This week Fiona discusses the wisdom of youth.
Ali is 13 years old. He lives in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai to be precise. He attends a local Emirati secondary school near the Creek. English is his second language, but he speaks it fluently. Ali is tall for his years, but his penchant for early morning popcorn is taking its toll and he's slightly ungainly. He has the most wonderful face.
I met Ali earlier this week when he attended our screening of the Globe's production of As You Like It at the Novo Cinema in Festival City, as part of our collaboration with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and the British Council's Shakespeare Lives campaign. He came with his classmates and their response to the production left me speechless. In fact it made me weep. I have to admit that I'd been a tad anxious before the screening of the production, knowing that it was a very straightforward reading of the text with little for the students to be jollied along by. The show doesn't have any fancy set or costume design in play and there's no high tech lighting or sound. It's very much a case of bare board bard. Three hours of Shakespeare. Three hours of sitting listening to a play written in 1599, with English being the second language for all of the 12/13 year olds in the audience. Oh and - none of them had ever seen a Shakespeare play before.
Well. What happened next was quite incredible. Sitting in amongst them all was like riding a wave. They were on the edge of their seats and travelling along at a pace at every twist and turn of the story. They heard the play as it was originally intended. They soaked up the language like Elizabethans and made loud and very audible responses to the drama of the piece. It was thrilling and a joy to witness.
At the end of the show I ran a Q and A session and Ali was the first to put up his hand. He didn't have a question. He just wanted to make a comment. He said this is a play about discrimination. This is a play that tells me that having money doesn't make you happy or powerful. The people in the court were more savage than the people in the forest. It taught me a lot. Then one of his classmates put her hand up. I think this is Celia's play. She's really interesting - and funny - she's not selfish like Rosalind and always puts other people first. WOW. This is the stuff of university level essays and these students weren't even studying the play. They came with no preconceived ideas and even better no baggage about Shakespeare. They came to our morning of event cinema full of excitement about what lay ahead.
It was so refreshing to feel renewed by their honest enthusiasm and unfettered response to the play. I felt as though I'd been laundered of all the stale thinking that has gathered in my head about certain things.
Thank you Ali and co for reminding me of the wisdom of youth.