In a Shakespeare Magazine Exclusive, actress Alison Campbell gives a beautiful performance of the legendary ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Shakespeare Magazine visited the cast and crew of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare at the 2018 Bristol Shakespeare Festival. Alison Campbell, who’s playing Shakespeare himself, gave us this beautiful performance of one of his greatest speeches, as spoken by Jacques in As You Like It (Act II, Scene 7).

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

Text via Open Source Shakespeare

Inspired by James Shapiro’s classic book, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare is running at Bedminster’s Stackpool Playhouse (situated in a well-known local church) until Saturday 14 July. Produced by Jacqui Ham, the play has been written and directed by Ed Viney. Apart from Alison as Shakespeare, the cast is completed by Kirsty Cox as Philip Henslowe and Chris Yapp as Will Kemp.

1599 cast
Running at a short and sharp 70-minutes, it’s a fun and family-friendly introduction to some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, characters and speeches. It also features the actors building an impressive wooden replica of Shakespeare’s Globe as they act out the playwright’s story.

Go here for more information about 1599 and to book tickets.

We caught up with theatre maker Ed Viney at Bristol Shakespeare Festival where he was directing the new comedy play “Shakespeare’s Worst”

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Which play or area of Shakespeare are you working on right now – and what are you getting from it?
“Currently working on Shakespeare’s Worst which is a play by Mike Reiss, former writer/producer on The Simpsons, and Nick Newlin, Shakespearean scholar. It’s about a group of actors staging The Two Gentlemen of Verona, arguably Shakespeare’s worst play. It’s a play on a play and all the things you’d like to say when sat in a theatre watching a really awful production of Shakespeare. It’s very liberating!”

What have you learned about Shakespeare that would have surprised your younger self?
“It’s deceptively simple when you say it aloud.”

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?

“Benedick.” (Much Ado About Nothing)

If I ask you to give me a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to your mind?
“Simply the thing I am shall make me live.” (Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well)

What’s your favourite Shakespeare-related fact?

“Shakespeare wrote for actors.”

You have the power to cast anyone in the world (actor or otherwise) to play any Shakespearean character. Who do you choose – and which role do they play?

“Robert Downey Jnr as Lady Macbeth.”

Shakespeare’s Worst has now ended, but Bristol Shakespeare Festival continues until 29 July.

Go to the Festival website for more details.