My Very First Shakespeare – Really!

I’ve never seen Shakespeare before. Really! I’m not even messing.

I didn’t get him at school. Maybe because Shakespeare at school was getting a 14 year old shy lad to stumble through the verse.

I tried reading him myself. It still didn’t work. I confessed as much to a social enterprise leader who I was training. His mission was to take Shakespeare into schools.

He shook his head. “He’s not meant to be read, Al!” he said. “He’s meant to be heard from the mouths of skilled actors!”

It made sense. I vowed to him that I’d go and see some Shakey. But that was two years ago, maybe three.

But when the Everyman reopened with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, I tried to get a ticket only to find they were as precious as a European Cup semi final ticket.

I finally got one today. I turned up and found a huge queue of people. This is my Liverpool I thought. For all the stereotypes about us, here we were, a line of Scousers, desperate to get hold of a ticket to see a production of Shakespeare that has been sold out every night for over a month.

It cost me ten pounds and I was given a front row seat.

The show began at half five. They didn’t let us out until 9pm.

I thought of the match. The match is four times more expensive than this, for an unpredictable, maybe drab, 90 minutes.

Here I get three hours worth, I know it’s had fab reviews, and it’s only a quarter of the price.

Remember when they called football the working class theatre. Not any more. Theatre is now the working class football!

And guess what else was different from the match?

There were loads of young people there. You don’t see them at the game any more. But they were here in numbers.

I couldn’t resist checking out how they were doing with Shakey throughout the show. They were loving it.

But then, so were we all.

I was laughing my head off. At Shakespeare!

See, that reads mad to me. But I was. Everyone was.

Did I understand every sentence? Course not. Did I follow the story? Absolutely.

Did every single one of us leave with a huge smile on our faces? You bet we did.

And what about our own Paul Duckworth. What a voice he’s got. I didn’t know he even sings. But, wow does he sing!

This show was fabulous. I’m glad I finally saw Shakespeare. But I really doubt anywhere would do it quite as crowd pleasingly awesome as here in Liverpool at the Everyman.

There’s something about this city. Time and again I see things here that rise to meet the brilliance of our audience, involves them, and delights them.

This, the first Everyman production since it reopened, did all of that and more.

I don’t typically do reviews. But this was a personal landmark for me. My first Shakespeare. I’m really glad I did it at The Everyman.

#liverpool#shakespeare#the everyman#twelfth night


  1. bill - April 2, 2014 @ 10:43 pm

    Don`t agree that Shakespeare cannot be enjoyed by reading. I was put off reading Shakespeare & Karl Marx for many years because I listened to teachers who said that it was too difficult to understand. when i finally gave it a go, I found that with a bit perseverance & practise, they were both comprehensible to a lad who was kicked out of school for persistent truanting. When I finally ended up working in schools myself, as I did for 35 years, I made a point of telling kids that they should never listen to anyone who told them that a subject was too difficult for them. Try it out for yourself first, I said. WS was steeped in the the theatre & knew all the theatrical tricks to rope an audience in. His plays are well constructed, plot driven & not too difficult to read at all. Start with the Prologue to Henry V. It is wonderful crackling dialogue that leaps off the page at you. WS wrote for a predominantly peasant & working class audience. He can & should still appeal to the working class today.

  2. alunparry - April 2, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

    Interesting points Bill. It sounds like you gave those kids some inspiring, empowering messages.

    I’m talking of my own experience here. I never got him first time round. I tried later and struggled, wrote him off even. And yet there I was tonight loving every second of it.

    You’re right too that he wrote for working class audiences. Many people don’t realise that’s who his crowd were. It’s one of the things I thought was so great about this production. It was performed for us. I think the huge grins on the faces of the kids sat down the left hand side said everything. They bloody loved it.

    So did I.

  3.">Maylin - April 10, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    Glad you enjoyed Twelfth Night – I thought it was a very joyous production and a great way to kick off the new Everyman. Having not seen the previous theatre, I really loved the stage and all the interaction with the audience that occured. Some lovely dramatic effects too. Being in the first row, did you get a cupcake? I think Liverpool has a very vibrant theatre scene and the Everyman really does the city proud. Now maybe you’ll go to Much Ado About Nothing in Calderstones Park in June? Also a very funny play that benefits from a good live performance.

  4. alunparry - April 10, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

    Oh yes I’d forgotten about that. And yes, I got a jelly. I don’t eat jelly as I’m veggie, but it was still fun to get one :-) I gave it to the woman sat next to me. I’m glad you enjoyed the show too.

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