Actress Sarah Peachey has a mouth-watering sideline as a gifted and inventive baker… So we asked her to cook up her essential guide to delicious and eye-catching Shakespeare Cakes!

As an actress with a special interest in Shakespearean performance, bringing the Bard’s rich language and powerful imagery to life is a wonderful challenge. And doing it with cake? Even more so.
Just like the bright-eyed contestants on The Great British Bake Off, I learned to bake at home. I love the smile on someone’s face as they delight in seeing a cake made just for them. After all, good cake, sweet cake, hath no fellow.
I also love the chance to challenge myself with new designs, so cakes that take their inspiration from Shakespeare combine two of my favourite things.
and so, in true GBBO style, let me show you my bakes!

The Signatures…

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This Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired cake is a take on a classic lemon sponge. The decoration involves a variety of techniques, all representing key imagery from the play.

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“Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell: It fell upon a little western flower, Before, milk-white, now purple with love’s wound, And maidens call it love-in-idleness.”

The iconic flower, cut from sugarpaste and finished with edible glitter.

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“Master Cobweb” represented by a spun sugar nest.

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“Hoary-headed frosts” represented by sugarpaste snowflakes finished with lustre dust.

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“An ass’s nole I fixed on his head” – Bottom’s transformation moulded from chocolate sugarpaste.

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“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania”. Setting the scene with a hand-painted night sky.

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This Ruff Cake was created for repertory theatre company The Merely Players’ end of season show. The brief was to incorporate all the shows from their 2014 season, whilst complementing their “no frills” approach to performing Shakespeare. I created a simple, monochrome ruff from pleated sugarpaste, finished with hand-painted writing to suit their stripped-back style.

The Technicals

Last year, I made two cakes for immersive theatre company RIFT, for their overnight production of Macbeth. RIFT’s designer Jasper Sutherland created two designs for the show.

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The first of Sutherland’s artworks was based on Lady Macbeth.

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The blood-red “Out, damned spot!” circles were cut from sugarpaste and the water that could not “wash this filthy witness from your hand” was created using a watercolour paint effect.

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The design for RIFT’s wrap party cake was based on Sutherland’s Macbeth artwork. I used the three-headed design to create a perspective three-tiered cake. Each layer offered a different flavour for the cast to choose from – rich chocolate, vanilla Madeira and red velvet.

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From the side, the tiers featured show dates and the RIFT logo.

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From above, the tiers aligned to create the image in Sutherland’s design. The shape was achieved by carving the sponge around a template and hand-painting the design onto the icing using a stipple technique.

The Showstopper

To celebrate the Bard’s 451st Birthday on 23 April (the same day our very own Shakespeare Magazine had its first anniversary), I had the pleasure of creating the ultimate Shakespeare Showstopper… The Globe Theatre!
The cake is constructed from two stacked sponges, carved to form the famous “Wooden O” of the theatre. I chose carrot cake as it’s very moist, but strong and earthy, suiting The Globe’s natural materials. Creating these cakes involved peeling and grating 2Kg of carrots!

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The whole thing is covered in sugarpaste and hand painted, with the tiered galleries on the inside and the exposed wooden beams and shutters on the outside. The texture of the thatched roof was achieved using a patterned roller and hand painted. The stage is also edible, with the roof supported by wooden dowels.

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After many hours of construction, I was delighted to hand it over to the staff at The Globe on the day of their birthday celebrations for the Bard. As a thank you, they kindly took me up to the roof for an incredibly special photo opportunity – my model cake next to its full-size counterpart!

Has Sarah has whetted your appetite for show-stopping bespoke cakes?
Go here to find out more about her company Mama Peach & Me.

Find Mama Peach & Me on Facebook.

Charles Edwards plays the unfortunate king in a glittering yet thought-provoking Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe

[Images by Johann Persson for shakespeare’s Globe]

Simon Godwin’s sumptuous production begins with the golden coronation of a boy-king, the future Richard II, the coronation reminding us of the fragile nature of power in a world of court theatrics.

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Richard II (Charles Edwards) is noble yet also delightfully petulant, a contrast to the masculine, clad-in-black Henry Bolingbroke (David Sturzaker). But the production does not hinge on facile oppositions, instead it emphasises the complexity of royal politics. And in the gage throwing scene the ridiculous nature of court factions comes alive, with gloves flying on and off stage.

William Gaunt is a tour-de-force as the ageing John of Gaunt, and Richard’s cruel reaction to his impassioned dying speech is beautifully executed. Richard’s flippancy fades into despair as he loses his hold on power to an ambitious Bolingbroke.

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Anneika Rose plays Queen Isabel with energy. However, the director leaves the ambiguities of her marriage to Richard largely unexplored, opting instead for conventional shows of conjugal tenderness.

The final imprisonment scenes are tastefully done, and Richard is presented with the same wooden horse he held in his boy-coronation. His pathetic reaction to this old toy is particularly poignant.

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The Globe’s thrust stage makes for an intimate proximity with the actors during many of the ‘high’ scenes. The set design by Paul Wills, incorporating the standards of Richard II and Bolingbroke, is evocative of the deeply visual aspect of medieval power. The music, composed by Stephen Warbeck, is also fittingly stately and regal.

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Despite these courtly elements the production also underlines the play’s human aspects, full of foibles and folly. The comic scenes in the garden add warmth, the actors utilising their proximity to the groundlings. Delighting the audience at the end, William Chubb and Sarah Woodward, as the Duke and Duchess of York, make much of their ridiculous pleading for their son, the Duke of Aumerle (Graham Butler).

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As we walked away from the Globe, stepping over the golden confetti strewn on the ground, we realised with surprise that Shakespeare’s words still resonated with us today in their exploration of nationality and identity.

Richard II was staged at Shakespeare’s Globe, London from 11 July – 18 October 2015.

In-demand Shakespeare tour guide and popular Shakespeare Magazine contributor Zoe Bramley tells us about her new book, suitably-titled “The Shakespeare Trail”

The Shakespeare Trail began life as a guided walk through the City of London. Each Saturday afternoon I would lead a small group of curious Bard lovers through the winding alleyways of the ancient Square Mile as we went in search of Shakespeare’s London.

The Guildhall, London, where Shakespeare’s kinsman Edward Arden was placed on trial

The Guildhall, London, where Shakespeare’s kinsman Edward Arden was placed on trial

“I had numerous emails from people who were unable to attend for reasons of geography so I decided to write the walk down. I emailed my idea to Amberley Publishing, not expecting much joy – after all, we all know how impossible it is to get published, right? Wrong!

The site of “The Theatre” in London’s Shoreditch (the graffiti is misleading, as it wasn’t called The Globe)

The site of “The Theatre” in London’s Shoreditch (the graffiti is misleading, as it wasn’t called The Globe)

“Three weeks later I received a cautiously interested email from one of the editors. They wanted me to expand the book; maybe to include the whole of Shakespeare’s England. After some toing and froing by email, I had a contract.

Hamlet statue at the Gower Memorial, Stratford-upon-Avon

Hamlet statue at the Gower Memorial, Stratford-upon-Avon

“Then the really hard work started. The next eight months were spent dashing around the country on research trips to stately homes, castles, churches, and theatres. I seemed to be spending an awful lot of time in various libraries, devouring obscure local history books and learning about Shakespeare’s connections with places I had never dreamed of.

The College of Arms, London – Shakespeare would have applied for his coat of arms at an earlier version of this building

The College of Arms, London – Shakespeare would have applied for his coat of arms at an earlier version of this building

“From Dover to Northumberland, it was a journey of real discovery and surprises, giving me a deeper understanding of our favourite playwright. I hope you will enjoy following the Shakespeare Trail as much as I did. And for any budding authors and historians out there, don’t be afraid to submit your idea to Amberley. They are very approachable and always open to ideas. Go for it!”

FCP Shakespeare Trail
The Shakespeare Trail: A Journey into Shakespeare’s England
is out now.
Go here to order The Shakespeare Trail from Amazon UK.

Go here to find out more about Amberley Publishing.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Gregory Doran completes his ambitious ‘King and Country’ tetralogy with rising star Alex Hassell in the title role of Henry V

[Images by Keith Pattison for the RSC]

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With the 600th anniversary of Agincourt on 25 October, Doran’s production of Henry V at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a standout tribute to both Shakespeare and the battle that helped define British history.

Returning to the role he so effortlessly made his own (opposite Antony Sher’s Falstaff) in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Alex Hassell is undoubtedly the star of the show.

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By the time he’s reciting the legendary St Crispin’s Day speech, Hassell deploys Shakespeare’s words so powerfully that the audience is ready to leap up and follow him into battle.

Hassell also brings some comedy to role of the English king who has left his notoriously misspent youth behind him.

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A particular highlight is the meeting of Henry and the French princess, Katherine, played by Jennifer Kirby. Hassell plays the scene as a Hugh Grant-type character as he petitions his prospective wife to love him whilst overcoming a language barrier.

Alex Hassell is definitely an actor to keep a close eye on as he progresses through his Shakespearean career.

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Other performances that stand out include Oliver Ford Davies as the cardigan-wearing Chorus, Antony Byrne as the fiery Pistol and Jane Lapotaire as Queen Isobel.

Despite Lapotaire only appearing in Act V, her presence is spellbinding and it’s a pleasure to witness her commanding the stage.

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The entire production was captivating from start to finish, and certainly a strong ending to the RSC’s run of history plays over the last couple of years.

Henry V will transfer to London’s Barbican Theatre in November before moving the New York in April 2016.

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Go here to book tickets for Henry V at the Barbican.

This summer, the aptly-named Insane Root theatre company staged Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the subterranean setting of Bristol’s Redcliffe Caves

“Seeing Macbeth unfold deep in the Redcliffe Caves was a compelling and moving experience which made the play come alive in all its brilliant madness and poetry”

[Images by Graham Burke]

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Sometimes a performance space and a company come together and create something special. Insane Root Theatre’s spell-binding Macbeth, directed by Hannah Drake and produced by Justin Palmer, was one of those times.

The play’s run deservedly sold out and created a buzz as part of the 2015 Bristol Shakespeare Festival.

Insane Root was only formed in 2014, so it was especially exciting to see such a new theatre company deliver this thought-provoking and mature interpretation of the play.

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The production opened with the likeable Porter (Andrew Kingston) leading the audience lantern-first into the dimly-lit cave.

Right from the start, the energy in the caves was electrifying, as Macbeth (Ben Crispin) and Banquo (Zachary Powell) conveyed the frenetic atmosphere of a war-torn Scotland.

The witches caused many audience members to shriek; their unnerving appearance enhanced by their guttural and distorted speech.

The contradictory nature of Macbeth’s relationship with Lady Macbeth (Nicola Stuart-Hill) was vividly portrayed.

Lady Macbeth was the perfect balance of ferocious and fragile.

Many of the cast doubled in other roles with Lorna Jinks, James D Kent and Elliot Chapman completing a line-up who never once let the intensity of their performance waver.

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As the play moved towards its tragic end, Ben Crispin excelled as a Macbeth sliding deeper into chaos.

These final scenes really embodied our attraction to power, and our fascination with madness.

The lighting design from Edmund McKay meant flickering shadows, candles and strategic spotlights maintained the slightly surreal, yet intimate, atmosphere throughout.

Redcliffe Caves, situated at the heart of the old docklands, are an interesting part of Bristol’s history, and they have attracted their own body of folklore.

Walking through the caves as part of Macbeth was a truly unique experience.

As we stepped back into the warm Bristol night, we felt deeply moved by the heady and beautiful performance.

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Macbeth in Redcliffe Caves by Insane Root Theatre, 11-27 July 2015

Visit Insane Root’s website.

Visit Insane Root’s Facebook page.

More on Bristol Shakespeare Festival.

Thankfully, the Shakespeare-invoking Broadway extravaganza Something Rotten! fails to live up to its name

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Whenever pop culture tries to adapt Shakespeare – whether it is a Hollywood film or interpretive novel – anxiety for my beloved Bard and excitement for endless possibilities war within my chest.

Naturally, when I first heard of the Broadway musical Something Rotten! those familiar emotions cropped up. After some research into the premise – Elizabethan playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom war with Shakespeare to create the biggest stage success and subsequently create the first Broadway style musical – my excitement swelled.

During the production, tears of laughter streamed down my face, and by the end, I knew my former fears were unfounded.

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Rotten combines the best of Shakespearean and Broadway theatre into a story of ambition, romance, sibling love and creative intrigue.

While the treatment of Shakespeare is somewhat irreverent at times, audiences cannot help but love Christian Borle’s Tony-winning version of the Bard. With a culture obsessed with deifying Shakespeare, seeing a version that drinks, swears, lies, and cheats was refreshingly human.

Staunch Stratfordians might take offence at a Will that steals ideas and lines from fellow playwrights. But the production contains so many anachronisms it can hardly be mistaken for trying to present a historically accurate depiction of 16th century London – let alone one of literature’s most mysterious authors.

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Shakespeare homages apart, the musical numbers in Rotten allude to more Broadway hits than I could recognise – from Annie to The Lion King to Les Miserables.

Yet for all the references to both Shakespeare plays and Broadway musicals, Rotten remained thoroughly accessible and amusing to those unfamiliar with one, or both, of those worlds.

From the script to the music to the choreography, the production consistently surprised and delighted. More than once the actors were left awkwardly paused on stage while the audience erupted into applause at the end of a musical number.

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In the end, Something Rotten! offers three hours of irreverent top-notch musical and Shakespearean entertainment.

Something Rotten! is playing at the St. James Theatre on Broadway in New York City.

Go here for more information and to book tickets.

Brilliant Shakespeare documentary Muse of Fire has been released on DVD – and we have FIVE copies to give away! (including one very special DVD signed by Tom Hiddleston, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen!)

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Muse of Fire is the infectiously entertaining global road-trip/adventure of Giles and Dan, two British actors in search of Shakespeare.

With a supporting cast featuring everyone from Judi Dench and Ian McKellen to Jude Law, Tom Hiddleston and Ewan McGregor, Muse of Fire is one of the most enjoyable Shakespeare lessons ever made – and it’s now being released for the first time on DVD.

Excitingly, we have no less than FIVE Muse of Fire DVDs to give away.

Muse of Fire guys Dan Poole and Giles Terera

Muse of Fire guys Dan Poole and Giles Terera

 

And even more excitingly, one of the DVDs has been signed by Dan and Giles – and also by Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Tom Hiddleston!

To be in with a chance of winning one, simply send an email to shakespearemag@outlook.com with MUSE OF FIRE in the subject line. (Please include your name, address and contact number)

The closing date is the end of Friday 16 October and winners will notified after that date.

This competition is open to all our readers everywhere in the world.

Very best of luck, all!

Check out the trailer for Muse of Fire here.

Go here to order copies of the Muse of Fire DVD.

Go here to read our Muse of Fire cover story in Shakespeare Magazine 05.

This summer saw a Globe Theatre production of Shakespeare’s King John staged in the historic location of Salisbury Cathedral

[Images by Adrian Harris]

Built in 1258 and with a 400-foot spire, Salisbury Cathedral makes an appropriately regal setting for this production of King John, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Royal & Derngate take full advantage of the building’s religious atmosphere.

The audience files in to the accompaniment of a requiem mass, past great bowls of smoking incense and a tomb decked with peace lillies and the armour of Richard the Lionheart.

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Like the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, this production uses only candles for illumination, so sound plays a major role in the staging. Echoing timpani conjure scenes of war and an atmospheric vocal score by Orlando Gough resonates around, rather than getting lost among, the building’s vaulting arches.

It is refreshing to see a cast with an average age of perhaps 45. Jo Stone-Fewings, excellently cast in the title role, is given a greying beard and slight paunch, and his hair is swept across the beginnings of a bald patch. He and director James Dacre (Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate) bring out the sense of randomness in a play where supremacy and success seem subject to chance.

His King John has a Monty Python-esque charm. When the pomp of his coronation is interrupted by the threat of war from France, he snatches the crown, crams it on to his head and legs it for the throne.

The stage is formed of two wide walkways in a cross shape, mirroring the crucifix shape of the cathedral, and is excellently suited for playing out the plays’ shifting political allegiances.

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As Cardinal Pandulph (Joseph Marcell) issues King Philip of France (Simon Coates) with an ultimatum – break with England or break with Rome – Philip stands ‘perplexed’ at the centre of the cross, King John derisive on one side of him, Pandulph deadly serious on the other.

The shape of the stage space also means that actors entering it become visible to some audience members before others.

At the start of the play this prompts much murmuring, craning of necks and nudging of neighbours, not unlike crowds waiting to see a royal procession. It gives some sense of the atmosphere that might have accompanied this play when it was first performed, although of course this building is more splendid than any it would have played in then.

While there is no surviving record of where King John was first performed, it is likely to have been by Shakespeare’s company The Chamberlain’s Men at the Theatre in Shoreditch, circa 1596.

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In recent years it has been the least frequently produced of all Shakespeare’s history plays, and it is the last of the ten to be performed by Shakespeare’s Globe, which comes as a surprise given the great potential of many of its roles.

Ciarán Owens plays the Dauphin Louis as an ambitious lad, compulsively tidying his hair beneath his crown and happy to put up with a wife if that is the cost of land and authority.

Barbara Marten, having recently played an aloof, almost submissive, Gertrude opposite Maxine Peake’s Hamlet (Manchester Royal Exchange) is imperious as John’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

As French Queen Constance, Tanya Moodie also makes the most of a challenging female role, from assertively protecting her child’s birthright to shaking the Cathedral with a primal scream of rage at the injustice that has been done to him.

With the exception of Stone-Fewings, every actor plays more than one role, creating some effective doublings. For example, soprano Aruhan Galieva makes her professional theatre debut as sullen Blanche of Castile, married against her will to secure England’s peace.

Abandoned on her wedding night, she sings a haunting melody of loss as her husband prepares for war with her country. Then a few scenes later, as the prophetess foretelling John’s downfall, she is almost unrecognisable but for her singing voice sending a shiver through the audience.

For me, the production’s most moving moment is when Hubert, the French nobleman who is so struck by French Prince Arthur’s purity and innocence that he cannot assassinate him, happens upon the prince’s broken body.

The Bastard is lamenting at length about “the thorns and dangers of this world”, but all I can focus on is Hubert going proudly, boldly up the stage’s steps with the dead prince’s body in his arms and tears on his face.

In a play so focussed on politics and dominion, this act of love unmotivated by any personal gain resonates more powerfully than all the cries of war.