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Life is proving just one drama after another...

PUBLISHED: 18:03 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:43 25 August 2010

A LOT TO COPE WITH: Hamlet, played by Sir Laurence Olivier in the classic film made in 1948.

A LOT TO COPE WITH: Hamlet, played by Sir Laurence Olivier in the classic film made in 1948.

ONE of our reactions to the current state of political and economical meltdown is to turn, as our ancestors did, to the theatre.

Melody Foreman: Commentary

ONE of our reactions to the current state of political and economical meltdown is to turn, as our ancestors did, to the theatre.

Some surveys suggest venues hosting live entertainment today are becoming like churches. Each night and theatres all over the land are welcoming in bewildered congregations one and all as we scrabble to unite in our escape from the mire of strife which frustrates and faces us each day.

Greedy MPs, the recession, moral decline, war, poverty . . . it's hardly a surprise there's a rise in our need for anything dramatic or satirical to ring out from our stages. Show us some relief then please Sirs Ian and Michael, Dames Judi, Maggie, Helen and all the rest of you prize theatricals of our age.

See the queues then lining up to see McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup starring in Waiting for Godot at The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, at the moment.

It's also proving difficult securing tickets to see Dame Helen Mirren in the Greek drama, Phedre at The National Theatre, next month - such is the popularity of all things dramatic which prove so much bigger and more inspiring than our troubled country.

It's like we need reassuring how past generations survived and accommodated bleak situations, and depending on the dramatist we want to see acted before us, we'd like some stealthy advice on how to get by if times get even grimmer. Never was there a more important moment in British history than to know the value of character building - something any good actor and/or survivor needs to develop in spades.

Think of all those young people yet to be born who might say to us one day: "What did you do during the political and economic crisis of 2009, Great-Aunty?"

Swearing of course isn't good in front of kids but there's always that old quote of Churchill's to blast at them in reply as it is what most of us are doing anyway today and that's to "KBO - Keep B*ggering On!" that's what we can do, and that's what most of us are trying to do. (Even though the advice comes from Britain's most famous politician who got through a few boxes of cigars on his expenses no doubt?!)

We can thank today's politicians though for driving us to see Shakespeare's Hamlet again. So disillusioned are we with our parliament we can see how anger and self doubt, as the Prince of Denmark discovered, can get so dangerously rolled into one big tortuous adventure for the soul?

For those of us wanting to feel inspired against all odds I recommend a dose of Henry V. And if it's not on stage at a venue near you then there's always the DVD starring Ken Branagh as the noble Prince Harry having his amazing, blood, sweat, tears and sword raising day at Agincourt.

It's pretty awe inspiring to appreciate Shakespeare's patriotism via this play. To accommodate his illumination of the integrity and courage of Henry's tough old army of Englishmen as they defeated the much larger French army with willpower and guts, is highly recommended as a lesson in spirit in during our own struggle to survive.

I'm not saying starve yourself, live in the woods, wear a blanket, carry an axe and have a problem with dental hygiene because in 2009 there's little chance Prince Charles will do a Henry and gallop through the woods in chainmail, and offer you a gold sovereign to attack anyone from over the Channel who's a dab hand with a bow and arrow with an appetite for snails.

But we can understand why William Shakespeare is the world's greatest ever dramatist and it kind of helps.

If we want to witness humanity tried and tested with every single crisis it has had bestowed upon it then Will is our man. And, of course, an Englishman at that. Despite our anger at our MPs it's still ok to remember the rest of us are living in a decent moral universe.

When on BBC Radio Four's Desert Island Discs and asked what he thought the definition of England actually was, the octogenarian actor Peter Sallis (Last of the Summer Wine and voice of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit) said England to him was "about being secure." He also thought we were an eccentric breed of people and reckoned he himself could be on the fringes of being certified at times!?

Can we take heart at this? Is this the best way forward then to come through the current dramas with a determination in a style all of our own as suggested by this actor? Seems so and most of us are adopting this attitude anyway and we still pay our own rents and mortgages and fund our own loo roll bills too.

Another famous personage of more than 80 years old who should be mentioned at this point is HM The Queen who summoned the prime minister to Buckingham Palace for a debate about the moral crisis now facing our parliament.

Our sovereign realises our house then is definitely not in order and the reality of that has become so great she's had to take a stand and question Mr Brown's authority. Now might be the time for HM to commission a new play to act as a morale booster for her bewildered subjects? Today is proving a dramatic time for all of us.

melody.foreman@archant.co.uk

- If you're craving for Shakespeare now then funnily enough All's Wells That Ends Well is at The National Theatre at the moment in the Olivier. See - www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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