Over the last year I have been working with a publisher to produce a book that will introduce readers to all of Shakespeare’s plays in one sitting. I had the idea to tell Shakespeare’s tales through three moments, supported with three quotations – but what moments, and which quotations? – that was the question!
Together with my co-author (Chris Lloyd) and illustrator (Andy Forshaw) we set out to bring Shakespeare’s settings and characters vividly to life in such a way that readers could cast their eye upon the canon as a whole and see the rich tapestry of Shakespeare’s imaginary forces unfold.
To give structure to our Wallbook we decided to set each play in one of the gallery booths of the Globe theatre. As our Wallbook can be read like a book or hung on a wall readers are free to begin wherever they choose. It could be that Andy’s wonderful illustration of the bear in The Winter’s Tale first catches the reader’s eye, or alternatively the reader could find their curiosity tickled by spying the tennis balls that lie around King Henry V’s feet. For those readers who prefer to ‘begin at the beginning’ we have structured the Wallbook along a timeline, so it is possible to journey through Shakespeare’s plays in chronological order. To help young readers get a sense of the times in which Shakespeare was writing the timeline also includes events in Shakespeare’s life and across the globe from 1590 until 1613.
The timeline ends with the globe burning down, but the story then continues on the reverse in the shape of newspaper stories beginning with our own obituary for Shakespeare, dated 24th April 1616. The newspaper stories move through the ages documenting, amongst other things, the first Shakespearian silent movie and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s national launch of Shakespeare Week for primary schools in March 2014.
On Monday a giant version of our Wallbook was erected in the garden at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Visitors to the house will be able to spend time searching out their favourite moments, and younger children will enjoy spotting the rats who also inhabit our theatre. I am thrilled to think that while looking at the Giant Wallbook our visitors will also be able to hear Shakespeare’s words in the air coming from behind them where our Shakespeare Aloud! actors bring smiles to people’s faces day after day with their dynamic performances.
The book is also available in-store and online at the Shakespeare Bookshop www.shakespeare.org.uk/onlineshop