Susan Morrison: Witch way will we stare, Miss?

Actor David Hayman, playing King Lear at the Citizens Theatre Glasgow stands in front of statue of William Shakespeare. .Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 28th March 2012
Actor David Hayman, playing King Lear at the Citizens Theatre Glasgow stands in front of statue of William Shakespeare. .Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 28th March 2012
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THERE’S much excitement here at HQ for Previously . . . Scotland’s History Festival (motto: Still Nae Creative Scotland Money) as we have launched our programme and discovered to our shock that it’s getting even bigger. Tell you what, we could teach those pandas a thing or two about multiplying.

We’re even expanding our empire with events in Glasgow, Dunfermline and Stirling. In Glasgow we’re working with the Mitchell Library to put on two events, one with the amazing actor David Hayman.

Time to come clean and admit to a bit of a schoolgirl crush on the mighty Hayman. During his days at the Citizens Theatre with the mad, brilliant Giles Havergal, my school was regularly taken to see whatever the Shakespearean production was at the time. In my sixth year it was, as I recall, Hamlet.

Now, the year before had not gone well. It had been MacBeth, and our English teacher, Miss MacReadie, was tasked to take us fifth years to the theatre. “Miss” was a woman of an indeterminate age but held staunch views on what was then called The Permissive Society, in that this was moral turpitude on a grand scale and civilisation was bound to fall because of the crudeness of the Benny Hill Show and the rise what was referred to as gymslip mums.

But what could possibly go wrong with the work of the Bard? Quite a lot, as it happens, when you unleash the bonkers vision of Havergal on it.

We were all rammed into our seats, when the witches rocketed forward to do their cackle over a cauldron bit and, to the unbounded horror of Miss MacReadie, the three witches were – famously – stark naked. Now, I hate to sound ungallant towards my sisters of the past, but the witchy gals were far from the perky side and so there was a fair amount of drooping going on.

Miss McReadie promptly dropped her purple-wrapped Brazil nut Quality Street, and huckled the fifth year boys up and out and bundled them away, least they be forever corrupted by unexpected exposure to bare bosomed women. She left the entire row – me included – of fifth year girls staring in stunned silence at our futures. Presumably our virtue could withstand the impact of nudity.

None of us had a Scoobie what happened next

So, this year, what could wrong. Hamlet, eh? No room for dangly bosoms there, eh? No, there wasn’t. We had a stunning Hamlet in the form of an incredible performance by Mr Hayman.

On the lead up to the big speech – you know the one, Toby or not Toby – we were suddenly plunged into theatrical darkness, which startled Miss MacReadie, who had drifted off, secure in the knowledge that all the members of the cast were dressed, including Ophelia.

The lights came back up, and there was a dramatically lit black-clad Hamlet, flanked on either side by two Great Danes, who clearly hadn’t been fully briefed. One huge dog looked out into darkness and promptly did what nervous dogs do.

The entire theatre sat in stunned silence until Mark Donald, who had been stuffing his sleeve into his mouth to stop the laughter suddenly roared: “Oh no, look whit Scoobie Doo’s done.”

I don’t know what the reaction to that was, since we were all huckled out by Miss MacReadie, who stuck to the Theatre Royal after that.

Give summer outfits the cold shoulder

As ever, the drop in temperature has been the main point of conversation in queues and buses throughout the city, closely followed by the crabbit observation that choosing an outfit for the day is complicated by the weather pattern.

There is certain gallantly about the autumnal Scot’s refusal to give in to the turn of seasons. Summer was great, so let’s extend it by freezing at the bus stop. And on nights out, let’s pretend we’re still in Ibiza and stagger about the Grassmarket courting exposure in wee frocks that barely cover the bahookie, sporting pale blue legs with orange stripes (fake tan does streak, no matter what they tell you).

Lads are just as bad. Why, I saw a young man on the bus in shorts. In October.

No, my children. It is time to go wardrobe diving to find the semmits and jumpers and carry out the excavation of the drawers to rediscover the gloves and scarves. Summer has most definitely left the building.

Let there be light . . at 4.10

It was just a reflex action. I couldn’t see the page properly, so I leaned over and switched on the wee light on the side table. And then realised that it was ten past four in the day, and therefore still technically the afternoon.

Electric light was burning in the afternoon. It’s autumn. The big switch from late summer to early winter seems to have been fast this year, perhaps because we had a summer worth cracking the sunscreen out for.