I love Shakespeare. I am not alone in this statement, far from it. Shakespeare was something that was fed to me from an early age. Usually in translation and dare I say it in the form of Romeo and Juliet. But as I grew up things changed.
In school we have to read books in several languages as part of the curriculum. As I only took exams in Dutch and English, my reading lists in French and German are limited, but the ones in my exam languages quite extensive. A few books in my Dutch list have links to Shakespeare. One of the more obvious links is Golden Ophelia by Ruyslinck, but it is hardly unique as an example. Apart from that, our English department insisted on one play by Shakespeare (and preferably one of his sonnets) on our lists. As they also understood it to be a difficult thing to tackle by moody teenagers they had a shortcut for us.
The sonnet, we did in class and for the play we went to Diever. Right, what is Diever? Well Diever is a small rural village about an hour north of where I grew up. It is not far from Dwingeloo where there is a famous radio telescope. Diever has something special though, something wonderful and it is a full blown amateur Shakespeare theater and company.
Since 1946 (bar one year) this village has staged a play by Shakespeare every year. All organised within this tiny village Surrounding villages of course participate too. One year a drama, the next a comedy. They have their own open air theater in the forest, which adds a whole different flavour to the program. These people are world famous in the northern part of the country and every year the exam classes of my school visit the plays. In most cases the play that is being played is the one on our English literature list. Sure as it is all in translation we still have to read the play, but once you have seen it the reading makes sense and become much more achievable.
As I first did HAVO before Atheneum I had exams in more than one year so I went twice. Later in my life I visited with friends. This way I saw “the merchant of Venice”, taming of the shrew, and “a midsummer Night’s dream” By accident all comedies, but it showed me both Shakespeare’s brilliance and made me appreciate this company, the theater and their dedication.
At some stage I was wistfully mesmerizing about this. My last visit had been in 1995 and I looked them up to see if they were still playing. They were. SO, as he is from a different part of the country, had never heard of this company and was intrigued. Before I was fully aware what I was doing I had ordered 4 tickets for this year’s play; the comedy of errors. Yes 4 tickets. We decided to take my parents.
When we suggested it to my parents my mother immediately said yes, changed plans with friends and was a happy bunny. Dad however, was not as happy. He thought it being Shakespeare it would be hard, though the fact that it was in translation was a reassurance. My dad does not like the theater much so while he was not too keen but he complied as SO was also joining. Dad was more than happy when he found out he did not have to wear a suit, far from it, jeans and a warm sweater. SO decided on decent shoes though I told him that his walking shoes would be fine. We took little cushions to sit on as the seats are simple wooden seats. I wore my new fleece jacket and mum too was wearing sensible clothes.
Though it did not start until 21.00 we were there around 19.30. SO bought the obligatory mug for our mug collection. When we arrived a line had already formed. All in jeans, trainers of hiking shoes. Sufficient rain jackets and warm sweaters. 20.00 and the doors opened and everybody pored in and ran to get the best possible seats. No designated seating here. Mum managed to get us great seats. Dad got us a coffee and hot chocolate milk. It was a nippy evening, but it was dry. Given the wet spells lately we were actually very happy with the state of the evening. And then it started with a bang.
We loved it. The comedy of errors is so much fun, it was well done. Driomo’s were brilliant, but the sheep were the best. The story is simply about two pairs of twins that do not know each other. One of the strong points is that the translation uses current affairs (as Shakespeare did) like the financial crises. Also well known Dutch lines from old movies were included in a very nice way adding to the charm. New lines were part of it and brilliantly executed. “Kniel voor de Hertog” (Kneel before the Duke) shouted at the most inconvenient times and the whole cast would drop to the floor (except the Duke of course). We laughed so much and had a great night.
When I asked my dad he said. “I never thought Shakespeare could be this much fun” He too is a convert to Shakespeare. SO loved the down to earth easy going atmosphere in the theater, even the little stampede at the start. Mum loved every second of it and me? I was just so happy that an old memory revived had given so much pleasure to people that are dear to me. SO loved it so much that we decided to become Friends of Shakespeare Company Diever. We love to support something like this, as it gave us a lot of pleasure and so much more. Plus we may end up going more often, it is addictive.
- Comedy of Errors (jfloodgroningen.wordpress.com)