The Scottish Play

Our third Bard in the Park venture was to move out of South Shields to another part of South Tyneside, Bede’s World in Jarrow. It was to be Macbeth, the play which had inspired my love for Shakespeare. There was a space just behind Jarrow Hall which was perfect for a theatre in the round performance.

All sorts of ideas were flying around my mind and I’d started thinking about casting. And I even had local actors dropping subtle hints like, “If you need anybody to play…”

Dora Frankel (who was to return as choreographer) and I had a couple of meetings in which we discussed how we would play the Witches. I saw them crouched on top of walls, sitting in the one tree in the performance area, slithering through the audience…

Then the Tories got in and the new Secretary of State at the DCMS, Jeremy Hunt (a great temptation to change that initial letter to something more appropriate!), set out to prove what a good little boy he was by cutting arts funding left, right and centre before the Chancellor George Osborne (of unhappy memory) had even asked it of ministers.

“Look at me, sir! I’ve cut lots and lots and lots of money so the peasants won’t be able to get ideas above their station and try to have arts and culture!”

(He was Head of School at Charterhouse, which says an awful lot about the public school system.)

The loss of funding to the Customs House was considerable—no, huge!—and meant that major projects like our Bard in the Park could not be afforded and what money was available had to be devoted to keeping the place afloat and reducing as much as possible the numbers of people who lost their jobs.

So that was it! The end of Bard in the Park and (as it felt to me at the time at any rate) the end of my Shakespearean directing career.

I had wanted to do Dream as number four.

And we’d only just begun…