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Shakespeare Celebration

Celebrations have been taking place throughout the world to commemorate Shakespeare’s death and opportunities to celebrate anything are not lightly passed up in Provence.  So celebrating Shakespeare was an imperative and celebrate we did, over 70 of us, British, American, Dutch, Swiss, South African German and French, in the BELL garden on the 8th of May.

The garden setting was just right, decorated with bunting & banners made by Claire and posters from the Globe Theatre in London.

This was to be to be not just a celebration of Shakespeare but a Shakespearean celebration, with music, songs and food from his era (and muscat de Rivesaltes taking the place of mead).  And of course there had to be readings from his works, both poetry and plays, carried out with what everyone agreed was a considerable degree of professionalism.  David serenaded everyone on the guitar as they gathered and proceedings opened with a fanfare of trumpets that would have done justice to Caesar or Cleopatra's entrance on stage. The whole proceedings were organised just as professionally by Jo.


it was Jo who took the stage first and welcomed everybody, explaining what was to follow.  First up was Pat reciting  All the World's a Stage, (from memory!) followed by Marie-Hélène doing the same but in French.   Barbara then recited sonnet 18, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day, both in its Shakespeare version and in modern American! She was followed by Steve quoting Bernard Levin on the number of expressions that Shakespeare had added to the English language and which are still in current use.  Marie-Hélène then recited Shylock's speech from The Merchant of Venice, Hath not a Jew eyes   

Next came a musical interlude as Jo introduced René and his choir who sang three songs from the Shakespearean period, the last of which, Greensleeves, was well known to all.

After the choir, Gisele read sonnet 60 Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore in French followed by the English original read by Jo.

Maggie and Judy then acted out Down Down, from Richard III which was followed by Anna reciting sonnet 130, My Mistress' Eyes are nothing like the Sun.  David then discoursed briefly on Shakespeare in schools and music before reading Now is the winter of our discontent from Richard III. Ian recited Mark Anthony's forum speech from Julius Caesar. But Brutus says he was ambitious. Ian was followed by Jo reciting You’ll put down Strangers, purported to be from an unpublished play Thomas More by Shakespeare.

In introducing their readings, many of the readers pointed to the parallel between conditions in the world in Shakespeare’s time and now – racial prejudice, refugees and the challenges of power for example.

A rousing rendition of Greensleeves terminated the proceedings.

That wasn't quite the end, however, as there were Shakespearean nibbles from original Elizabethan recipes, cooked and served by Beth and Jane and wine to be drunk, while everybody relaxed in the garden.  The unanimous verdict was an event well organised and carried through for the enjoyment of all.  Some even commented that they were surprised at how professional it was.  How dare they!!!

So heartfelt thanks to all the readers and musicians, to June & Paul for the posters and for putting up (and taking down) bunting and chairs and for, along with Pat, lending us their garden and for all the guests who came to the event.

Posted origanaly 15th May 2016, re posted 2nd October