Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
A couple of years ago I pretended to be a blind accordion busker in a park near Embankment. Every so often I would find a group of people walking through the park with carnations in their hand. Or they’d find me. I would stop them. “Stop! Benedetta, is that you? Is that your scent?” Then I’d have to roll with the group, which might involve establishing false claimants were not Benedetta by touching their faces. Eventually one way or another, I’d establish Benedetta wasn’t there. Then through the prism of being tired/sad/lonely as appropriate based on their engagement I’d segue into the sonnet above. At the end I’d fall asleep on a bench dedicated to “Benedetta, who loved life.” Ahh. People would express sadness or not and then move on and when they were out of sight I’d reset for the next group. They were on a sonnet walk, celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday, which has been a consistent institution of Shakespeare’s Globe since it opened. It’s happening again this year directed by Federay Holmes, and will certainly be a bloody marvellous thing to which you should all go if you’re not in it.
I’ve worked enough with Shakespeare’s language that people who barely know my work describe me as a Shakespearean. I detest being labelled and hounded into a box so I try to avoid doing that to myself. But hell, yes, I do a lot of Shakespeare. I’ve toured American with his words. I’ve been in prisons with them. I’ve played Oberon on an island outside Amsterdam. I’ve played Claudius in “King’s Landing” – (Fort Louvreniac) in Dubrovnik. Many many more. Over many years, so many parts in so many plays. I am frequently called on to do after dinner Shakespeare or called back to play diverse parts in beautifully worked shows in gorgeous places. Fortunately my association with The Factory through this time has kept me rooted into rigour, work ethic, simplicity and truth. Through that work I’ve seen the true meaning of openness and simplicity. It’s riveting.
So it was only a matter of time before someone threw me in the way of another Shakespeare geek. This evening I met Martin who is writing the definitive book on playing Shakespeare. I realise through him that there aren’t many of them extant, and I also know through my outreach work that a lot of people, including actors, think of his words as being difficult. They’re a gift, his words, they’re just made to be spoken aloud and not studied. Thankfully we agree on the basics. He’s not a nightmare academic. This book will likely be a helpful book. I think I might have found another friend out here. So that was my evening. And the sonnet at the top, the first line certainly, expresses my state of mind. I’m on set all day tomorrow so I have to get up early to put my best eyes in, replace my cheeks, screw on my best arms, put in my actoring brain, attach the binoculars legs. Actoringerising takes time.
No photos. Here’s the pianist in the bar where I met Martin. I still don’t remember to take photos. And I mostly worked today.