Soham Grammarians - Stratford on Avon Theatre Camps/Trips

Soham Grammarian Spring 1964


[One of the set books for our English Literature O Level in 1964 was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In the production referred to below, Cyril Cusack played Caesar - editor].

The party under the guidance of Mr. Hemmings and Mr. O'Toole travelled to Stratford in style and comfort in a luxury coach. The 70 mile journey was full of interest for those who had time to look, but some of our number had thoughtfully been provided with a large mathematics homework the evening before and it had somehow been left to the next day. I believe that team spirit on the coach produced some unusually correct results.

Having arrived, we were given freedom to do more or less what we wished until the performance in the afternoon. After leaving the coach the party naturally split up because people wanted to see different things. Everyone saw the outside of the Birth Place, the Cottage and the Museum, but owing to the high entrance cost few, if any, ventured in.

Walking round places of interest soon made us hungry and at about midday our small group took out their printed maps of Stratford on which were marked among other things "Ye Birth Place" and "Ye Chinese Restaurant"; it was this second item that held our interest at that time and fortunately the whole party did not converge upon it at the same time but some of us did have a good meal there. Among the dishes listed was an interesting concoction consisting of "Chicken Bamboo Shoots Fried Rice with Water Chestnuts." Even the News of the World might envy such a headline!

For a time after lunch our small groups wandered about again in this town, which, although interesting, has, for the tourists' benefit, so obviously been steeped in Elizabethan architecture that one wonders if any of it is genuine.

The Royal Shakespeare theatre is a striking building which stands on the bank of the Avon and although by no means old (for the original Memorial Theatre was burnt down in 1926), it is in keeping with the rest of the town.

Once inside the theatre and in our seats, we discovered that for sixpence one could borrow a pair of theatre binoculars and obtain a clear view of the stage-and before the performance, the girls in the gallery. A description of the performance of "Julius Caesar" would not be appropriate here but needless to say it was excellent and despite the fact that we found many flaws when discussing it afterwards we were all impressed.

Everyone who went felt that the trip was a great success and the day pleasantly culminated in a fast journey home and a chance for us to have a close look at the M.1.

P.E.L., 5H [Phil Leslie]

Soham Grammarian Summer 1965


Shakespeare is a real money-spinner for Stratford which would otherwise be just a simple market town in the Vale of Evesham. As it is, the poet's very name must bring in thousands of pounds a year to the town. Even more last year of course, the quatercentenary of Shakespeare's birth. Which is why after a week of brilliant weather in Stratford last year, you almost wished he had never been born at all! The name and face of Shakespeare are everywhere haunting you like some bad penny familiar. Nevertheless, there is no denying the attraction and beauty of Shakespeare's life and art, which of course managed to transcend all the turnstiles placed before them.

The atrocious commercialization and gimmickry was perhaps the only blemish upon the otherwise enjoyable Stratford Camp arranged by Mr. O'Toole and Mr. Royal-Dawson last summer. The Camp consisted of fifteen boys, their two guardian angels, and seven tents in a field. The field was one of many belonging to Sir Fordham Flower, chairman of the Board of Governors to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and head of Flowers brewery.

It was from this patrician field that we strolled most evenings and two afternoons the five minute walk to the theatre. Our seats were in the cramped, hot and matey balcony which was rather like being in the original Globe Theatre (and where you could also free the opera glasses without paying, by a judiciously placed kick up the slot machine).

We saw seven plays, the full history cycle- Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III. The plays formed a dramatic and historical sequence ranging from the reign of Richard II to the downfall of Richard III. Continuity was preserved by the use of modifications of the same stage setting for all the plays and the continuity of the same role through several plays. Several of the actors played more than one part, Roy Dotrice played John of Gaunt, Harry Percy, Justice Shallow and Edward IV, all of them large parts. Other large parts were played by Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Hugh Griffith, two famous actors (Hugh Griffith played Squire Western in the film version of "Tom Jones").

Our influential host had kindly given us the use of a tennis court and swimming pool, which we used, between paying our way in Stratford and the theatre. This of course is not all .... we must hope that Mr. O'Toole will arrange a similar camp next year. (He has.) He deserves our thanks for this one.

T. J. SANDHAM and C. H. SHAW, VI Arts.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1966


Last August for the second year, a select group of boys led by J.R.O'T. and C.A.R-D. - this year reinforced by their wives - set up camp on Sir Fordham Flower's estate for a week. The same free atmosphere prevailed, yet miraculously meals always appeared on time, nobody disappeared.

We saw a mixed bag of productions: David Warner's intelligent and under-rated "Hamlet", the riotously modern "Comedy of Errors", Paul Schofield as "Timon of Athens" in the grand manner, and a "Merchant of Venice" (deliberately?) drab juxtaposed with a sparkling "Jew of Malta" by Marlowe.

Again we hobnobbed with celebrities in Sir Fordham's swimming pool, and C.A.R.-D. showed an unlooked-for muscular skill as a swimmer. A memorable experience was that of watching Aspin construct a charcoal grill: by copious excavations he made it work, though unpunctually: equally memorable was the experience of eating bacon, laboriously cooked on it, with the following evening's pilchard salad. So too, that individual's final gesture of presenting us, on the last morning, our cooking utensils having been packed, with half a hundredweight of rhubarb.

Virtues expected and unexpected showed themselves: Benson strode round, guitar-clad, like a latter-day Orpheus (though with singularly little effect on the cows); Shaw was an "excellent dry wit"; and Lerway's thoroughness in dealing with spaghetti-spattered dixies would have endeared him to all those who believe that character can be gauged by willingness to clean buckets to perfection.

The only disappointment was that more people did not come to enjoy the generous facilities provided by our host.


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last updated 7 Nov 2007