Emma Rice on the Summer of Love

2017. It’s fifty years since the Summer of Love and the same number since I was born. Perhaps I was touched by the extraordinary moment I was born into, because my life has been coloured by love of all sorts from the start. My passionate parents set the tone, dripping in love for each other even to this day; my sister, opposite in so many ways but knowing me better than anyone; and my loud-laughing friends who return over and over to renew their unspoken vows. And then there are the lovers; partners and precious ones from different chapters that I have walked beside and hold tightly in my heart.

Love. I celebrate it, practise it, mourn it and fight for it.

But my appreciation and experience of this most seductive of topics is dwarfed by Shakespeare’s understanding of love. My mind spins when I imagine how his life must have been; how hard he worked, how far he travelled, how dark and scary the landscape he lived in must have been. If I close my eyes and propel my imagination back in time, I hear the tectonic plates of the planet creak. I see the ground opening up and Shakespeare clambering out of a deep crack in the earth’s surface; dusty, desperate and gasping for air… then, with the clarity of clear water, he sings from the earth from which he was born. Shakespeare gave voice to desire and to grief, to parenthood and to marriage. He charted the waters of courtship and the loneliness of a failing marriage. He mourned for us, married for us and betrayed for us. He gazed fearlessly into the human existence like no other, before or since. Pre-Freud, pre-therapy, pre-equality or civil rights – he asked the big questions. ‘What a piece of work is a man?’. And my! I love him for it! And in his light I shout the same question into the Thames breeze.

And the answer comes back at me, sweet and low on the same breeze. Men and women are capable of all things. We are capable of greatness and cowardice, of poetry and banality. We can feel deep hatred but we can also move mountains with compassion, empathy and strength. We can bear a grudge but we can also provoke change. Love is at the centre of our human experience. It provides us with the best of times and the worst of times and reminds us that we are alive, connected and part of something greater than ourselves. A little like theatre if all goes well.

And so it is to the best of what we are that I dedicate my second and final season at my beloved Globe. Here’s to love, imagination, freedom, bravery, endurance, celebration and hope. I feel them keenly and value them highly.

2017 – Summer of Love. Be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

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