Sizing Up Stratford


On Tuesday and Wednesday Craig and I had the pleasure of exploring sunny Stratford-upon-Avon with Simon Ford. Our mission, to plot and scheme for a forthcoming edition of The Steps Series. This twentieth edition of the series is scheduled to open in January 2016 and despite saying we’d never do another outdoor edition using paint this one will be outdoors and us paint. To be honest the chance of telling the Charles Dickens’ life story through the streets of this beautiful town was too much to resist.

I’m not sure if anyone picked up the error in that paragraph. Of course we’ve not been mugging up on our Dickens, it’s been eyes down for Shakespeare over the last few weeks. We’ve been meeting up with people know things. Dr. Bob Bearman is an entertaining an energetic chap knows a lot of things about Stratford and its comings and goings during Shakespeare’s time. He has transcribed and edited most of the town’s public records for that period and published them in a weirdly entertaining volume that Craig has been devouring. Dr. Erin Sullivan, has already proved to our complete satisfaction that she knows more than any human should about Robert Burton’s book The Anatomy of Melancholy, now she’s just showing off by spraying Shakespeare knowledge at us, pointing us a useful quotes and facts (the first written instance of the term ‘leapfrog’ anyone? Henry V Act 5 Scene 2). Craig has interrogated Bennet Carr the Headteacher of King Edward VI School Stratford. Being Head at Shakespeare’s old school must be fairly mind warping. I’ve been zipping through Gregory Doran’s Shakespeare Almanac looking for ‘good stuff’. It’s full of general ‘good stuff’ but I’m looking for stuff that’s good for Steps which is more tricky (Shakespeare 49 years old when the King James Bible was being compiled, 49th Psalm 49th word? Shake count back 49 words… anyone? Spear (this doesn’t exactly work in my edition but it’s very close)). The main thing I’ve come up with from there so far is we need to get much more nature into the show, more animals, more plants Etc. Shakespearian football related insult… anyone? King Lear Act 1 Scene 4, look it up if you don’t know it.

Our making process has been following the usual progression: agreeing locations and general themes for scenes then working to get action more detailed, identifying interesting objects and gist of speech. Next we have to nail down exactly what is going to go where before Simon designs the stencils for us to cut out in vinyl and use to apply the paint. Of course with all the partners supporting this project – the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, King Edward VI, plus plus plus – permissions need to be sought at numerous stages, hence doing all this work in September 2015 ready for January 2016. I hope the weather holds.

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