Sonnet Walk & Shakespeare Within The Abbey starring Mark Rylance

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHEN: 22/4/17

WHERE: East London/Westminster Abbey

We started Shakespeare’s birthday weekend with Live In This And Dwell In Lovers’ Eyes, a two-hour walk from Shoreditch to the Globe Theatre.

  • Read on for reasons including details of Mark Rylance’s Westminster Abbey triumph

Our group of 20 or so meets at St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch High Street where we are given a long-stemmed red rose each to carry as we wend our way through 12 locations.

At each we are accosted by an actor in modern-day dress who recites a speech by Shakespeare to us. This begins in the church where one of our group (Laura Rees) starts to complain about the security of the route, much to our embarrassment, before launching into Sonnet 113.

We are the focus of Colin Hurley’s fury as he is dressed as a workman unhappy about the way we cross the road before launching into Sonnet 34. Especially good is Stevie Basaula’s extract from The Merchant Of Venice directed angrily at the Great St Helen’s church we are viewing.

Onto a promenade performance called All Places That The Eye Of Heaven Visits lasting 75 minutes in the iconic and atmospheric Westminster Abbey. Here the 25-strong cast, including the dozen we had met on the walk, are led by Mark Rylance, who has been organising the walks for decades.

We would estimate that there are about 200 visitors to the Abbey and as we roam it we are approached by the cast performing some of Shakespeare’s greatest hits. Especially good are Rylance and Shobu Kapoor rowing from Antony and Cleopatra.

The cast begin the performance in everyday dress and we especially enjoyed being taken aside by Omar Baroud and Tre Medley. Anne-May de Lijser is playing Ophelia from Hamlet and interacting with the audience as she sings, becomes increasingly unhinged and hands out imaginary flowers.

But it is the big set pieces at the show’s conclusion that are the most unforgettable: Rylance’s To be or not to be speech, James Garnon as Henry V, who is buried here, and the beautiful sing-song goodbye.

This year was the first Abbey event and it’s one of our theatrical highlights of the year, a steal at £30 per ticket. We can’t imagine it won’t become an annual unmissable event. Who wouldn’t want the chance to have Rylance whisper some of Shakespeare’s finest lines in their ear in one of the world’s most historic locations?

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Mark Rylance. Events like these are regularly staged by The Globe. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this Q&A? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Facebook

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