Tuesday, 24 April 2012

stage struck

Felix Hayes as Dromio of Ephesus and Bruce Mackinnon as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. Photograph by Keith Pattison

  I love that moment in the theatre when the lights go down. The tingle of anticipation never fails. I am eight years old again - in London with my parents waiting to watch Peter Pan (at the Scala with Julia Lockwood and Juliet Mills).

We were taken regularly from school to see Shakespeare plays in Stratford upon Avon and during my teens I saw a lot of plays at the Birmingham Rep and Stoke’s Victoria Theatre, most of which I have forgotten, but including Pinter, Orton, Synge, Ibsen and Goldsmith which are just a random selection that come to mind. I revelled in all things theatrical when our children were members of the remarkable Thame Youth Theatre, serving on the committee and helping out with productions and watching one or two individuals hone their juvenile talent and go on to creative careers. Once the girls were old enough not to need babysitters we were able to get to theatre regularly again and as friends of Oxford Playhouse enjoyed half price seats for first nights, which made us much more assiduous at getting tickets booked in advance.

We are lucky in Bristol to live within easy reach of Bristol Old Vic and the Tobacco Factory Theatre and have seen great shows at both of them. We don’t go nearly as often as I would like – partly because I’m rubbish at forward planning. I’m slightly surprised that I haven’t done more blog posts about theatre, but I’m not really a reviewer or theatre critic; I tend to suck things up and enjoy them and move on to the next thing.

So it won’t be a surprise to learn that I’m simply loving the opportunity to see plays at the RSC and spend time in Stratford with Hannah and Felix, where our lovely son-in-law F has a second season appearing in What Country Friends Is This? Shakespeare’s trilogy of Shipwreck Plays. So far we have seen and loved Twelfth Night and The Tempest and have Comedy of Errors booked for August. In the normal scheme of things Stratford is just a little bit too far away to go to an evening show and drive back the same night – falling asleep at the wheel is never a good plan. So staying overnight at their temporary home opposite the theatre is just great. I know that living in a cute cottage opposite the RSC in historic Stratford upon Avon can feel like being part of a living heritage museum (especially last weekend during Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations), but it’s also a huge privilege and quite brilliant for us as visitors. I noticed that later in the year the RSC are staging an Indian-based version of Much Ado About Nothing, which appeals to me very much – may have to ask if we can have bed and breakfast again for that!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

so long, Hermann my friend,and thanks for all the cake

I’ve been living in retroville for the past couple of weeks as it seems that German Friendship Cake (aka Hermann Cake) is doing the rounds again – perhaps he never went away?

Back in the eighties when we had hungry daughters in the house I was given my first Hermann starter – a type of sweet sourdough, consisting of flour, sugar, milk and wild yeast. It makes a moist spicy cake with the optional addition of apples, raisins and nuts – very nice with a cup of tea or coffee, or even as a warm dessert with cream or ice cream. The starter comes with strange anthropomorphic instructions (“Hermann is hungry – feed him today”) and takes ten days before you bake your first cake. Before the cake is baked, however, the batter has to be divided so that you can pass it on to other bakers.

I seem to remember that I kept it going for a few months, passing on batches of starter to school-gate friends, until I got fed up of the cake tyranny – “Hermann is hungry!” and the family got fed up of always having the same cake. I haven’t got so far this time. For a start I couldn’t find many people to pass it on to. Daughter no. 1 declined the offer as she had recently killed one in her care and didn’t feel up to the responsibility! Daughter no. 2 accepted and we carefully transported a batch up to Stratford last Monday. (I hope they manage to keep it going as I love the prospect of it being passed round the RSC). Other than that, no takers as the friend who gave me my batch is a member of the same Knit and Natter group, so she had them all covered.

I could probably have put a bit more effort into finding people to pass it to, but we’re off on holiday on Monday so won’t be here to stir it every day. So this morning I have stirred up a huge batch of Hermann and made three cakes for the freezer. Should keep us going for a while.