Guest Post by Rupert Potter
Rupert Potter took his position as British Consul-General in Vancouver in July 2012 and is the British government’s representative in British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. His wife and two children join him in Vancouver.
Never write about Shakespeare. It’s like inviting friends to watch you skate when the Sedins are on the ice. In fact, given the very existence of Hamlet and King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night – to write or not to write, at all, about anything, should be the question.
I am one of those who doesn’t believe in talent. 99.9% of people who are successful in life have managed through hard work and dedication or good fortune. Given that I have no particular talent, this is a convenient philosophy. ‘Oh yes, Rupert, he’s reasonably competent’, doesn’t inspire the same level of awe and adulation (unfortunately) as singular genius.
And that’s where the 0.1% comes in. Very occasionally we come across someone, alive or dead, whose work is so spectacular, so far above the norm, that we can only surmise they are gifted. Where that comes from, who knows? I’m sure Shakespeare worked hard too. I’m sure his friends wondered if he would ever come out to a play (you see, that was so poor I’ve just proved my point). But hard work alone can’t produce the sort of depth and intricacy his plays exhibit.
I watched Twelfth Night performed at Bard on the Beach recently, which reminded me of all this. I don’t particularly like the whole mistaken identity gag (heavily in evidence here). It’s implausible and spawned a thousand terrible bedroom farces (at least Shakespeare was well aware of what he was doing). So it’s testament to the brilliance of writing and production, that amid the ‘whoa you mean I fancied you but you’re really a woman who’s the sister of the bloke who I thought was you’ plot lines, I was made to laugh at Malvolio’s misplaced joy, shed a tear at the reunion of a brother and sister who thought each other dead, and hear the echoes of the beautiful music long after the cast had left the stage.
I was also reminded of the obvious but important cliché that what we live for, really, is love. We can laugh and explore and achieve and create – all valuable in themselves. But without love there remains a lingering emptiness that makes everything seem pale and vaguely unsatisfactory. Irrational, complex, painful, and inconvenient as it is, love is what drives us.
So whilst it may sometimes seem pointless writing (or skating), I am incredibly glad people do, otherwise they wouldn’t dare to produce such amazing performances of Shakespeare’s works. And if we always shrank away in the presence of greatness, nothing great would ever be achieved again.
And finally, a word of thanks to Christopher Gaze, the architect of Bard on the Beach, and his team. They’re a brilliant combination of British and Canadian talent, on and off the stage, bringing alive the creations of one of our greatest kinsmen.