Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration at Tūranga

On Tuesday 23 April, Christchurch City Libraries celebrated William Shakespeare's birthday with canapes and elderberry cordial, and plenty of jolly japes in the form of readings and performances from the crack acting troupe of library staff.

It opened with an attention-getting performance of "All the World's A Stage" from As You Like It by Tūranga staffer Rob, followed by lute playing from a Canterbury Music student. This was a real scene-setter for the performances to come which roughly followed the chronology of the ages of man described in the piece.

Then, just as the diverse audience were making a beeline for the canapes, Emma, another Turanga staffer, wowed them with a song, "Sigh No More, Ladies" from Much Ado About Nothing. Emma is a classically-trained singer and she sang with great passion and bravura.

Images from Shakespeare's Birthday on Flickr.

Then it was straight into the amusing Scene IV from Henry V with Emma playing Katharine and Andrea playing Alice, her lady-in-waiting. Language was mangled in the pursuit of comedy.

Then we had the lovely Juanita, a ring-in actor, perform a scene from Troilus and Cressida in Te Reo Māori. Juanita and Andrea followed this up with recitations of Sonnet 18 in Te Reo Māori and English. Andrew tried to stir the hearts of any patriotic Poms in the audience with the rousing "St Crispin's Day" speech from Henry V. According to later feedback, at least one audience member felt the pride of Agincourt stir in his breast.

The evening's official performances ended with Andrew and Rob performing the Drunken Porter speech from Macbeth.

The audience were then invited to the microphone to share any Shakespearean text they were passionate about and two young women responded with gusto.

Why April 23 you may ask? Well, it turns out that William Shakespeare was not only a great writer, but he had a great sense of symmetry too. It seems he also died on 23 April; in 1616, when he was 52 years of age. According to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website, he was "born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in April 1564. The exact date of his birth is not recorded, but it is most often celebrated around the world on 23 April. Shakespeare’s baptism is recorded in the Parish Register at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 26 April 1564. Baptisms typically took place within three days of a new arrival, and parents were instructed by the Prayer Book to ensure that their children were baptised no later than the first Sunday after birth. This means that it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was born any earlier than the previous Sunday, 23 April. Given that three days would be a reasonable interval between birth and baptism, 23 April has therefore come to be celebrated as his birthday."

Thanks to Tūranga for hosting this wonderful event. Kudos also to Rose Crossland, Helen Jackson and Emma Johnston for all the work they did in organising this event. And thanks to all the librarian-actors who shall remain, I mean, nameless. We don't want the fame going to their heads.

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