Why did Shakespeare always use a pen ?
Because he couldn’t decide which pencil to use – “2B or not 2B, that is the question.”
That appalling pun is because – as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare celebrations Radio Cumbria are running Bards Aloud in Barrow – two free writing workshops (Sept 3 & 17) to produce 5 minute sketches that imagine Shakespeare characters into modern day Barrow. Romeo & Juliet, The Nurse, Lady Macbeth, Hermione and other feisty sorts from A Winters Tale will be knocking about the Shipyard, Aldi, the Town Hall… wherever anyone cares to imagine them and the scenarios that might unfold. It should be a lot of fun.
The best 6 will be premiered in Barrow Library on Nov 10 with an opportunity for the finest work to be broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria too. Leading the sessions we have Ulverston playwright Zosia Wand (who’s had lots on Radio 4 & The Dukes) and Barrow poet Kate Davis (expert in verse inducing honking laughter and tissue-soaking sobs). It’s a great opportunity to work with two brilliant writers to develop & polish a script. Both are very supportive and encouraging writing mentors.
If you fancy it, just give the library a call to book, 01229 407373. It’s all free and there’ll be half-time Tudor-themed refreshments too!
To whet your appetite here’s a version of Hamlet, originally written in Scottish by Adam McNaughton, translated into English by Martin Carthy
There was this king sitted in his garden all alone
When his brother in his ear poured a little bit o’ henbane,
Stole his brother’s crown and his money and his widow;
But the dead king walked and got his son and said, “Hey listen, kiddo,
I’ve been killed and it’s your duty to take revenge on Claudius.
You kill him quick an’ clean an’ tell the nation what a fraud he is.”
The kid said, “Right, I’ll do it, but I’ll have to play it crafty,
So that no-one will suspect me, I’ll kid on that I’m a dafty.”
So with all except Horatio—and he counts him as a friend—
Hamlet, that’s the kid, he kids on, he’s round the bend,
And because he isn’t ready for obligatory killing
He tries to make the king think that he’s tuppence of the shillin’.
Takes a rise out of Polonius, treats poor Ophelia vile,
Tells Rosencrantz an’ Guildenstern Denmark’s a bleedin’ gaol.
Then a group of travelling actors, like 7:84,
Arrived to do a special one-night gig in Elsinore.
Hamlet! Hamlet! Actin’ barmy!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Loves his mammy!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Hesitating,
Wonders if the ghost’s a cheat
And that is why he’s waiting.
So Hamlet wrote a scene for the players to enact
So Horatio and him could watch to see if Claudius cracked.
Now the play was called “The Mousetrap”—not the one that’s running now—
And sure enough, the king walks out before the final bow.
So Hamlet’s got the proof that Claudius gave his dad the dose,
The only problem being now that Claudius knows he knows.
So while Hamlet tells his mother her new husband’s not a fit one,
Uncle Claude puts out a contract with the English king as hit-man.
So when Hamlet killed Polonius, the concealed corpus delicti
Was the king’s excuse to send him for an English hempen necktie,
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to make quite sure he got there,
But Hamlet jumped the boat and put the finger straight on that pair.
When Laertes heard his dad had been stabbed through the arras.
He came runnin’ back to Elsinore tout suite hot-foot from Paris,
And Ophelia with her dad killed by the man she was to marry—
After saying it with flowers she committed hari-kari.
Hamlet! Hamlet! No messin’!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Learned his lesson!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Yorick’s crust
Convinced him that men, good or bad,
At last must come to dust.
Then Laertes lost his place and was demanding retribution,
The king says, “Keep your head and I’ll provide you a solution.”
So he arranged a swordfight for the interested parties,
With a blunted sword for Hamlet and a sharp sword for Laertes.
To make double sure—the old belt’n’braces line—
He fixed a poisoned sword-tip and a poisoned cup of wine.
Well the poisoned sword got Hamlet but Laertes went an’ muffed it
‘Cause he got stabbed himself and he confessed before he snuffed it.
Then Hamlet’s mammy drank the wine and as her face turned blue,
Hamlet said, “I believe the king’s a baddie through and through.”
“Incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,” he said, to be precise
And made up for hesitating once by killing Claudius twice.
‘Cause he stabbed him with the knife and forced the wine between his lips,
He said, “ The rest is silence!”—that was, Hamlet had his chips.
They fired a volley over him that shook the topmost rafters,
Then Fortinbras, knee-deep in Danes, lived happy ever after.
Hamlet! Hamlet! All that gory!
Hamlet! Hamlet! End of story!
Hamlet! Hamlet! I’m on my way!
If you thought that was boring
You should read the bloody play.