In 1965 the BBC televised The Wars of the Roses, a previous epic cycle of Shakespeare's history plays at the RSC, and the English Shakespeare Company's cycle of the late 1980s was also recorded (using the same title). This time, disgracefully, no TV channel or film company saw fit to record this extraordinary event for broadcast and for posterity. So congratulations should go to Oberon Books for publishing Nick Asbury's wonderfully vivid blog of his participation in the plays as at least one record of an event which Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph described as "so many extraordinary words, so much outstanding acting, such an epic vision from the greatest writer the world has ever known, and, four centuries on, from the company that dedicates itself to his work".
Nick Asbury is a born diarist and chronicles his experience passionately, wittily and at times very movingly, especially when relating events in his and other company members' personal lives to the themes Shakespeare explored himself. There is much humour too - among many unforgettable hilarious episodes, one of my favourites is when Lex Shrapnel, a terrifically fiery Hotspur who is supposed to hurl his gauntlet aggressively at Aumerle (Jimmy Tucker) in Richard II, in one performance let go too soon, resulting in the glove sailing in the wrong direction across the stage, reducing Nick to corpsing uncontrollably with the others just about holding on until they got off stage!
The book contains a long newly written introduction by Nick covering the events leading up to the point at which the blog starts, and also includes a number of responses to the blog which show the impact this theatrical experience had on many of the members of its audience. A nice selection of the production photos by Ellie Kurttz are in the book too, as well as some taken by two of Nick's fellow actors - the last photo is proof positive that the ghost of Richard II could play table tennis!
For anyone who, like me, saw and loved the Histories, buy the book and rejoice in the memories it will bring back. For anyone who didn't see them, buy it and get a vibrant flavour of what you missed and a memorable account of the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph of living through and "playing" in the Histories.