As seen in Burger King – once upon a time…

Oct. 29th 2017 

‘To beep, or not to beep, that is the question…’

 Is that chap about to leave or not?  Can’t tell.  But he doesn’t look happy.

If I beep to show him I’m waiting, will he get in a strop?

Behind me, someone has decided that ‘To beep’ is the answer to the question.

Well – to honk, loudly…

‘I’m waiting to see if this chap’s going!’ I mouth impotently back at them.


Oh, give me a break…

If you decide to drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, with its swans smoothly gliding along the Avon and its hordes of tourists queuing patiently to see the Bard’s grave, (before queuing patiently to see said Bard’s works enacted on the great stages of the Royal Shakespeare Company), you will have to find SOMEWHERE TO PARK.

‘Ay, there’s the rub…’

 How?  Where?  For how long?  Will you have enough coins?  The right coins?

Possibly Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction is from The Winter’s Tale –

‘Exit, pursued by a bear.’

Well, in modern-day Stratford it’s more like ‘Exit – pursued by a warden.’  (A traffic warden.)

Finding a parking space in this town in 2017, is proving to be one of the most testing and infuriating challenges of my life…  I spend a good chunk of Wednesday October 25th, searching for a space, finding it, then rushing back to move my van again as my feeble hour or whatever runs out, searching for a new space, because I mustn’t under any circumstances RETURN to the space I had previously WITHIN FOUR HOURS, or I will be pursued by that ferocious bear, sorry, warden.

Solving Rubik’s Cube was a doddle compared to finding a parking space one can confidently leave one’s vehicle in for a few hours and so be able to think about something else.

Like one’s work.

And so I find myself, at last, setting up my wooden crates in Stratford’s other venue – the Bear Pit – an excellent 100 seat venue, emblazoned with the logo Artists Working Together.

Having again feared, a couple of weeks ago, that there would be no audience, a last minute rush ensures a nearly full house – including a few who had already seen it earlier in the year at the tiny 50-seat Kempe Studio (scene of the fainting woman and the 15 minute stoppage – I refer you to my earlier blogs…).

John McCann was in the audience again – who before this year I hadn’t seen for 44 years, no less!  And that was across a stage as teenagers – with myself as Sir Thomas More and he as a very fine young Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons at Wood Green Comprehensive School, north London.

Max Ross and Dominic Day, who I met at the Kempe Studio, were on hand to help out brilliantly again…the play went extremely well, I lost a few more pounds in sweat (under VERY hot lights) – and last but not least – I DIDN’T GET A PARKING TICKET.

I wondered what the Bard would have made of WW1, how he would have written about it, what angle he would have taken.

But please don’t quote the line from the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, though, or this pacifist might get a tiny bit irked.

‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all…’

 I have seen that line applied to COs on occasion.  Now COs were many things, but cowards they most certainly were not.  Not those willing to go as far as facing the firing squad in order to stay true to their beliefs.

The post show Q and A was fascinating as ever – a Russian man visiting Stratford thanked me for the piece and suggested it could be used as tool in solving international disputes. Really?

He mentioned Armenia and Azerbaijan.  I asked him for an email address of someone I could contact about that…

A Roman Catholic priest was very moved by the piece – and asked himself and others,  where were the Roman Catholic COs?

It is a fact that the majority of religious objectors in WW1 came from the non-conformist religions like Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, Congregationalists and so on.

Myself, I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but have been on a long journey since then through atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, and now feeling very drawn to the Quakers.

After the tour, perhaps I will move closer to becoming one – like the Bishop of Salisbury is thinking of doing, as I was told last week… (but please don ‘t quote me on that!)

And so I pack up the crates, find somewhere to park my van for the night, safe from the grizzly wardens hereabouts…and retire to my bed, before travelling to Bristol Cathedral on the morrow.

I’ve come a long way since my first visit to Stratford … just under 30 years ago I made my debut with the Royal Shakespeare Company here, in a Ben Jonson comedy called The Silent Woman.  It was directed by someone called Danny Boyle.  (Not sure what ever became of him??)

In it, I played a wonderful character called Sir Amorous La Foole – who was obsessed with fashion – and I was given the most stunning costume to wear – a peach coloured ensemble of breeches, stockings, top coat, long flowing cloak, and a fabulous hat which had flowers sprouting out of it – oh plus considerable heels on my peach-coloured shoes.

In the full outfit I looked about 7 feet tall.

The colour production photos of me in this garb were glorious to behold – and one of them, blown-up, was put up in the local Burger King, where I was reliably informed it remained, amusing the customers as they waited for their flame-grilled Whoppers, for almost a year – until one day it mysteriously disappeared.

But a year gracing the walls of Burger King, Stratford!  How many actors can lay claim to that?

It’s been downhill ever since though…



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