Thank God it's the holidays

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
Monday: Stratford-upon-Avon on a Monday in August - I can see why Shakespeare disliked the mob. I fight my way through the crowds in Bancroft Gardens and wonder why I'm here. It's the school playground all over again. But I'm on holiday, I tell myself, and thoughts of the chalkface are banned.

By the time I've found my seat in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the frustration fades and I know exactly why I'm here. I can feel the buzz already. Behind me a loud whisper breaks the silence. I am about to turn round and glare when I remember I'm not in assembly. So I settle back happily: it's not my responsibility any more.

Tuesday: sign up for a Guide Friday tour and find myself in an open bus on the way to Mary Arden's house. But not even the wind can wipe out our guide's relentless patter. In snatches I hear about the Elizabethans' annual wash: "May - whole family - use the same water - servants last of all." Bite-sized history: the Shakespeare industry at work.

Wednesday: The rain seems to have set in for the day. So I spend the morning browsing in the shops with the Bard's face glaring at me from every tea-towel, mug and postcard. Buy a Will Power sticker for the car - will anyone spot the pun?

Then back to our holiday cottage to while away the time until this evening's performance of Troilus and Cressida. The books by the fireplace are of the usual kind: Agatha Christie side by side with The Radiant Cookery Book. The recipe for girdle scones is tempting - but do we have a griddle? We settle for Safeway's teacakes instead. After all, we are on holiday.

Thursday: The morning looks fine so it's off to Charlecote Park to meet the peacocks and the Jacob sheep. By midday it's raining again, so we dive into the restaurant for lunch. No girdle scones here but some interesting spinach dumplings - more Gary Rhodes than Radiant, I should think.

To As You Like It in the evening and the theatre is packed.

I overhear an earnest discussion in the interval on the Shakespearean Fool. Two teachers, no doubt. Is there really no escape? I had hoped to leave English Lit behind.

Friday: Our last night at The Swan and as the actors take their final bow, I realise the holiday is nearly over.

"It's going to be strange not to be back at school next term," remarks my 18-year-old companion, who's off to university next month.

And to be back at school will be stranger still, I think. It'll be my turn to perform again - and to a much less appreciative audience. I'm not even sure I still remember my lines.

But for now I'm on a high, and I leave the theatre feeling equal to anything - even the jostling crowds. There's no coach to find, no heads to count. Tonight I'm still on holiday!

Margaret Leeson teaches in Kent

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