With yesterday being the Birthday, or the Deathday, or possibly both of William Shakespeare, I could think of no-one I would rather bake a cake for today. I am unashamedly enamored of Shakespeare.
This love affair started at a young age and, while I could blame this all upon my parents who encouraged and enabled me, this feels far too obvious. Instead, I feel that I should blame the BBC.
In 1992, the BBC first aired Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. I was 10 years old. This series of beautifully animated, beautifully abridged episodes each presented an entire play in 30 minutes to an impressionable and theatrically-inclined child. They were heart-breaking. They were terrifying. They were unforgettable.
What William Shakespeare left behind him in his body of work spans generations, as relevant to me and my experience of the world as it has been to my Mother and to countless audiences for hundreds of years. What insight this man possessed to be understood and recognised by people living in times that he could not even imagine. No matter how many times these works are remade or reimagined through the years, the tales are timeless.
These are three of my favourite film adaptations – I think Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet was compulsory teenage viewing (if you date me onwards from earlier in this post, I was 14 at the time of this huge film’s release, saw it in the cinema and ugly cried full on sobs). 10 Things I Hate About You is the ultimate guilty pleasure; a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew for the MTV generation, and Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Richard III to mirror the rise of fascism in full 1930s styling has me on the edge of my seat from its tank-bursting-through-a-wall opening to the strains of its Al Jolson ending.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Mark Rylance as Richard III on stage. Both my Mum and I have regretted missing Kevin Spacey in the role. I genuinely felt like I needed to sit quietly for an hour and recover after Benedict Cumberbatch’s death scene most recently on the BBC.
I have often wondered how Romeo & Juliet would work in a modern setting where smartphones and Snapchat would surely prevent any medicinal mishaps at the end of the play… provided adequate 4G coverage was available in the tomb and no phones run out of battery. This play will continue to be relevent in a modern setting so long as teenagers are impatient and first love all-consuming.
Shakespeare’s words were read during my Wedding ceremony in the place of any religious text and his imagery has inspired my cakes on more than one occasion (there is a Midsummer Night’s Dream Cake in my book Deliciously Decorated). This relationship is likely to last a lifetime.
William Shakespeare just got it. He got us and for this I would love to bake him a cake. In my fantasy, I provide the cake and just let him write. Maybe he would share a line or two with me as he worked. Maybe he would ask for my opinion or even name a character for me – a supporting role, maybe a comic or a baddie, one who all the actors want to play and who steals the show in a few choice lines every night.