I spent last week working with a lovely group of College students from Ivrea, Italy. While all visiting groups from overseas tend to be excited by the prospect of a week working with Shakespeare’s plays right next to his birthplace in Stratford, this group was particularly energized because the trip had come to represent so much for them. Last year, at about this time, the group was due to fly to England to spend a week with us on one of our residential courses. However, like many other people last April they found themselves unable to fly due to the chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud that disrupted air travel across western and northern Europe. The group had been scheduled to watch Rupert Goold’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but as in Shakespeare’s play “sour misfortune” prevented this happy outcome.
Saddened by circumstance, but inspired with imaginary puissance the group decided to stage their own play, recounting this sad tale back at home in Italy. The course leader penned a new drama titled “Cancelled for Volcanic Eruption”. The story began with the students waiting to catch their flight, and as the wait became longer they began to drift off to sleep and started dreaming about the characters in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, at which point scenes from Shakespeare’s play were performed – “never was there a story of more woe”.
Happily, the group managed to journey through ash free skies last week to land in Stratford and see the one of the last performance of Rupert Goold’s production. The students’ enthusiasm and thirst for Shakespeare was infectious – and it was fascinating to hear what they made of the production which they had been waiting for a year to see. Before they left they kindly gave me a copy of the poster for their production, signed by the entire cast – for whom a trip to Stratford had been a dream come to true.