A funny story about me, my dad and Shakespeare!
By Tim Crouch
My dad was an English teacher in a secondary school. When I was 16 he took me to see Macbeth at the RSC in Stratford. We were not getting on too well at the time. On the way to Stratford, the car overheated. Dad took off the radiator cap and boiling water sprayed all over his face. We were both silent for the rest of the journey.
When we arrived, we went on a rowing boat on the River Avon. As he paddled around, his face red and blistered, Dad started to talk to me again; to talk about Macbeth. And I have never forgotten it. He talked about death and friendship and guilt and marriage and superstition and ambition and theatre and language and history. Even though he was talking about a play, he was talking about REAL things, things I’d never heard him talk about before. He knew Macbeth inside out; he quoted lines in a way that made them sound like they were written yesterday. He told me the story! I realised that no one had ever really told me the story before.
I’d like to be able to say that the RSC production was the most perfect end to the day, but I can’t remember it. I just remember my dad, with a face covered in antiseptic cream, on that boat!!
My approaches to Shakespeare in I, Peaseblossom and I, Banquo attempt to combine the qualities of that boat trip with my dad with the incredible force of Shakespeare in performance. My ambition is always to tell the story, but also to fire up the sense of ‘theatre’ in a young audience, the sense of a live act of communication.
I’m not precious about the language; I steal and raid and mash together. I want a young audience to encounter Elizabethan language as though it was as fresh as new paint. Also I’m resistant to the ‘Hero’ view of history and literature. It feels right to let the main roles have a day off and let the little fellas have their say – even if the little fellas are dead (Banquo). Peaseblossom has one word in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but he is present at all these amazing moments in the play. Looking at the main action through the eyes of a lesser character invigorates our understanding of the whole.
(PS "My dad" is Colin Crouch, who has contributed greatly to this website. Thanks, dad.)