March 30, 2009


[Note: 2/4/09: This was of course this year’s April Fools’ Day divertissement. Thanks to all who participated.-JS]

Wellington’s love affair with Shakespeare has won Theatreview a scoop involving an extraordinary discovery and an urgent request for our help.

Upper Hutt roading contractor ‘Warwick’ (not his real name) is wrestling with an unusual dilemma. He claims to be "somewhat related through the Barnard line on his mother’s side" to Sussana Hall (nee Shakespeare) who, six months before her birth, precipitated the marriage of an 18 year-old William to 26 year-old Anne Hathaway.

Warwick’s branch of the family ("distant cousins many times removed") immigrated to New Zealand in the mid 1990s. One of the heirloom artefacts his parents chose to bring with them was a Venetian ‘vetro a fili’ glass vase, which ‘Warwick’s eccentric great aunt told him was given to William Shakespeare by a Venetian trader and passed on to his older daughter Sussana, who got most of his chattels on his death (including the best bed, leaving her mother Anne – famously – with only the second-best bed).

Someone was supposed to take the vase to an Antiques Roadshow in Warwickshire but there was "a stuff up" and it never happened. ‘Warwick’ used to think it was really ugly but now he thinks it has "a strange kind of beauty" in certain lights.

Anyway, the vase was sealed by a convex glass plug and just a couple of weeks ago, when ‘Warwick’s wife was cleaning it, it came loose (‘Warwick’ says she stood it in the sink and poured boiling water over it, and he thinks this melted the wax-like substance that held the plug in place). And it seems the vase has been hiding a roll of papers which cannot be extracted without probable damage to them, unless the vase is broken.

‘Warwick’ had a go with a set of kitchen tongs and a torch, attempting to extract the inside page of the roll. He gave up for fear of tearing it but thought he could just discern the words "Labours Wonne" and wonders whether it may be something to do with an election result.

Not knowing where to turn and wanting to deal with someone local, ‘Warwick’ Googled Shakespeare+Wellington in NZ. This took him to the VUW Summer Shakespeare site and a link to the Compleate Workes Festival … and soon he found himself at – and so contacted me (the editor).

I suggested we put the story out and see what people think he should do.
If you wish to discuss this story, please use the Forum option.
Otherwise please vote Yes or No (below) on the following question:

Should ‘Warwick’ break the Venetian vase in order to retrieve the manuscript?




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