Last week I persuaded (bullied) a number of my acquaintances to come out and play with me on Monday night. Not for frivolous reasons of fun but for intellectual purposes. And character strengthening. Plus it is impossible to say no to free outdoor theatre. So Monday evening found a colleague and I dodging out of work as soon as humanly possible (once various school faffing and coach duties were complete). We sped to the tube, acquiring a picnic on the way, and landed on the grass in Canary Wharf, a long way from work and just as the commuters were starting to do their thing. We were here to see A Midsummer Night's Dream (one of my top two favourite Shakespeares) and the only instructions were "It's free, you don't need a ticket, but turn up early to get a good spot and bring a picnic". Being teachers we know all about following instructions and so we did indeed have a good spot and a picnic. The grass was damp and slightly muddy, but my trusty picnic blanket has a plastic underside and was unfazed. It's from Marks and Spencers' after all...
Once the next of our merry band arrived, we felt almost obliged to begin picnicking. Three being the critical mass that starts any good picnic going. It's also a good point to disturb your neighbours perched on other local picnic blankets and get them to take your photo.
It was warm and sunny and yes, a bit damp, but this is England. And, y'know, plastic undersides. It's not just a picnic blanket. It's an M&S picnic blanket.
In the interests of gender balance, it only made sense to have a chap come along. There were also lots of other people there too, but as I didn't ask them along, I felt no compulsion to share our picnic. I was glad we had secured our perch nice and early though as it was pretty packed about 20 minutes after we arrived.
Gender balance appropriately accounted for, we tucked into our food and our little band of six enjoyed a really wonderful performance.
The actors were fantastic - a cast of six managing all the roles - and there was a lot of highly entertaining double entendre. They would take a little wander through the audience every so often, playing their tunes and stealing picnic items where they could. But I suppose as the show was free, they've got to eat somehow. Having said that, I would happily have paid as the production was excellent. Witty, well-paced and with whip-smart improv at times it was altogether a great way to bring Shakespeare to life.
A little toast helped to smooth along the interval. But we didn't actually have toast. Just wine.
The evening cooled a little as we embarked upon the next act, but I had my trusty camp blanket stashed in my bag which caused embarrassment in some quarters but as I was neither embarrassed nor cold, I didn't really mind. And if Girlguiding gets a little free advertising, why not?
We sniggered and chuckled and laughed our way through to the end of the play. And as the fairies flitted away, dusk drew around Canary Wharf. It's a strange place: a little patch of green nestled among towering, glass-fronted monoliths. It doesn't quite seem like the real world. But it is beautiful in its own way, when the waters are still and the lights twinkle. And it's also clearly a good time to pop to a bar. But that's another post for another time.
P.S. The #500snapsofsummer picture count now stands at 52 with only 448 still to go. That's over 10% complete!