Shakespeare 400


I attended the Shakespeare Club of WA’s Sonnet competition on Saturday. This began well at a very easy to reach location in a function room at the city train station.  The lady at reception greeted me and my guest. It was no problem that I had changed the guest without notice. I had planned on taking my teenage daughter, but she was still recovering. I told the lady all about it, what a week it had been.

Teen decided to go on an energy drink diet, became very ill, passed out returning from the toilet, hit her head on a wall, knocked herself out, woke up, had a convulsion, foamed at the mouth while crying, “Mum I think I’m dying”, which I agreed with, while wiping up various bodily substances around her. She ended up in hospital. So, getting back to the sonnet competition… I was at the Shakespeare club with my mate, Tam, who, thankfully hung out with me by teens hospital bed. We were both happy to get out of our houses for a while, to relax and listen to the recital of some lovely sonnets.

The judge was Professor Chris Wortham from Notre Dame University. He joked that perhaps he should have bought a bullet-proof vest or sought police protection, since judging any kind of competition is invariably contentious.  He explained that many of the sonnets were very good quality, and in the end he chose based on sticking to the theme, Western Australia, and having a pure English sonnet structure with modern, easy to use language.

The youth were brought up first. I was very impressed by the standard of their sonnets. I think I enjoyed them more than the adult ones!  Then the winner and placers in the adult section were called up to receive their prizes and recite their poems. True to what he had said, all the winning adult poems were Western Australian in theme.

Once that was over with, many of the people looked eagerly at the coffee machines and afternoon tea. There was an hour to go, and I was looking forward to mingling. Suddenly, a guy in the front jumps up and demanded that he wanted to recite his poem. He kept saying it until the host agreed. I looked at Tam. She rolled her eyes. We figured he was clearly unstable. In a white suit, he started his performance by waving his arms around in grand Shakespearean gestures. Tam and I whispered to each other about how a coffee would have been nice at the start of the event, rather than at the end, as it was beginning to drag.

Next thing, the poet pulls out a sharp kitchen knife and holds it in the air. I instantly think about the judge’s earlier comments and wonder if he didn’t jinx himself. The poet strutted about slashing the knife this way and that, lunging his body one moment at the audience, next at the judge, all the time reciting his poem. The family next to me is looking very nervous. A woman in front of me whispers ‘do they have security here’ to her companion. I turn to Tam and say quietly, ‘you know that part in horror movies where people should run, but don’t. This is it.’ She nods. The guy next to me also nods. I pick my bag off the floor, slowly. We dare not move and set him off even more. Could we make it to the doors? I look behind me, they seem closed. Were they locked to keep out the railway riff-raff?  I felt really bad for the event organisers, they clearly put a lot of work into making the day as enjoyable as possible for the attendees, and this was an unpleasant turn of events. But we weren’t staying.

The poet stops his recital. There is a hollow silence in the room. I started to clap, hoping he would sit down. Others join in. He gave a small grin, then starts reciting again. I saw shoulders slumping in the rows before me. The man beside me looked over his shoulder at the closed doors.

Then the poet lifted the knife high in the air and brought it down quickly, going all hurry curry in front of elderly and children alike. Many people covered their eyes and averted their heads. He fell on the floor with the knife in his side. There was a moment of shocked silence. I was extremely glad my daughter wasn’t there—grateful that she had been so ill, rather than cope with this. I thought she would have been upset by the whole thing. I looked at him—did he do it? We were quickly assured he didn’t, as he made the most ridiculous death sounds. There were sighs of relief. It was over, thank God! The host asked if anyone else would like to recite their sonnet. I thought she must have had experience in this sort of thing- because she was a PR saint!

Taking the opportunity, the family beside us headed out the door, with Tam and I following. We ran into the train station relieved to be out of there. They say madmen were once called Shaman. But, I don’t think it’s true. I’m sure they were able to placate the guy, to smooth things over and enjoy the rest of the event as though it was no big deal. Keep calm and carry on.  As for me and Tam, we headed over to the Moon Café to catch the last of the KPS poetry recitals. I picked up their anthology and enjoyed the rest of my afternoon.




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