20 September 2014

England: Chester and the Scottish play

We were really lucky with the weather the day we went to Chester for the open-air production of Macbeth at Grosvenor Park. We’d had thunder and lightning in the night and more, plus heavy rain, was forecast for exactly the time the play was on but, in the event, there was only one heavyish shower towards the end of the play, which almost everyone ignored – quickly pull on rain jacket, put bin bag over knees, focus on play – because it was riveting!

What a play it is! The Scottish play has long been my favourite Shakespeare, ever since we studied it in high school under an English teacher who sparked with life and enthusiasm and made Shakespeare come alive for a group of usually-bored-with-English-literature 16-year-olds. And this production was exceptional, with both Macbeth (played by Mark Healy) and Lady Macbeth (Hannah Barrie) performing their roles most excellently, and almost all the bit actors doing a splendid job.


It was superb to see Shakespeare performed live in a round make-shift theatre to an enraptured audience. I have no photos of the actual performance as photography was not permitted so you’ll need to be content with this panorama of the arena and a link to the website.  

We caught the train from Northwich to Chester, as it was easier than parking in the city. The journey only took about 30 minutes, followed by a short bus ride from the station to Chester’s city centre.















I adore
Chester’s inner-city buildings – they have so much character, so much history to admire and absorb. There are black-and-white half-timbered buildings aplenty, and most have carved and painted figures adorning their fronts and gable-ends. 


The oldest streets in Chester also have a kind of double-decker shopping arrangement called the Rows, a series of first-floor covered walkways with shops all along one side – very sensible on a rainy day, I can tell you. Some of the inner city streets are also turned over to pedestrians during the daytime – as a non-driver, I heartily approve of this measure.


Chester is home to a very impressive Anglican cathedral, a glorious building of great age – construction of its various parts ranges from 1093 through to the 16th century. The nave has a fabulous high roof, and the wooden choir stalls are very finely carved. 

The interior also contains the tombs of an 11th-century bishop and a 12th-century monk, as well as several chapels (dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, and Sts Oswald, George, Nicholas and Werburgh). The stained glass windows, some old, some modern, are particularly beautiful as you can see from the photos.


There is a café in the refectory hall, appropriately enough – though we didn’t eat there, and a well-stocked gift shop – though we didn’t buy anything. The Cathedral is a Grade 1 listed building, and definitely well worth a visit.  

Chester’s Roman past is of particular interest to me, as a former Classics scholar, but we didn’t have a lot of time for that during this visit. We did take a quick look at the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and garden and, in the late afternoon, after the play had finished, we took a turn around half of the city walls.



We strolled along the riverside where boats were taking visitors on trips and a band was playing in the rotunda, we ate, and Sarah did a spot of shopping. Apart from the occasional shower of rain, we had a thoroughly enjoyable day, and then as ..

            Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood;
Good things of the day begin to droop and drowse;
(Macbeth, Act 3, scene 2)


… we caught our train home before the witches came out to play.