Much ado in July & August

The advent of the August Bank Holiday in the UK heralds many things. Holiday-makers return home sporting skin ranging from gently flushed to glowing bronze to fire-engine red. School starts again albeit in fits and starts depending on where you are and how much you pay. And the British Summer ends, folding its wings away to let September take flight.

I missed my July out and about update, overtaken as I was by my birthday-ing in Geneva at the start of August. As sharing July’s gadding about is well overdue, this post will bring you a double dose.

Let’s start with a Gidday First.

I had my first open air theatre experience at Morden Hall Park seeing a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. A beautiful summer day had segued into a lovely evening as we shared a picnic supper, made our way through a bottle of wine and watched a full male cast give their multiple roles and catchy ditties a hefty dose of ribald fun. It was full of hilarious moments and I felt that this was how Shakespeare was meant to be performed, to an appreciative audience in the open air without all the smoke and mirrors of modern theatre. I absolutely loved it.

Staying with the Bard, I also saw a live screening of Kenneth Branagh’s staging of Romeo and Juliet starring Lily James (you may remember her as Lady Rose from Downton Abbey). It was my first experience of the stage version versus reading the play/story or seeing it on film – interestingly Branagh’s interpretation had a black and white cinematic quality (nothing to do with being a live screening!) lending the story a 1950s feel. Lily James was an extraordinary Juliet and simply outshone the rest of the cast but for all that, I was reminded why the play, with all of its melodrama and outpourings of eternal love, was never my favourite.

Speaking of favourites, the return of the fabulous Paco Pena to Sadlers Wells with Patrias was quite different from the high energy flamenco shows I’d seen before. His tribute to the impact of the Civil War in Spain was reflective and haunting and I left the theatre incredibly moved by the beautiful music and poignant story-telling.

I returned to Sadlers Wells a few weeks later to see Vamos Cuba!  I was looking forward to being energised by sexy Cuban rhythms but instead of a slick high-octane show, it was bland and limp and actually felt a bit under-rehearsed. I was bored through most of it and struggled to stay engaged – unusual for me. It was very disappointing.

I had a musical foray of a completely different kind with the Sacconi Quartet, a chamber music group who manage to pierce my heart and capture my imagination every time they play. They were as brilliant as always, playing with their usual passion and intensity. However, they had a male soloist join them after intermission and I felt like that got in the way of the music. I experienced the same reaction earlier this year with another quartet I like so I suspect it’s more to do with my preference for ‘unaccompanied’ chamber music rather than the quality of the singing.

I do like a great female protagonist so I took myself off to see the movie Maggie’s Plan starring two fabulous women – newcomer Greta Gerwig and Oscar winner Julianne Moore – and the rather fabulous-looking Ethan Hawke (forgive my objectification peeps but really…*sigh*). Gerwig plays Maggie, the woman with the plan, as adorably gauche while some of the film’s most hilarious moments come from Moore’s world-weary Georgette. The movie wasn’t on wide (or long) release but it’s an absolute delight so if you get the chance, I’d recommend you see it.

I was also thrilled to snap up a Bank Holiday deal to see Sheridan Smith in the musical Funny Girl (see my reaction  here). It was extraordinary and wonderful and all of those great things.

And last but certainly not least, I discovered Divergent. After a run of average-to-good reads over last few months, I was overdue to be blown away and I fairly inhaled Veronica Roth‘s dystopian tale of rebellion and belonging. It follows a similar plot to The Hunger Games but I liked Divergent more, particularly the use of the factions – Amity, Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite – and the underlying thread that a little bit of each is the key to humanity. I’ve heard mixed reports about the movie but I’m much more interested in seeing if the second book, Insurgent, is as unputdownable as the first.

So that was July and August and as we leave the heady ‘hot’ days of British summertime behind, September beckons with promises of coloured leaves, cooler mornings and the hope of an Indian Summer. I’ve got a few interesting things booked but like always I’ll be working hard to make the most of whatever opportunities appear…and keeping my fingers crossed for a deal or two.

Have yourselves a fabulous September.

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Real-life female protagonist Boudicca overlooks the River Thames from her chariot (in the shadow of the tower of Big Ben).

Spring shoots

Today is the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK and after a basking in some long overdue Spring sunshine yesterday, it’s time for me to keep my word and share my last two months of gadding about (which, with Mum’s 3-week visit smack-bang in the middle, pretty much disappeared before I knew it).

There have been a few highlights of the stage-and-screen variety since February starting with a ‘goosebumps all-over’ moment as Glenn Close filled the London Coliseum with her performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The BBC ran a gripping six-part adaption of John le Carre’s The Night Manager that starred Hugh Laurie – in fine and menacing form – and Tom Hiddleston which had me transfixed on Sunday nights. (For those of you who don’t know Hugh, think House and Black Adder.)

And I saw a couple of really great movies – Spotlight and Eye in the Sky, the latter being a charity screening at my local cinema, The Phoenix. In his pre-film talk, director Gavin Hood explained that the technology featured in Eye in the Sky is real and out there as we speak. Mind-blowing stuff.

There were also some things I expected to love more than I did. The Maids at Trafalgar Studios was edgy and well-acted but a little too crazy for me and Immortal Tango contained patches of thrilling Argentine Tango but was brought low by too much tinkering with the quintessential drama and passion of the dance. Based on how much I loved The Night Manager, I had another stab at reading le Carre’s novel only to remember how convoluted and unwieldy I find his writing. And reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was spoiled by knowing ‘who dunnit’, having seen it on TV earlier this year (another brilliant adaption from the Beeb).

There have been some firsts as well.

I attended my first political debate on the EU referendum at the London Palladium. It was chockers with people and points of view and while it didn’t really help me to make a more informed decision, I did leave with my view of politics and politicians intact – grandstanding and emotive argument just don’t do it for me.

However what did do it for me was Painting the Modern Garden, an exhibition featuring artists from Monet to Matisse (and many in between) on my first sortie to the Royal Academy.

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I also visited Poole, site of the second largest natural deep-water harbour in the world (after Sydney).

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Dorset Quay, Poole

Last but not least, April alone has meant birthdays galore. It started with my two favourite little dudes turning 3 with Mum, Seattle-A celebrating a week later. And on the 30th, my good friend of more than 15 years, Swiss-S, finally turned 40 on the same day that high school friend, Aussie-J, marked her slightly more advanced passage through life (although she’s still younger than yours truly).

And the great Bard himself, Shakespeare celebrated his birthday on April 23rd, the same day as he popped his clogs 52 years later. There’s been much ado about this and for my part, this Bard-themed week has been book-ended by  Shakespeare Live! last weekend and a Shakespeare’s London walking tour on Saturday just gone with the Museum of London.

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Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, the two actors who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 in St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden.

In other news, I was very excited by the Monopoly-themed loos at Marylebone Station…

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I had to wait for everyone to leave the loos before taking these pics so no-one thought I was being weird or creepy (she says, posting them for all the world to see.)

…my fabulous new shoes…

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…and that fact that Spring finally ‘sprang’…

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Delicate Spring flowers  lined my street for about two weeks before they dropped to leave leafy green boughs behind them.

And I think that’ll do. Just as well that the month ended with a 3-day weekend…but the batteries are recharged and I’m ready to go again…

…come what May.

(Geddit? I just couldn’t resist a play on words.)

The test of time

There’s a lot of change being debated in the UK at the moment. The election for next Mayor of London – aka “on ya bike, Boris” – seems to be a bit of a two horse race and the EU referendum is looming in a matter of weeks. Everyone has something to say about it, including those from many a foreign shore, and it’s dividing both nations and political parties.

At the same time some of the world’s great voices – Alan Rickman, Sir Terry Wogan (the voice of Eurovision for many years), David Bowie, Jon English, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Prince and Phil Sayer (we hear his dulcet tones telling us to “Mind the Gap”on London’s Underground network) – have died in the first few months of 2016, leaving a swathe of public tribute in their wake.

In the midst of all of this comes the Shakespeare400 celebration.

On the 23rd April in 1616 – that’s 400 years ago – William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil. He was 52 years old, a husband and a father of two daughters as well as a playwright and poet. He was a contemporary of other literary greats like Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe and left a legacy of 38 plays – comedies, histories and tragedies – and hundreds of lines of verse in his sonnets and long-form poems. In short, he was a man of many, many words and Shakespeare400 was designed to celebrate his contribution.

I attended a live screening of Shakespeare Live! from the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon last night. Shakespeare is viewed by many as hard going with its tangled prose and its forsooths and makeths, but this show was fantastic. It was a mix of some of his most famous scenes – A Midsummer Night’s Dream was brought to life with much hilarity by Judi Dench as Titania and Al Murray as Puck-turned-donkey – as well as other performances that have been inspired by his works. Romeo and Juliet has spawned the likes of the musical West Side Story as well as a ballet score by Prokofiev and choreography by Kenneth MacMillan. Another Broadway musical, Kiss Me Kate, is a re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew, whilst the bloody tragedy of Macbeth has been transformed in cultures as disparate as Japan and South Africa. And we were treated to all of these and more over the two and half hours.

Hamlet is enjoying quite a resurgence in the UK with actors such as David Tennant (2008), Jude Law (2009) and Rory Kinnear (2010) as well as Maxine Peake (2014) and Benedict Cumberbatch (2015) taking on some of literature’s most famous phrases. One of the highlights of last night’s show was this year’s Hamlet, Paapa Essiedu, receiving a note on his “To be or not to be” from Australian comedian and composer, Tim Minchin…and a slew of other British acting royalty. I don’t seem to be able to embed the video code for you to watch but it is on youtube here for you to enjoy.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that William Shakespeare stopped wielding his pen four centuries ago yet his work remains prolific, whether as inspiration for other artistic expression – dance, opera, musical theatre, hip hop and the big screen (think of Baz Luhrmann’s brave and modern take on Romeo and Juliet in 1996) – or in its original form, on the stage.

Shakespeare’s work was written for everyone, from monarchs to the man on the street, and last night I left the cinema thinking how relevant and powerful his stories remain some 400 years on. Whilst current propaganda and politics may change the course of history, I wonder who in today’s pantheon of cultural expression will be as celebrated and accessible 400 years from now as this talented wordsmith from Warwickshire.

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Memorial plaque on the site of the original Globe Theatre in Southwark, London

Let’s make it a good one

Here we are at New Year’s Eve again. The year’s gone by so quickly and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was trying to stay cool last New Year’s Eve Down Under. Time flies doesn’t it? And speaking of fun, I’ve managed quite a bit of it over the last 12 months.

After returning from my bi-annual pilgrimage to Melbourne (and a fab top-up visit from Lil Chicky) in January, travelling-for-work was much less frequent this year but I managed to find some cash and conquer some new frontiers. Ten days in Seattle with Seattle-A heralded my first trip to Canada, I spent four fabulous days in Stockholm at the start of August and then jetted off for a week of sun, sand and a whole swag of reading in Mauritius in November.

Speaking of reading, I smashed my book-a-week target by 25% (I read 65) and 8 of them got a Gidday 5-star rating (that’s 12.5%). I discovered Henning Mankell recently and will be reading more of his Kurt Wallander series next year. And while it doesn’t count in 2015’s quota, I am in the middle of my first Philip Kerr – March Violets with protagonist PI Bernard Gunther – and if things continue as they are, the new year looks set to start with another big fat 5 star rating. Awesome.

There have been many theatre outings over the year, Death of a Salesman being one that I studied at high school yet hadn’t seen and the most recent being Hangmen which featured a cracking ‘noir’ plot and really great characterisation. I’ve also been back to Sadlers Wells to be swept away by the Rambert Dance Company and transported to Spain at the opening of the London Flamenco Festival.

I’ve upped my Live Screening ante enjoying some new (well new to me) Shakespeare – Love’s Labors Lost, Othello and The Winters Tale – and several operas including my first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado. Live Screening also delivered a theatre highlight – Man and Superman – and a new crush, Ralph Fiennes. When seeing his face alight with joy in taking the final bows, well I may have had a little weak-at-the-knees moment…okay maybe not so little.

I’m finishing the year with a two week staycation. Christmas was spent with friends in SE London and aside from an outing to Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral with another friend yesterday, I have just enjoyed being at home. I’ve still got five days off before I go back to work so plenty of time of time to complete my Christmas jigsaw puzzle, finish March Violets and catch up with friends for a little Star Wars, drinks and dinner.

It’s almost midnight here, Bryan Adams is rockin’ it out on the telly and before long, the crackle of fireworks will be heard overhead as those locally organised start the new year with a bang. All that remains is for me to wish you the very best for 2016…

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Let’s make it a good one.

Around The Globe…

You know I love London. And you know I love a walking tour. So you may not be surprised that last Sunday I was up and out early-ish to join one. 

This is my third walking tour with Blue Badge guide Paula Cooze, the first being a wander through the City in Shardlake’s Shoes last September and the second exploring the City’s architecture from the Barbican to Bishopsgate in January this year. This time there was a wander around the globe to look forward to…Shakespeare’s Globe that is…so I trundled tube-style down to London Bridge Station and ambled over to our meeting point at the theatre. This is what followed…

You are right. This is not the Globe theatre but it’s right outside The Anchor pub on the river bank. As I was waiting for the appointed start time to approach, I found myself quite taken by this quaint, quasi-seaside scene with The Shard looming in the background.

This is the Globe theatre built in 1997 after the first was destroyed by fire in 1613 and the second pulled down in 1644 (after being shut down by the Puritans in 1642). 


It is said to be a faithful reproduction of the original – while no plans were ever available to study, local archaeological sites have revealed clues which have been used to make this version as authentic as possible.  

This is the original site of the theatre: Old Theatre Court in Park Street, about 230m away from the current replica. You can pay close to £2,000/month to live in a 71 square metre, one bedroom apartment here.


Speaking of money, the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Globe would not have been possible without Sam Wanamaker, an American actor and director who set up the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1970 to rebuild the theatre. The contributions of those who made this possible are celebrated in the paving stones in the theatre courtyard whilst the candlelit theatre that opened next door last year – the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – honours the man himself.

Clockwise from top left:  Prunella Scales (Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers); Nigel Hawthorne (Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister); Zoe Wanamaker (My Family, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Agatha Christie Poirot series as Ariadne Oliver)

Our next stop was the former site of the Anchor Brewery further along Park Street.


Built in 1616 by James Monger, the brewery grew to be the largest in the world in the early nineteenth century. After a succession of owners and a merge with Courage in 1955, the brewery itself was pulled down in 1981 to be be replaced by council estate housing (top right). 

The Anchor Tavern (bottom right) still stands in its Bankside location nearby and history marks this site as having had a public house on it for 800 years. Aside from some reputedly excellent fish and chips, it has played host to Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in the closing scenes of the movie, Mission Impossible.  And if you turn around and look across the river, you’ll see just why Samuel Pepys wrote of sitting at ‘this alehouse’ watching the great fire of London…

The golden orb of the Monument stands amidst the geometry of the modern city. Laying the column down brings the tip to the site of the bakery in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London began in 1666.

Around the corner and though the arch we walked to stop outside The Clink.

Left – Clink Prison Museum;
Right – a Dickensian view from the corner of Redcross Way and Park St.

The Clink was a notorious prison in London and operated from twelfth century through to 1780. It was part of the estate of the Bishop of Winchester (you can see the remains of his palace a little further down the lane) and originally housed prisoners who held views opposing those of the clergy. Profiteering was rife amongst the wardens who sold food and ‘better’ lodgings to those who would pay and to facilitate this industry, prisoners were released to beg during the day and earn ‘their keep’ at night. It later became a debtors prison – thus the reference to Dickens’ tale of Little Dorrit above. It is now the site of The Clink Prison Museum so you can still pay for the privilege of a visit.

At the end of Clink Street, past the remains of Winchester Palace, stands the replica of Frances Drake’s Golden Hinde.


I have blogged about both the palace and the ship before so if you’d like some Gidday witterings on these, you can click here. What I really want to share with you is the legend of Mary Overie (Mary over the river).

Long before there were any bridges to get you across the Thames, ferryman John Overs made his fortune by monopolising the shipment of cargo and people from river bank to river bank. Being incredibly tight-fisted, he had refused to pay the dowry for his daughter Mary to be married to the man she loved. In fact he decided that if he pretended to be dead for the day, his family and servants would mourn and their fasting would save him the cost of food. Wrapped in a burial shroud and lying silently in a coffin, he was dismayed to find that instead of going to plan, his servants were delighted by his demise and celebrated by unlocking and helping themselves to the pantry. Finally he could lie still no more and arose ready to admonish his staff – but one such servant, thinking him to be a ghost, struck him over the head with an oar and killed him.

Mary wrote to her beloved that they were free to marry but tragedy struck when his horse stumbled and threw him en route to her, killing him. Mary refused all other offers and instead formed the priory of St Mary Overie where she lived until her death. 

Always something new for me to learn on Paula’s tours.

Anyway, on to the next stop just around the corner – Southwark Cathedral.


Some have placed the foundations of the building as far back as 606 but the more commonly held view is that it has been in existence since the conversion of Wessex in 886. The site has undergone many iterations over the centuries with the photo to the right showing the different levels of pavements and thoroughfares (as well as a coffin). Southwark Cathedral was even named in the Domesday Book of 1086. 

We dived into Borough market next, ghostly quiet without the hustle and bustle of its Wednesday-to-Saturday trading. 

As we emerged from the labyrinth of empty stalls, we came across yet another famous Globe but from the modern era.

This is, in fact, the window of Bridget Jones, (yes she of the diary) from which she peers out into the snowy night in the final scenes of the film to see Mark Darcy striding away. Yes it’s true. The movie was on a few days after this walk so I checked it out for myself.

Leaving the market behind us, we walked down Southwark Street past the Hops Exchange…


…and crossed into Redcross Way to our next stop, the Crossbones Graveyard.

This site started out as a medieval burial ground for the area’s prostitutes and by the 18th century had become a paupers’ graveyard which was then closed in 1853. There were excavations on this site during the 1990s, carried out as part of the extensions to the Jubilee Underground line which unearthed the bones of the dead in 148 graves. The local community in campaigning to create a permanent memorial garden, continues to add to the poignant memorial created along the fence and holds a memorial vigil at the gates at dusk on the 23rd of each month.

Turning back we crossed back over Southwark Street and rejoined Park Street, coming to our penultimate stop…


This plaque shows two draymen beating Julius Jacob von Haynau, an Austrian general who was well-known for his brutality in suppressing insurrection. This particular incident happened following several narrow escapes of mob violence when von Haynau was High Command of Hungary, with the two men setting upon him during his visit to the Barclay and Perkins Brewery (previously the Anchor brewery). Let’s just say that the protagonists were very much lauded for their ‘chivalric’ pursuit of justice in the realm.

And then we wandered around the corner to find ourselves back at The Anchor and the end of our tour. It was such an interesting two hours, full of fun stories and historical titbits that, despite having explored this area before, I did not know about – and you know how I like discovering London like this. The really amazing thing is that when I look back on where we walked, it wasn’t a large area and I was left in awe of how historically rich this city is. 


So if this inspires you and you’d like to know more, visit Paula’s website –www.crossingthecity.co.uk – and find out where next she might take us.

But I have first ‘dibs’ okay?

Summer’s Lease…

It’s the first of June so that must mean it’s time for another Calendar Challenge and this month, Simon Drew offers a pictorial take on the words of the immortal Bard to kickstart our days of Summer…


To my mind, I think ‘not to be’ sounds rather drastic so I’m voting for the former. But in any case, this quote (from Hamlet in case you were wondering) does make me think about William Shakespeare’s influence in our language

I took literature both at High School and then as my minor at Uni, and I remember how surprised I was at the proliferation of quotes that were already familiar to me. Just sticking with Hamlet, I had heard of both to thine own self be true and neither a borrower nor a lender be despite never actually studying the play itself. 

And while I’ve never gotten around to seeing As You Like It, my theatre forays here on Gidday from the UK are tagged with all the world’s a stage. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery.

What I did study was Macbeth – three times. Not for me the dark romance of Romeo and Juliet (who was the sun) nor the comic delights of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the course of true love never did run smooth

No, after wading through this tragedy as our compulsory Shakespeare in Year 11 English, taking English Literature in Year 12 found me double double toil and trouble-ing again with the teacher thinking it would be better to do something we already knew. And then I went to Uni to broaden my horizons and such-like only to find that rather than bear[ing] a charmed life, fair was foul and I was in the hurly burly…again.

Thanks goodness we did The Merchant of Venice in second semester and I got to learn all about pound[s] of flesh. And I did finagle a spate of Twelfth Night. With wonderful lines like ‘Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them‘ it is little wonder that this remains one of my favourite plays.

I have since seen quite a few of the Bard’s back catalogue here in London, most recently Measure for Measure, King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing. And I love them but I’ve noticed a peculiar pattern emerging. The norm is that I struggle to keep pace with the language in the first half, then google the story again in the interval to see whether I have managed to gain any sense of what’s going on. The answer is almost always yes and I invariably return and just relax into the language, trusting that I will get all of the points that must be made and having a much more enjoyable time as a result. 

And speaking of enjoyment, today is the first day of Summer here in the UK. It has been sunshine-y and warm and the roses are out in force at Gidday HQ – who needs all the perfumes of Arabia [to] sweeten this little hand?

And with that, it seems to me that the only fitting end to this post lies in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”.

Here’s to a fabulous Summer!

ps…and just in case you are struggling with the translation of the pictogram

To be or not to be – that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more

——————————-
Calendar Challenge 2014 – Back Catalogue
Keep Calm And Carry On
Sour Grapes
Water Water Everywhere

On The Shore

What Lies Before Me

Ye Olde Bucket List…Part One

It’s been a busy few days since my last post and I’ve been having a rather splendid time enjoying some of what the English do best…namely Shakespeare and sporting banter. So you lucky, lucky Gidday-ers get two posts.

I know. Two for the price of one. That’s got to be an offer you can’t possibly refuse.

Macbeth came first.

To provide a little context for this rather tragic inclusion on ye olde bucket list, all of that ‘double double toil and trouble’ stuff has been running around in my head since High School when I studied the play as part of the English curriculum in Year 11 and then revisited it in Year 12 English Literature.

And the fun didn’t stop there. Lo and behold, Macbeth was also the Shakespearean text in my first semester of literature at University. That’s three times in three years. The Merchant of Venice the following term was a breath of fresh air.

Anyway I’ve never actually seen the play. Ever. Not even a movie adaptation.

So on Saturday night I settled into my seat at The Phoenix Cinema (my lovely local) and watched a live transmission from the Manchester International Festival. Kenneth Branagh co-directed (with Rob Ashford) and took the leading role with Alex Kingston (of ER fame) as Macbeth’s lady wife by his side.

The set wasn’t a theatre but a deconsecrated church so the live audience sat either side of the central aisle and watched the action unfold…on the grassy verge in the middle. The rains came down, battles were won and lost, murder most foul committed and vengeance served in the end.

It was absolutely brilliant, Branagh was breath-taking…

…and Macbeth finally got ticked off the bucket list.

But the weekend wasn’t yet over.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know what else got ticked off.