The Winedale Historical Centre operates a programme every year where kids do a Shakespeare Summer Camp. They do three or four plays and they have about a week to work on each. They put the kids through rep with Shakespeare, performing in the evenings and rehearsing a different play in the daytime. It’s hot here – really hot. So they start early in the morning. They then stay up late laughing and bonding. A beautiful way to make lifelong friends. The programme is over for the year now, but we were invited to bring our Twelfth Night to play to a full house in the barn. Right here! In the barn.
Over 90 degree heat. We arrive at about 2pm and we have to completely reblock the show. We have multiple entrances and exits and levels and windows. We want to respond to the space, not teleport our show in there despite the space. So we are thinking and working in the heat together, the five of us, supported by the team. Incredibly supported, using the windows and the levels and the entrances. Experimenting.
“I love that we feed off adrenaline,” I remark to Kaffe just before the show. Both of us are smiling through a huge hit of the stuff, getting ready for the first half, recalibrating our heads, getting into the zone, managing the potential for white noise, surfing the wave of the unknown.
We’ve had very little time to make sense of the show in this amazing space, and we’ve watched some local kids speak beautiful Shakespeare as well when perhaps we should’ve been preparing. Before the show they presented their scene work to a crowd of their parents and us. It was really moving to see their diligence and straightforward understanding of the scenes. The kids were in the audience for us, stage right. We wanted to make a good show for them.
I have never sweated so much in my life. Belch is a muscular part to work through in that heat. By the end of the first half I was drenched in sweat. I changed my T-shirt. The whole show landed beautifully though, in that beautiful place. In the curtain call we invited the kids onto the stage to bow with us. They were thrilled.
Then, in a pool of light, beer in hand, we packed up the case again. San Antonio next week, and we will be driven there, so weight is not such an issue with the showcase. People came and joined us in our little pool of light. Happy parents and kids. Happy audience members and ex Winedale kids and current ones.
The programme hits its fiftieth year next year and I know I would have loved it. Hard work, early mornings, Shakespeare boot camp. It’s a beautiful thing. All the kids were there, with their Shakespeare bandanas, Shakespeare T-Shirts, Shakespeare Denim shirts. Reader, I bought them all. I’m covered in images of Shakespeare in a stetson. Last time I just bought the flask and had it for a year before I left it on a train in the Peak District. This year I went full merch and I’m shameless about it. I love this place.
After the bag pack we all lay out under the stars. “One year there was a kid whose dad was an astronaut” says Clayton. We all lay out here and we could see the space station passing by with his dad on it and he had his dad on speakerphone while we could watch him go over.” Astronomical.
As we loaded into the car we heard the coyotes cry from the darkness outside our circle of light. We all came together in the darkness, the five of us. Here we are, this tiny group, a long way from home, guided and encouraged through unfamiliar places. Given a platform on which we can shine together, channeling these five hundred year old messages of love and laughter, of kindness and duty, of play and work, of life and death. Making something we believe in and trusting that our audiences will come with us.
Now I’m being driven back into town. Jazz on the radio. Accordion to my right and a whole box of beer that we can’t drink as it’s illegal.
“You’ll sleep well tonight,” they told us as they saw our bodies shift into shutdown after the show. I’ll certainly fall asleep well. From there, who knows? The dreams are busy on this tour, as busy as the inside of my head. But today, at Winedale, at the end of this long long summer, I found one of those moments I can forever hold. In the dark times we look to the light if we can. Today was a time of the light, as the stars shone down on our little troupe.