoken and written word here in this city.