Town mouse watches a Shakespeare play

Speaking Shakespeare.

The woman in the row behind me had a plan. ‘If I win the lottery, I’d like to buy this theatre.’ I feigned interest. ‘For my daughter,’ she continued. ‘She’s a drama student. I’d spruce it up a bit.’ It’s true that the Theatre Royal, Margate, would benefit from a fairy godmother. It was built in 1787, with pretty plasterwork and elegant, if inconveniently placed, columns, but popularity spoilt it, because, in the 1870s, it was barbarously enlarged.

How glorious it would be to restore it and create a proper entrance and foyer, making a restaurant and studio theatre. In the meantime, it has something of the charm of a village hall, slightly rundown, but cosy. The usher pops into the street during the interval. ‘Five minutes to go,’ he says to the five of us who are there.

We’d come to the touring production of Shakespeare’s Globe’s Romeo and Juliet. What was actually performed was Romeo and Juli-ette, with the stress on last syllable. For the thespian friend who had bought the tickets, this was a trial. ‘Isn’t anyone taught to speak Shakespeare now?’ he lamented at half time. Thereafter, my ears were plagued by the emphases that fell on apparently random words—sometimes prepositions or conjunctions. Another task for the lady in the row behind, if she wins the lottery.