Unclogging my eyes I zombied out of bed and shuffled to Westminster Abbey first thing in the morning. It was the first day of “Sweet Love Remember’d“. This is a two day celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday which has taken place uninterrupted every year for quarter of a century now. It’s one of the most striking untouched legacies of Mark Rylance’s beautiful tenancy as artistic director of The Globe. Still booked through the theatre website it ‘s a whimsical and romantic stroll through the streets of London, populated by lovestruck fools with, usually, the simple form of a Shakespearean sonnet as their material.
Over the years I’ve done it twice. Once with my friend Jo outside a church. We were falling in love but fighting by the walls. There was a real wedding on inside and we tried not to get in the way. The bride sat in her car for HOURS before coming in. I was worried she was waiting for us to go in and sit down. But I think she was just either doing her makeup or her nut.
The second time I was a blind busker sleeping on a bench in Victoria Gardens. I had my accordion and picked up a guy who must have loved the accordion and genuinely thought I was blind. He came and stood extremely close to me to listen. Those of you who have heard me playing know that in so doing he demonstrated either profound deafness or suicidal tendencies.
It was lovely this year to be able to watch and not freeze my ass off for hours. For an audience member it’s a really happy morning. We started in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, and had a little talk from an abbey volunteer about the statue of William Shakespeare in Poet’s Corner. Then we were all given white roses and sent out onto the streets of London armed with directions, and some lovely snippets of information about the places we’d be passing. It was a little group of strangers with roses, and we very quickly learnt each other’s names and were talking like old friends. We had a long walk, and saw ten little mini playlets. A fine way to spend a morning. Three of the actors were buskers – all more musically capable than I am. I made a mental note – if I ever do it again, I won’t be a busker. There was a beautiful piece by Scott, and old friend from drama school whose wife and kids were walking with us. He said farewell to them and kissed us all goodbye as he went off on his journey. I found it very moving, but I love to see him work as I have been with him on parts of his journey. Anne-May had strewn circles of roses from Amsterdam around the statue of a knight templar outside Temple Church. She took one man into the circle and talked of love and death. A woman attempted to evangelise us outside St Bride’s Church. A disguised Rylance wrestled with himself and the past wearing a commedia mask. His simple presence arrested Scott’s fidgeting children. Even in a mask… Macbeth told us all of his nefarious plans in a graveyard. A gardener complained about the weather. All this in beautifully spoken verse. What a perfect morning.
Afternoon and evening I carried on the walking theme, going to the park, and walking down the river with good friends. Long may that sonnet walk continue – it’s a beautiful romantic tradition, and has me quite swept up.