Culture vulture

6th August 2004 at 01:00
Mike Ryall looks forward to Canadian visitors and a Shakespeare camp

Summer reading

This is always fairly random and my tastes are eclectic. A friend from Iceland brought me Independent People by Halldor Laxness, about a lone, fiercely independent farmer. I'm Canadian, so I like to explore European literature. I've lined up a couple of novels by Italian author Italo Calvino, including Invisible Cities, because I like the strange, imaginative leaps he makes. I'll probably also turn to Canadian writer Alastair MacLeod, so I can be self-indulgently homesick.

Holiday treats

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (pictured), which I love, is re-opening with new facilities and an Impressionist exhibition Lasting Impressions (to September 26). I try to go to London every holiday and visit the National Gallery, Royal Academy or Tate Modern as I'm teaching myself art history.

Away from it all

I'll have a summer in England and possibly a trip to a European city later.

I visit Ireland once a year and I love Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Prague.

I usually go back to Canada, but this year, as I've bought a house, my family and friends are coming here. My mother will want to visit some grand country houses and my father will want to go cycling. I came to England to have access to European culture, so I'll be making the most of it.

Projects in hand

I'll be reviewing plans for a production of Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus at Freman College because I'm taking over school plays from our retiring head, Roger Harcourt, who has directed a Shakespeare play every Christmas. Except that I'm changing the tradition a little, so it doesn't feel as if I'm jumping into his shoes.

Shakespeare under canvas

I'm about to set off for our Stratford camp, which is wonderful: 60 students with 20 staff, friends and ex-students camp at Stratford-upon-Avon for two weeks, see a play a day at the Swan or the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and hold a lecture and workshops about each play in their "mess tent", as well as performing street theatre. I'm scheduled to give a lecture on Hamlet, so I'll be dipping into some of that beforehand. It's a difficult audience because you have to satisfy everyone, from students who have little experience of Shakespeare to those with PhDs from Oxbridge.

Mike Ryall, 35, is head of English at Freman College, Buntingford, Hertfordshire. He was talking to Elaine Williams. The school's Stratford camp runs from August 8-22. Friday magazine, which has Culture vulture every week, returns on September 3

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