A Culture Shock

While most of the country were sitting down to watch England face Algeria in the World Cup, I was in the car with Clive and friends heading to Beaconsfield. It was for the outdoor performance of Twelfth Night by the Chiltern Shakespeare Company in the Hall Barn. Just a shame the weather was so bad, but my mind was on the England game, some 6005 miles away in Cape Town. I had set myself a challenge to not know the score at all and watch the game “as live” on Sky+ when I got home. I will pick up on my success or failure with that later in this post. Let me first return to the entertainment.

Twelfth Night

I had arranged with Clive to go and see the show, several months ago, mainly on the basis that his friend Tony was starring as the First Officer. Although I had completely forgotten this major fact and jumped into the car at around 7:20pm, on Friday evening, wondering if I had made the right choice. We were joined by Louis, from Paris and Rob also a resident of the small market town in Oxfordshire. I thought Clive would take the M40, as it would be much quicker than trying to drive through the A40 (London Road) in Wycombe on a Friday evening. When we got stuck in traffic coming down Marlow Hill, I knew ignoring my advice had been a mistake. We got to the entrance of the Hall Barn, which is based in large grounds to the northbound side of the M40 motorway. It was raining quite badly as we got into the car park, Clive decided to ignore the old gentleman, trying to get everyone to reverse their cars into spots, it was just time wasting in his opinion. We then made our way up to the Box Office (a tent with table) and after collecting our tickets, made our way to our seats! The setting was not lost on me, even with the poor English summer weather. I am surprised I had never heard of this hidden gem, which is practically on my doorstep, but then being private grounds of the establishment, only the people in the know, would know! (If that doesn’t sound like a Donald Rumsfeld quote, I will just have to try harder!) The setup was quite advanced for an amateur production, but then Clive had said it was at the top end of the field. We took our seats which were in row J, not the ideal spot but not too bad. We were lucky, we were under cover, the actors were going to get very wet for the next few hours. There was not really the time to appreciate the surroundings. As we made our way to our seats, people who had got here much earlier were packing up their picnics and heading to their seats. Clive mentioned a lake, but it was not visible from where we had had parked. Row J was towards the back of the auditorium, but I was rather impressed by the level of lighting and sound equipment for an amateur production. Although Clive had said it was at the top end of the amateur spectrum. After the musicians finished, we heard a pre-recorded male voice count down to the start of the show. Clive went and bought a programme for me. It was a very good performance! I enjoyed myself but then I have always liked Shakespeare. This play I had heard about but never read and Louis with the help of Clive had given a brief synopsis on the drive into the grounds. Sure, this was no West End production, but it was well done and the main cast put in convincing performance. Remembering the lines is difficult alone, let alone the actions, the songs and giving life to the characters. At the end of the show, we headed to the refreshments tent, where we met the cast and director. However, it was getting late, and many left early to head home. They had the gruelling schedule of a double performance the following day, the final curtain call as it were. We were eventually asked to leave politely at 11:30pm. I walked through the door, just after midnight and my Dad was awake watching TV. The first thing he said was, “they were terrible, it was 0-0 draw!”. Great, so after trying all evening to keep myself ill informed regarding the match, my Dad had ruined it for me in a heartbeat. However, I felt I should still watch the match, so put on Sky+ and skipped to the kick off. I think I watched about fifteen minutes before I started to drift off to sleep. I switched the television off and went to bed. There was no point watching it now I knew the score. I listened to the sports reports on FiveLive and they told me the full story. England had not even bothered to turn up against Algeria, and now their World Cup was hanging in the balance. I felt some vindication with my choice for entertainment on a June evening. Most of my friends, if they had known would have called me crazy. I can say with some conviction that a little bit of culture was a great deal better than our national sport being played by some millionaire playboys, who feel they are bored.

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