Shake–Scene Shakespeare are presenting rare cue-script performances of The Merchant of Venice at The Cockpit Theatre in London’s Marylebone from 3rd to 7th October 2017

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This Autumn, William Shakespeare’s intricate play is brought to life by actors from Shake-Scene Shakespeare. Using the technique of ‘cue-script’ preparation, the actors take to the stage without any prior group rehearsal with their fellow cast. Guided only by their character’s lines and immediate cue words, the performers embark on a gripping journey of discovery as actors enter the stage without knowing what scenario or whom they are about to face. The audience journeys with them as they step into the unknown and gamble moment to moment.

Actors performing in Tudor playhouses during the Bard’s time used this method of performance. Today’s theatre goers will get to experience (as close to as possible) the revealing experience of an Elizabethan audience, while seeing a 21st Century production. During that time, audiences were known to pay double to see new plays performed for the first time and to witness these delightful moments of discovery and surprise. Certain aspects of casting, however, will be different – such as some traditionally male roles being played by female actors.

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The cast includes Charlotte Gallagher (The Judas Kiss, Duke of York’s Theatre), Jonathan McGarrity (The Full Monty national tour) and Mary-Ann Cafferkey (Offie nomination for Proof at the Tabard Theatre).

Shake-Scene Shakespeare specialises in cue-scripted live performance, using a 16th century theatre practice to innovate theatre making. Lizzie Conrad Hughes, the creator and Artistic Director of Shake-Scene Shakespeare, has produced two previous cue-scripted plays: The Tempest in 2016 and The Two Gentleman of Verona in 2015. Both productions thrilled audiences, received critical acclaim and attracted academic interest. Lizzie has been teaching Shakespeare for 25 years alongside a career as an actress.

Viv Groskop (Writer, Comedian and BBC Radio 4 presenter) is a Patron of Shake-Scene Shakespeare. Having experienced first hand performing in a cue-script production she understands the process particularly well.

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“Shake-scene Shakespeare is an experience, seen to be believed,” Viv says. “Everyone on stage is there without a parachute, not knowing what’s coming next. I had no idea that this was how Shakespeare wrote – under huge pressure, with barely enough time to rehearse. It makes so much sense when you see it. So much of the text is about the surprise of the actors finding out what’s going on at the same time as the audience. It brings a whole new level of understanding to Shakespeare”.

Listing and Booking Information:
Date: Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 7th October 2017
Time: 7pm (Approx running time: 2 hrs 30mins, including interval)
Venue: The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 3EH
Tickets: £20.00 Booking: www.thecockpit.org.uk
Box Office: + 44 207 258 2925
Find out more about cue-script performances via the Shake-Scene Shakespeare website.

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Starting university this month? Shakespeare Magazine’s Editor Pat Reid shares the FIVE things you absolutely need to know if you’re new to studying Shakespeare (and you want to get the most out of your English Literature degree)

Shakespeare Magazine is based in the English city of Bristol, which is also home to one of the major British universities (well, two if you include nearby UWE). At this time of year, I can’t help but notice the influx of new, fresh-faced young students as the academic year begins, and I often take a moment to reflect on my own, not-exactly-distinguished university career.

Yes, the sad truth is I was a lousy student. But I’ve learned a lot since then. And I reckon that if I ever had the chance to be a student again, I could actually end up with a pretty decent degree.

One of the reasons why students can underperform is because it’s such an overwhelming experience. You’re bombarded with so much information about your subject that you end up not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s easy to find yourself wasting all your time and energy on areas that are ultimately irrelevant.

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So right from the start you need to work out two things:

What are the key areas I need to cover?

How can I add something of myself that will make me stand out from everyone else?

With this in mind, here are Shakespeare Magazine’s Five Essential Tips that every new student of Shakespeare should pay attention to.

ONE: Get a grasp of all Shakespeare’s plays, not just the big ones.

If you’re only familiar with a few of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar, the full list of 38 plays can look a little scary. But it’s really important that you delve into as many as possible if you want to be ahead of the game. To lots of people, the least attractive titles are Shakespeare’s History plays, because they just look like a traffic jam of names and numbers – Henry IV, Part 1, and Henry VI, Part 3, and so on. However, once you start actually getting into the Histories, this is where you find a lot of Shakespeare’s best and most entertaining stuff.

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It’s a similar story with Shakespeare’s Comedies, which are an awful lot ruder and funnier than many people realise. I’d even go as far as to argue that contemporary hit comedies on TV such as Peep Show and The Inbetweeners are the direct descendants of Shakespeare plays like The Comedy of Errors and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A great way to investigate Shakespeare’s complete plays is with the Shakespeare300 app. It’s very cheap, and it gives you a clear and simple introduction to each play, along with some really useful information and statistics. Then, when you start reading chunks of plays or entire works, the www.playshakespeare.com website has another excellent free app, Shakespeare Pro, where you can easily access the complete plays.

TWO: Read up on Shakespeare’s biography and the history of the times he lived in.

You can’t study Shakespeare without being at least partly a historian. It’s an inescapable fact that the more you know about the historical background to Shakespeare’s life and times, the greater will be your understanding of the man’s works. For example, there’s still a very strong perception that Shakespeare was an exclusively Elizabethan playwright. Outside the academic community, many people don’t realise that a big chunk of his career was actually spent as a King’s Man, working for Elizabeth I’s successor King James I (who was also King James VI of Scotland).

Once you get a taste for it, Elizabethan and Jacobean (the era of King James) history is as dramatic and compelling as any of Shakespeare’s works. Did you know, for example, that the infant Shakespeare narrowly survived an outbreak of plague in Stratford-upon-Avon? Or that, as a King’s Man, the 41-year-old Shakespeare could easily have been blown up in the Gunpowder Plot? Or that the Globe Theatre was burnt down by a fire started by a cannonball (fired as a special effect during a performance of Henry VIII)?

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Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare
is still probably the most readable introduction to Shakespeare’s life and career. When you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, try two books by James Shapiro – 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and 1606: Shakespeare and The Year of Lear.

THREE: Don’t be afraid to ask questions

A pretty good rule for life is: if you don’t know something, ask an expert. Obviously, you need to put in a good amount of work yourself, and try not to waste your tutor’s time with stuff that’s irrelevant or trivial. But remember, your tutor or lecturer is a font of expert knowledge, and they are there to be tapped. Back in the Dark Ages when I was a student, I felt embarrassed about the gigantic gaps in my knowledge, and one or two tutors did make me feel stupid for asking stuff. Today, of course, my job as a journalist involves putting questions to Shakespeare experts in order to get good information to share with my readers. It’s exactly the same with your university coursework.

Shakespeare is a massive subject, and you can’t be expected to know everything. However, do try to work on presenting your questions so they stimulate an enthusiastic response. Find out your tutor’s special areas of expertise and mine them for all they’re worth. When asking a tutor a question, it’s good if you can demonstrate that you’ve gained a certain amount of knowledge of the subject, but that you’re trying to acquire more. For example: “My teacher at school said that in Shakespeare’s day it was illegal for women to act on the English stage. Is this true? Can you tell me what is the current academic consensus on the subject?”

FOUR: Remember Shakespeare’s poems – and not just the Sonnets

In his own lifetime, Shakespeare’s name as a writer was perhaps most widely known in connection with his two bestselling long narrative poems – Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Today, these once hugely-popular poems are often forgotten, as so much attention is given to now-legendary plays like Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. So if you want to score some extra points with your tutors, make the time to read Shakespeare’s poems, and demonstrate your knowledge by including quotes and references in your essays. The good news is that Venus and Adonis is entertaining, quite saucy, and relatively easy to read. And in combination with Lucrece, it’ll help increase your knowledge of Classical (ie Greek and Roman) literature which is essential background to Shakespeare.

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The bad news is that many people, myself included, find Shakespeare’s Sonnets dense, demanding and difficult. However, there’s only 154 of them and they’re only 14 lines each. Believe me, you can do it. And once you’ve read Shakespeare’s sonnets, you can afford to feel proud because there is now officially nothing in English Literature that you can’t handle. For help with the Sonnets, try William Sutton’s Sonnet Book. There’s also an engaging YouTube series by the Sonnet Sisters.

FIVE: Get used to thinking about Shakespeare all the time.

During my school days, a great teacher named Mr Murphy once pointed out that the best way to get good at an academic subject is to make it part of your everyday life. So for example if you’re studying Economics, the student who reads the Financial Times every day (and The Economist each week) is going to learn more about the subject than the student who just does their coursework and nothing else.

It’s like that with Shakespeare. You’re going to get out what you put in and, quite frankly, why settle for doing the bare minimum, when there’s so much fun to be had in reaching for the absolute maximum. Everything you learn about Shakespeare is going to help in some way, so here’s some of the best ways to maximise your Shakespeare intake.

1. Read Shakespeare Magazine. Obviously. Get every single issue completely free here.

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2. Go and see any and all Shakespeare plays in your vicinity. Can’t afford a ticket? Try blagging a freebie by offering to review it for your student magazine. See if you can help organise student trips to major theatres such as the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare’s Globe in London. (While you’re in Stratford, be sure to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace as well)

3. Get a part in a student production of a Shakespeare play – one of the best ways to experience Shakespeare is on the stage itself. Not up for acting? There’s a plethora of backstage roles, so there’s bound to be one that suits you.

4. Watch as many Shakespeare videos as you can. The two series of The Hollow Crown are a great starting point, as are any of the Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare films, plus the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet. Here’s a tip – watch them with the subtitles on. You’ll find that you understand it better when you’re seeing it, hearing it and reading it at the same time.

5. Listen to Shakespeare podcasts. These are great for listening to on journeys, or for a bit of extra learning while you exercise, relax – or even while doing the dishes. Three of the best ones are Reduced Shakespeare Company, Emma Smith: Approaching Shakespeare and Sheldrake on Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare Magazine is in trouble – big trouble. Can you help?” An urgent appeal to all our readers around the world from Pat Reid, Founder and Editor of Shakespeare Magazine

Dear Readers,

The headline really says it all. Shakespeare Magazine is in trouble.

This month, I ran out of money and exceeded my overdraft limit at the bank. As a result, Shakespeare Magazine‘s future is in danger.

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I’ve taken on part-time work for a media company (here in Bristol, England) and I’ve also been editing Shakespeare articles for a client in the USA. But my payments haven’t come through yet, and in the meantime I’m behind with my rent and bills.

This includes my monthly payments to Issuu and Yumpu, the companies that provide online platforms for Shakespeare Magazine.

I’m also unable to send out the latest batch of Shakespeare Magazine T-shirts and gift packs, because I don’t have the money for postage.

And now there’s a disturbing possibility: I may get so far into debt that Shakespeare Magazine will effectively cease to exist.

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I need to stress that most of the amounts I’m talking about are extremely small, but I need to urgently request your help in raising the money.

And so I’m asking you to please send me what you can afford: whether ten pounds (or dollars, euros etc), or a hundred or a thousand – or even more.

The bigger the donation, the greater the chance of saving Shakespeare Magazine.

I now have a paypal.me link for instant donations. It accepts payments in most major currencies

And please email me via shakespearemag@outlook.com if you would like to donate by an alternative method.

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With your help, I am confident I can get back on track to publish two issues of Shakespeare Magazine before the new year: one at the end of October, and one just before Christmas.

Naturally, I will be very happy to answer any questions or propositions you may have.

Thank you so much for any and all support you can give to Shakespeare Magazine.

Yours sincerely,

Pat Reid, Founder and Editor – Shakespeare Magazine

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As always, go here to get all 12 issues of Shakespeare Magazine free via Issuu.

Or go here to get all 12 issues free via Yumpu. (Some readers prefer this platform)

From Sharpe to Shakespeare: Bestselling author Bernard Cornwell has a new Elizabethan-era novel, Fools and Mortals. And its hero is a certain Richard Shakespeare. Can you guess whose brother he is?

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From the official press release:
Fools and mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry – and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory – propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal.

Showcasing his renowned storyteller’s skill, Bernard Cornwell has created an Elizabethan world incredibly rich in its portrayal. You walk the london streets, stand in the palaces, and are on stage in the playhouses, as he weaves a remarkable story in which performances, rivalries and ambition combine to form a tangled web of intrigue.

A global brand, Bernard Cornwell is the author of over 50 novels published in 30 countries and in 28 languages. He has sold over 20 million books around the world.
Bernard was born in London, raised in Essex, and worked for the BBC for 11 years before meeting Judy, his American wife. Denied an American work permit, he wrote a novel instead, and has been writing ever since. He and Judy divide their time between Cape Cod and Charleston, South Carolina.

Fools and Mortals in published in the UK on 19 October 2017 and in the USA on 9 January 2018.

Go here to order your copy of Fools and Mortals.

Go here to read an excerpt from Fools and Mortals.

From the vaults: “A visually stunning, action-filled Bardfest with top-notch performances…” Film critic Robin Askew’s 1996 review of Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, which unforgettably starred Ian McKellen

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Opening with an action scene strongly reminscent of one of the more audacious stunts in Goldeneye and climaxing in a style that owes more to Terminator 2 than any of those stilted school stage productions which are the closest most of us get to the Bard, Richard Loncraine and Ian McKellen’s reworking of Richard Eyre’s daring stage adaptation is clearly not for the Shakespeare purist. That said, it’s not a crass attempt to bring Richard III to “the kids”, either; rather a bold and inspired reimagining of the play’s universal themes in a handsomely staged civil war-torn alternate-world England of the 1930s.

McKellen is a hypnotically watchable, oily, scheming Richard, cursed by physical deformity but unstintingly ruthless in his pursuit of power in this jazz age Albion awash with the sinister trappings of fascism. Following the death of the King and the accession of his elder brother Edward, Richard’s blood-spattered path to the throne becomes clear. First he must seduce and marry Lady Anne (Kristin Scott Thomas) – here reduced to a pitiful junkie with needle tracks up her arms – whose husband he slaughtered during the Civil War.

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Then, with the aid of the greedy Duke of Buckingham (Jim Broadbent) and his faithful assassin James Tyrell (Adrian Dunbar), this brilliant, twisted strategist sets about removing every obstacle in his way, from his brothers King Edward (John Wood) and the gentle Clarence (Nigel Hawthorne) to Earl Rivers (Robert Downey Jr), brother of the widowed Queen Elizabeth (Annette Bening), who meets his end in a particularly grisly manifestation of coitus interruptus.

A visually stunning, action-filled Bardfest, pared to just the right length, with top-notch performances from its venerable thesps, including oddly cast American Downey Jr and a suitably regal Bening, Richard III makes outstanding use of its imaginative locations, from the palace at St. Pancras Station to the final tank battle in the shadow of Battersea Power Station. McKellen contributes a performance of such lip-smacking evil – all crocodile smiles and sly asides to camera – that even a ferocious public disowning by Queen Mum Maggie Smith is barely able to deflect it for more than a heartbeat.

This review originally appeared in Venue Magazine.

Richard III (15)
UK / 1996 / 103 minutes
Director: Richard Loncraine.
Cast: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Maggie Smith, Nigel Hawthorne, Adrian Dunbar, John Wood

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