By Jane Walmsley
“All the world’s a stage and the men and women merely players” quoth the Bard. And never was it more true, than when the British Society decided to celebrate his life and works at Greenwoods English Restaurant on Saturday 23rd April.
400 years to the day since his death and “we few, we happy few” (30 of us actually) came together to declaim, recite, jabber and generally hold forth about his various works. Not so much the Globe theatre, more like Shakespeare Karoake….. and a lot of fun it was too !
Our host for the evening, an ebullient Paul Huxley, organised an eclectic mix of verses, sonnets and ditties including a ribald recitation by Alison and ??? Smith, on the efforts of Otto Titslinger to patent the first bra. In other words, a ditty about t…….! Moving swiftly onward, perhaps now is the moment to mention the culinary contribution of Greenwoods. Having been encouraged by Leigh Ann (Arthur?), Anna Markay and Liz Gamlin, by their recitation of the Witches Speech from Macbeth, to think of eye of newt and tongue of dog, what we instead got was a delicious plate of fresh seasonable asparagus and poached eggs cooked to perfection. Bit of a relief really but as leg of lizard wasn’t featured on the menu we were probably going to be alright.
What followed by a slightly weird but rather wonderful collection of recitals; Stephen Huyton’s Henry V partnered with a French Katherine sounding as if she were fresh from ‘Allo ‘Allo; a politically incorrect interview with ancient Shakespearean thesp – Sir Edwin – as imagined by Ray Goodsir; To be or not to be – that most famous of soliloquies, which somehow mutated into a discourse on marriage! From King Lear, through Harry’s translation of Macbeth into Zulu, Hamlet to the tune of “American Pie”, to Rob and Ray’s homage to “Laurel and Hardy does Macbeth”, it was an inventive and amusing night.
A quiet spot was found in the middle of the evening for Dave Thomas to share, in poem form, remembrances of his father and his grandparents; they were sparsely worded but wonderfully evocative images of his childhood memories. More wonderful food followed, the jokes came thick and fast, and as a final tribute to one of Britain’s funniest and best-loved comediennes, Victoria Wood, sadly lost to us recently, Duncan Peacock and the “Sisters Smith”, rounded off the evening with their rendition of the ‘Ballad of Barry and Freda’, with Duncan’s increasingly pitiful refrain of “I can’t do it” being rebutted by Alison’s forceful insistence that she wanted him to melt the buttons on her flame proof nightie! It was certainly a high to finish on and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – though that was mostly due to much laughter and moderate alcohol.
Thank you Paul for organising such a splendid evening, and my apologies to those whose names and efforts I have neglected to mention. I blame the wine and the thought of Duncan trying to bend Alison backwards over her hostess trolley!!
Photography by Benjamin Arthur