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.

cue script liz

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OPPORTUNITIES BELOW POSTED 04 August 2017

LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Learning Sales Administrator
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JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Group Sales Administrator
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JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks an Operations and Marketing Administrator
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LOCATION: Various, UK
OPPORTUNITY: 2018 auditions/backstage interviews for National Youth Theatre now open 
DETAILS: For ages 14-25
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JOBS or COURSES BELOW POSTED 07 July 2017

LOCATION: Bristol, UK
COURSE: One-week course on Acting in Shakespeare Plays
DETAILS: At Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, the course runs from Monday 24 July to Friday 28 July. Cost: £450
Go here for more information and to apply for a place on this course.

JOBS BELOW POSTED 02 July 2017

LOCATION: Terra Alta, West Virginia, USA
JOB: Writer/Scholar seeks experienced Editor for short (1-2 pages) Shakespeare articles for website, aimed at middle school students.
Prefer 20+ years experience teaching English Literature. International contributors are welcomed. Will be happy to discuss rates.
CLOSING DATE: This position is open until filled.
For more information and to apply for this job: Please contact Donald via email: donaldstump85@yahoo.com

LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Bridge Theatre seeks an Assistant Director to work with Nicholas Hytner on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
CLOSING DATE: 10 am Monday 3 July 2017
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JOBS BELOW POSTED 25 June 2017

LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks an Assistant Retail Manager – Birthplace Gift and Book Shop
CLOSING DATE: 07 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Retail and Reception Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 07 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks Education Assistants – Make a Scene
CLOSING DATE: 02 July 2017
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JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Supporter Relations Officer
CLOSING DATE: 30 June 2017
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JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Development Coordinator
CLOSING DATE: 30 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Catering and Hospitality Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 25 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Catering Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 25 June 2017
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JOBS BELOW POSTED 20 June 2017

LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Building Operations Manager
CLOSING DATE: 5 July 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks an Assistant Front of House Volunteer Manager
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JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Globe Education Coordinator, Learning Projects
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JOB: The Royal Shakespeare Company seeks a Head of Application Delivery
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Globe education Coordinator, Higher Education
CLOSING DATE: 26 June 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Theatre Assistant
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JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Globe Education: Read Not Dead
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JOB: The Royal Shakespeare Company seeks an Assistant to the Director of Commercial Services & Director of Sales and Marketing
CLOSING DATE: 21 June 2017
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JOBS BELOW POSTED 16 June 2017

LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Human Resources Director
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Concessions Lead
CLOSING DATE: Application deadline is 12 July 2017
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JOB: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival seeks an Education Director
CLOSING DATE: This position will be filled as soon as possible, ideally by 5 July 2017
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
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How Shakespeare’s vibrant London neighbourhood of Bankside will be celebrating the Bard’s life and legacy in April 2016

Please credit the photographer John Tramper
[Image by John Tramper]

Home to Shakespeare’s Globe, The Rose Playhouse, Southwark Cathedral and The George Inn, London’s Bankside celebrates its Shakespearean history with a host of special events including walks, theatre performances and themed menus.

Shakespeare’s Globe – The Complete Walk, 23-24 April
Visitors are invited on a journey along the bank of the Thames to experience an extraordinary celebration of Shakespeare’s works. 37 screens along a 2.5 mile route through Bankside and beyond will show a series of specially-made short films. Actors including Simon Russell Beale, Peter Capaldi, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell and Zawe Ashton will perform scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, shot in the places hovering in his imagination. Visitors can expect to see The Merchant of Venice’s Shylock within the Venetian Jewish ghetto, and Hamlet at Elsinore’s Kronborg castle.

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Actor Simon Russell Beale

Hamlet, 23-24 April 2016
The Globe’s unprecedented world tour of Hamlet returns home for a weekend of celebratory final performances, marking 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Tickets are currently sold out but more are due to be released in the weeks before the performance.

Southwark Cathedral
The tombstone of William’s brother Edmund Shakespeare, who was an actor, lies between the choir stalls in Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral church building in London. Shakespeare’s troupe of actors lodged here, and the choir at the Cathedral prospered during Shakespeare’s day when Southwark was the entertainment centre of London. A Shakespeare monument and stained glass window (depicting characters from some of his plays) is the Cathedral’s most popular memorial.

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In collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe, a specially curated service will take place at 11am on Saturday 23 April. The service is invitation only and will blend liturgical worship, music and performance, while drawing on material from Shakespeare’s late romances.

It will be followed by Find Me a Publisher at 2pm, the story of Heminge and Condell and the journey of the First Folio towards publication. The event will feature lute songs and performances from Arthur Smith, Rick Jones and Jane Jones. Find Me a Publisher is free and open to the public.

On Friday 22 April and Friday 29 April at 11am there will be guided walks uncovering the history of Bankside and the links between the Bard and the Cathedral.
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The Rose Playhouse
Bankside’s original Tudor theatre – where Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part I and Titus Andronicus were first performed – will kick off celebrations with a midnight performance of Much Ado About Nothing on Friday 22 April. Wolf Sister Productions and director Alex Pearson stage a modern take on the much-loved Shakespearean comedy.

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Measure for Measure
, co-directed by Simon Rodda and Rebecca Rogers, will follow from 10 May to 26 May 2016. Tickets £12

Every Saturday from 10am – 5pm, explore the fascinating history of The Rose and its exciting future. At present, two-thirds of the original foundations have been excavated and protected for future generations to experience. The Rose Theatre Trust is now engaged in raising funds to excavate the remaining third and to make the site a permanent display as an educational and historical resource for the public to learn from and enjoy.

WALKS AND TOURS

Shakespeare’s Bankside – a walk with John Constable
Wednesday 27 April at 7pm-8.30pm and Sunday 8 May at 2pm-3.30pm.
Join local historian, writer and playwright John Constable to discover Shakespeare’s Bankside.
On this free walk, visit the sites of famous playhouses – set among bear-pits and brothels. Constable’s popular Bankside walks reveal the human face of The Bard in the place where he and his fellow actors lived, worked and partied.
Walks start at Shakespeare’s Globe and finish at The George Inn. Duration: 1.5 hours.

FOOD AND DRINK

Bread Ahead bakery in Borough Market will be serving Honey and Mead doughnuts as the order of the day, filling their famous decadent doughnuts with an Elizabethan twist. On Sunday 24 April they will run two half-day workshops – The Bread Ahead Ye Olde Introduction to English Baking – where participants will learn how to make Lardy Cake, a classic white tin and Manchet, an Elizabethan bread recipe.
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British restaurant Roast will offer a special menu from 18-24 April, with typical dishes of the era, along with special cocktails. On 23 April, the bar will be full of themed activity including small plays, a children’s choir, mandolin guitar player, and a prize giveaway for all diners to enter.

Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Café will celebrate Shakespeare with a special menu of authentic dishes from Venice, Verona and Vicenza – the exotic corner of Northern Italy imagined in The Merchant of Venice, The Two Gentleman of Verona, and Romeo and Juliet. Enjoy a feast of baccala, bigoli pasta and Venetian fried cream from 23 April to 22 May.
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The four-course dinner menu, including a Romeo & Juliet cocktail on arrival, is £40 per person, or £55 with matching wines.

Following an extensive refurbishment, and to coincide with Shakespeare’s anniversary, the Swan Restaurant at Shakespeare’s Globe has re-opened its doors with a vibrant new look and new menu. Diners can experience a Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed afternoon tea for the occasion from 23 April. The new Hilton London Bankside will offer an honorary cocktail menu in The Distillery bar.

Bankside’s nearest tubes are London Bridge/Southwark, while its closest train stations are London Bridge/Blackfriars.

Go here for more information on all Bankside’s activities.

Check out the trailer and clips from brilliant Shakespeare comedy film BILL, arriving in UK cinemas Friday 18 September

The funniest Shakespeare film of the year is upon us.

The UK comedy heroes who brought us Horrible Histories have tackled the mystery of Shakespeare’s “lost years”.

Matthew Baynton as Bill Shakespeare in BILL

Matthew Baynton as Bill Shakespeare in BILL

 

The result is BILL, a Shakespeare film that pulls off the neat trick of being brilliantly silly while packing in enough literary and historical references to satisfy the most ardent of Shakespeareans.

Quite possibly the most entertaining Bard film since Shakespeare in Love, it’s also a razor sharp parody of Tudor costume dramas like the Elizabeth films.

Helen McCrory as Queen Elizabeth I in BILL

Helen McCrory as Queen Elizabeth I in BILL

 

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the trailer and four clips below for a taste of BILL’s many mirthful moments.

We’ve also added cinema links at the end, so you can book your tickets right now!

TRAILER:

“People will remember the name Shakespeare… twenty years from now!”

CLIP 1:

Richard Hawkins versus King Philip of Spain

“Do look me up if ever one of your Armadas pans out…”

CLIP 2:

Shakespeare gets in a spot of bother at the meat market

“No problem. Just a salad that needs… addressing”

CLIP 3:

Queen Elizabeth and the King of Spain

“I came straight here. No funny business”

CLIP 4:

Marlowe meets Walsingham

“What are you doing in a pie?”

BILL (94 minutes, Cert: PG) is released in the UK on Friday 18 September.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Cineworld Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Odeon Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Vue Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Showcase Cinemas.

Exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House in London celebrates Shakespeare and charts the 18th-century origins of Shakespearean ‘Bardolatry’

A new exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House in London will showcase a range of prints, portraits, books and ephemera. Never before displayed together, they chart the relationship between William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), two of the most quoted Englishmen in the language.

The exterior of Dr Johnson’s House

The exterior of Dr Johnson’s House

 

Shakespeare in the 18th century: Johnson, Garrick and friends celebrates the 250th anniversary of Johnson’s critical edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare (1765) has been credited with firmly establishing a scholarly interest in Shakespeare, after almost a century during which works by the playwright had been radically amended and adapted.

Four years after its publication, enthusiasm for Shakespeare reached its apogee in the world’s first Shakespeare festival, the 1769 ‘Shakespeare Jubilee’ masterminded by Johnson’s great friend and former pupil, the actor David Garrick (1717-1779).

Over the succeeding centuries, national celebration of Shakespeare reached such a pitch it was popularly dubbed ‘Bardolatry’ – a trend that continues to this day.

Garrick as Shakespeare's Richard III

Garrick as Shakespeare’s Richard III

 

Johnson’s Shakespeare combined a survey of Shakespeare’s plays with analysis of critical editions to date, and its accompanying ‘Preface’ remains the cornerstone of Shakespeare criticism.

This exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House – the home in Gough Square where Johnson began this work, and also finished his great Dictionary (1755) – explores Johnson’s contributions, and those of members of his circle, to contemporary understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare.

Their work built on earlier 18th-century critical editions of Shakespeare by scholars such as Nicholas Rowe (1709), Alexander Pope (1725), Lewis Theobold (1726), Thomas Hammer (1743-44) and WilliamWarburton (1747).

Samuel Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1765

Samuel Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1765

 

The 18th century saw efforts by numerous editors to establish the authenticity of Shakespeare’s texts whilst, at the same time, theatre-goers enjoyed 18th-century adaptations with new scenes and endings devised by actors and theatre managers.

Garrick may have serenaded Shakespeare’s birthplace at the 1769 Jubilee, yet his own production of Romeo and Juliet freely adapted and ‘improved’ the bard’s original ending, allowing the ‘star-cross’d lovers’ one final farewell.

This was an established tradition extending back to dramatist Nahum Tate’s 1681 adaptation of King Lear, where Lear lives and Cordelia ascends to the throne, having married Edgar.

This happy ending was preferred to Shakespeare’s original tragic ending, which was not seen on stage again until the 1830s.

Dr Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare’s King Lear

Dr Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare’s King Lear

 

Clearly, Shakespeare appreciation was at times scholarly and sincere, but could also be irreverent and freely adapted to the tastes of the popular market.

Along with Johnson and Garrick, the exhibition also explores the often underestimated contribution of women to Shakespeare studies.

Items of note include Elizabeth Montagu’s seminal An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear, Compared with the Greek and French Dramatic Poets (1769), and Charlotte Lennox’s Shakespear Illustrated (1753), a comprehensive survey of the dramatist’s sources (both on loan from private collections).

These are exhibited alongside an oak chest (date unknown) which once belonged to David Garrick, and was used to store his stage costumes, and a creamware pottery jug (c.1770—80) decorated with an image of Garrick and one of Shakespeare (on loan from a private collection).

A selection of 18th-century prints represent many of the editors, writers and actors who contributed to Shakespeare scholarship in this period, in addition to an original Victorian oil painting by William Powell Frith (1887) which depicts a meeting between Dr Johnson and the celebrated actress Sarah Siddons.

The garret at Dr Johnson's House

The garret at Dr Johnson’s House

 

A complete first edition of Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare (1765) will also be on display, complemented by volumes from the elaborately illustrated second edition (1770).

“The 18th century saw great change in the treatment of Shakespeare,” says Celine Luppo McDaid, Curator at Dr Johnson’s House.

“While theatre managers were catering to the tastes of their audience, who believed Shakespeare’s works often lacked any sense of poetic justice, scholarly editors like Johnson were returning the works of the Bard to what we recognise today.

“Johnson did a great deal to remove the ‘errours and corruptions’ that time and adaptation had allowed to creep in, and established a mode for modern literary criticism.”

Portrait of Shakespeare in Johnson’s 1765 edition

Portrait of Shakespeare in Johnson’s 1765 edition

 

The exhibition is accompanied by a lively events programme of tours, talks and performances.

Highlights include ‘Playing to the Crowd’, a new dramatic piece by multimedia theatre company Palimpsest, commissioned by the House especially for this exhibition. (Sundays 15 & 22 November, 3pm & 6pm)

Shakespeare in the 18th century: Johnson, Garrick and friends runs until Saturday 28 November 2015.

Entrance to the exhibition is FREE after usual admission to the House.

Go here for further details about the House, the exhibition and the events programme.

For many fans, nothing beats the thrill of experiencing Shakespeare in a suitably historic venue. And now Read Not Dead on the Road is exploring the Bard’s links to the legal profession at London’s Inns of Court

Actors and lawyers perform George Gascoigne’s 1573 play Supposes at Gray’s Inn.

Actors and lawyers perform George Gascoigne’s 1573 play Supposes at Gray’s Inn.

Shakespeare’s Globe is on a quest to stage every play known to have been performed on the stages of London before 1642. Launched in 1995 by Globe Education, Read Not Dead brings actors, audiences and scholars together to explore and celebrate those plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries via script-in-hand, play-in-a-day performances. They are not meant to be polished productions, but there is a shared spirit of adventure and excitement for the actors and audiences uncovering these hidden gems.

Actors rehearse Lady Mary Wroth’s Love’s Victory (c. 1620) at Penshurst Place, Kent.

Actors rehearse Lady Mary Wroth’s Love’s Victory (c. 1620) at Penshurst Place, Kent.

Part of the project is to take these rare plays back to their historical context. Last summer, Loves Victory by Lady Mary Wroth was staged at Penshurst Place in Kent. It is the first pastoral comedy known to be written by a woman, and Penshurst Place is the very location it is most likely to have been written and first performed 400 years ago.

At the beginning of its new ‘Shakespeare and Friendship’ season of public events, Globe Education is taking Read Not Dead across the river Thames to London’s Inns of Court for a special series celebrating the ‘amity of the inns’. The series launched in November with a performance of The Most Excellent Comedy of Two The Most Faithfullest Friends Damon and Pithias. Written around 1564 by Richard Edwards, a little-known precursor to Shakespeare, this tragi-comedy celebrates true and virtuous friendship.

This reading of Richard Edwards’ 1565 play Damon and Pythias took place last year at Middle Temple Hall.

This reading of Richard Edwards’ 1565 play Damon and Pythias took place last year at Middle Temple Hall.

Today, friendship between the Inns and among members remains a cornerstone of Inns of Court culture, as lawyers from around the world live, study and practise together in shared amity. The Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. The relationship between the law and the theatre in London is almost as old as the Inns of Court themselves. All four – Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s and Gray’s – are known as famous, and sometime infamous, venues for professional as well as amateur drama. The first recorded performance of Twelfth Night took place in Middle Temple Hall in 1602, an event which was celebrated on its 400th anniversary with a production of the play in the same venue by actors from Shakespeare’s Globe including Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry.

The Globe’s Read Not Dead allows historic plays to come alive for modern audiences.

The Globe’s Read Not Dead allows historic plays to come alive for modern audiences.

The Comedy of Errors is recorded to have been performed in 1594 at Gray’s Inn. Shakespeare was interested enough in the Inns of Court to make them the setting for Act II, Scene IV of Henry VI, Part 1.

Iain Christie is a barrister and trained actor who combines both practices. As a Bencher of the Inner Temple and a member of the Inner Temple drama society, he was involved in the Globe’s previous performance of George Gascoigne’s Supposes there last January, performing alongside Globe actors and his fellow Benchers. “The relationship between the two professions extends beyond the use of legal venues to stage historic plays,” he says, “and the pleasure of lawyers entertaining their colleagues in after-dinner revels. It applies also to the comparative skills employed by both professions.”

High Court Judge Sir Michael Burton also took part in the staged reading of Supposes at Gray’s Inn.

High Court Judge Sir Michael Burton also took part in the staged reading of Supposes at Gray’s Inn.

Indeed, modern training courses for young lawyers increasingly engage professional actors to teach presentation skills which focus on breathing, posture, presence, and vocal projection. “I am interested in how law students can use the drama-school techniques of narrative and improvisation in their work,” says Iain. “Storytelling is a core aspect of the craft of both the advocate and actor. The advocate must always remember that his objective is to connect emotionally with the person he is trying to persuade.”

But, as Iain explains, this transference of skills does not only travel in one direction. “When I was at drama school,” he says, “I was struck by the similarity between the process of textual analysis in rehearsals and preparation for trial. The actor must create a consistent back-story for their character so their performance is grounded in a continuing reality. A barrister must build a case theory for a version of events he wishes the judge or jury to believe.

And the processes are strikingly similar. “However, whenever someone comments that in becoming an actor I am really just doing the same job I remind them that, whilst advocacy may at times be entertaining, a lawyer is engaged in a serious business. He is not there to put on a performance. Any advocate who plays to the gallery will be given a hard time in court.”

Read Not Dead at Middle Temple Hall.

Read Not Dead at Middle Temple Hall.

Post Script: Read Not Dead at the Inns of Court continued into 2015 as part of ‘Shakespeare and Friendship’. Love’s Sacrifice by John Ford was performed in the Great Hall at Gray’s Inn on Sunday 15 February. The play was dedicated to Ford’s cousin and namesake, John Ford who was a member of Gray’s and who the author called “my truest friend, my worthiest kinsman.”

The performance starred current Gray’s members Master Roger Eastman, High Court Judge Sir Michael John Burton and Masters Charles Douthwaite and Colin Manning. On Sunday 1 March, Inner Temple Hall hosted The Troublesome Reign of King John of England by George Peele, in celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. And the final reading returedn to the Globe, with the anonymous The Faithful Friends on 19 April.

Go here for more information and booking details on Read Not Dead.

This article originally appeared in Shakespeare Magazine 05. Go here to read the original version.

Shaun the Sheep gets a Shakespearean uplift and takes up residence outside the iconic Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside

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“He’s Shaun the Sheep, He’s Shaun the Sheep,
He even mucks about with those who cannot bleat…”

Shakespeare didn’t write these immortal lines, but we like to think the Bard would have approved of Shaun, the animated comedy superstar sheep brought to us by Aardman – makers of family faves Wallace and Gromit.

Indeed, if you saw the recent cinema blockbuster Shaun the Sheep: The Movie you may have even caught a fleeting, admirably cheeky Hamlet reference where Shaun’s owner, the lovably dim-witted Farmer, poses with a skull.
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Well, the good news for fans of Shaun – and Shakespeare – is that Aardman’s highly excellent ‘Shaun in the City’ initiative has come to London’s South Bank.

UK2 Group, a leading web hoster for small businesses, has sponsored this Shakespearean Sheep, wittily titled ‘To Sheep Perchance to Dream’ that’s currently grazing outside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

No less than 50 Shaun statues have popped up around London since 28 March. They’ll be here until 25 May, and will be auctioned off later in the year, with proceeds going to the Aardman-backed children’s charity Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal.

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So if you’re heading along to the Globe, or taking a stroll through Shakespeare’s London, be sure to pay our woolly friend a visit. As you can see, he’s been beautifully painted with quotes and scenes from Shakespeare plays such as The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Incidentally, the cute youngsters pictured here with Shakespeare/Shaun are the children of food writer Mallika Basu: “Posing for charity and chocolate,” she says.

Go here to find out more about Shaun in the City.

Go here to find out more about Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal.

Stand-up comedian, actress, writer, vegan and all-round clever clogs Sara Pascoe is a big fan of William Shakespeare, and she’s not afraid to shout about it

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How on earth?

“I’ve got an English degree, and a big part of my life at university was throwing off the misunderstandings and misapprehensions I’d had about Shakespeare at school and coming to appreciate him properly. At school I think we got taught Macbeth and King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the teacher would say ‘Oh, you see what he’s saying here? He’s saying this’, and I would think ‘How on earth?’ I just didn’t believe them, I thought the teachers were making it up. Then when I was at university we had to read virtually all of the plays and we went into much more depth. That was when I suddenly realised how clever Shakespeare was, and it was mind-blowing.”

My favourite play…

“I did love the Sonnets. I think they’re so accessible and they have such universal themes – death, and time, and how we replicate ourselves. If I had to pick a favourite play… I really loved The Winter’s Tale actually, and I remember thinking Measure for Measure was brilliant, but I think probably Hamlet is my favourite.
“The one I seem to have seen most is As You Like It. I saw an RSC production of Much Ado About Nothing which had Tamsin Greig as Beatrice. They set it I think in Cuba or South America and it was just fantastic, really rhythmic and hilarious.”

If Shakespeare were here today…
“Shakespeare nowadays? Oh gosh, it would be something incredible, wouldn’t it? He was so fantastic at creating these flawed heroes where you could absolutely see how life had made them behave in a certain way, and because of that behaviour drama just unfolds everywhere around them. He’d put everyone else to shame because he’d be writing comedies and dramas and films all at the same time. Even now, people would probably be saying ‘Is it really just one man? It must be a committee of people doing it secretly!’”
Sara Pascoe - Large Library Image

He always sees the full picture
“I just think he understands human psychology so brilliantly. He understands cause and effect, he understands how people can be trying to be good, but also that their worldview might be slightly too myopic to enable them to see anything larger. However, he as the writer always manages to see the full picture and always, especially in the greatest of the plays, manages to create such a viable world that it doesn’t seem fictional. I recently saw the Macbeth they did at the Globe where they made the play a comedy, very successfully. And I thought that was so fantastic because the ambitions of the Macbeths had such lightness of touch all of a sudden, and the play still held together, it still felt true.”

Ten Things I Hate About You
“I think what was always surprising, probably because of the age I was when they came out, was finding out that things like Ten Things I Hate About You was The Taming of the Shrew. It’s always great when you think ‘Oh! Yes, I see, it’s that story!’ I’ve been watching House of Cards, and they’ve very clearly jumped off from Macbeth.”

On being a teenage skateboard fairy
“I do talk about Shakespeare in my show that I’m touring with at the moment. I have a little routine about being told that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a comedy and how as a 15, 16-year-old having teachers try to say ‘Look, here’s the joke – the queen loves a donkey!’ you just think ‘I don’t get it’. The routine’s about that and how in our production we were trying to liven it up. Everyone wants to do their own ground-breaking thing with Shakespeare, even though it’s all already been done. So I played Puck, but I was on a skateboard and I knocked myself out. Twice. I wasn’t very good at the skateboard. We really thought this was ground-breaking at the time.”
Sara Pascoe press pic

All about the attitude
“I think that’s what’s so interesting about new productions, they make you meet characters again in a different way. I really like Hermione from The Winter’s Tale. I think that her speeches are so brave and courageous. I’ll always love Kate from The Taming of the Shrew too, but she doesn’t even really talk very much in the play. It’s much more the attitude and the performance of her, isn’t it?

“Beatrice and Benedick’s whole repartee with each other, it’s so brilliant to watch on stage because it doesn’t come across on the page in the same way. Trying to overhear somebody else’s conversation while hiding behind a pot plant, I always think that’s so hysterical.”

Women with brains and activity and thoughts
“I think in terms of his time he was incredible. This was a time when women weren’t allowed on the stage. To be born a woman and want to be creative was impossible. You couldn’t own property, you couldn’t earn money, you were either born into a rich family to be married off, or you were born with no money and very limited options. Shakespeare did write women with brains and activity and thoughts, and I think in some plays the women are as varied as the men in terms of morality and intelligence. Although now for actresses the number of men on stage to the number of women is probably a bit frustrating, it could be a whole lot worse, so I think he should be respected for that.

“Also people are now putting on all-female productions. That’s so exciting because in Shakespeare’s day it would have been an all-male company, and now the opposite is completely possible.”

Most Shakespeare thing I’ve done…
“This isn’t so much a Shakespeare thing as a me thing, but I’ve been to the RSC twice to do stand-up. I got to do stand-up on the stage at the Swan, and that was amazing. Stratford-upon-Avon is a wonderful place. You walk around thinking ‘Oh my god, this is where Shakespeare was born’. Then I remember that I live in London – where he chose to live.”

Go here to find out more about Sara and check out her latest tour dates.

This interview originally appeared in Issue 6 of Shakespeare Magazine. Go here to see the original version.

An intrepid crew of London-based Shakespeareans have just made theatrical history with the first cue script performance at Bankside’s Rose Playhouse since 1606. Lizzie Conrad Hughes of the salon: collective explains how they did it

Akilah Dale as Phoebe, Ricardo Freitas as Silvius

Akilah Dale as Phoebe, Ricardo Freitas as Silvius

We call it Shakespeare: Direct. Why the name? Because working from cue script parts in the style of Early Modern players – the first modern actors – means that you are directed directly through the text by the play’s writer, just as his own players were – so you are in direct contact with Shakespeare.

Cue script work means you prepare your part, your costume, and your character, but you do not know who else is in your scene, what they will say, or do, or how that will affect you, until you both meet on stage before an audience. And it is not enough to stand on stage and just speak – you have to deliver a performance. And you have to listen like your life depends on it not to miss your cue.

Ricardo Freitas as Hubert, Paula Parducz as Prince Arthur

Ricardo Freitas as Hubert, Paula Parducz as Prince Arthur

It has been said that cue script acting puts you right in the heart of the moment, but at no time are you in control of it – it’s a bit like juggling fire. This fire juggling makes the work very alive and gives us a glimpse of what performances may have been like back in Shakespeare’s day, with vibrantly alive actors hanging on each other’s every word.

Plus, sometimes an actor will receive a cue more than once – in other words, Shakespeare set up his actors to attempt to interrupt each other, which also helped to keep the action on stage fresh and exciting.

Anna Hawkes as Lady Percy

Anna Hawkes as Lady Percy

The moment I discovered The Rose Playhouse in May 2014, hidden under an office building beside Southwark Bridge, I knew what I had to do. The Rose is the site of Philip Henslowe’s playhouse, home to the Admiral’s Men, and site of Will Shakespeare’s own apprenticeship as player and playwright. It’s two minutes’ walk from Shakespeare’s Globe on the Bankside of the Thames, but it’s The Real Thing. And it’s very cold and they have no plumbing, as it’s a theatre in an archaeological site.

I’d been experimenting with First Folio text-based cue script acting for a few months, encouraged by my husband and fellow Shakespeare geek Dewi Hughes, and a growing group of fellow actors. We were gradually unearthing the acting secrets buried in the text by their writer/director and previously excavated by cue script pioneer Patrick Tucker. I’d read his book, Secrets of Acting Shakespeare, and been wildly inspired to try it out.

Lawrence Carmichael looking over the remains of The Rose

Lawrence Carmichael looking over the remains of The Rose

The work was embryonic still, but fascinating and ridiculously addictive. Finding The Rose, the spiritual home of cue script acting, it seemed tailor-made – all we had to do was bring the two things together.

On Sunday 29 March 2015 we performed at The Rose before an invited audience. There were 20 of us – 12 who knew what they were in for, and eight cue script novices who had no idea. We normally work in the studios at The Cockpit in Marylebone, so the echoing cavern and enigmatic great lake that covers The Rose meant a real change of pace.

Lizzie Conrad Hughes as Cleopatra

Lizzie Conrad Hughes as Cleopatra

We presented ten scenes from plays ranging from King John to As You Like It. Each scene begins and ends with a bell rung by the Book-holder – the prompter, who sits in the audience. Prompting was built into the process of the playhouses – their audiences knew they were watching a play and had no problem when a prompt was required. Nor did ours on Sunday. One audience member commented that it made her feel a part of the creative process, as the scene was created before her eyes.

Kim Hardy as Hotspur, Lawrence Carmichael as Northumberland

Kim Hardy as Hotspur, Lawrence Carmichael as Northumberland

Everyone taking part in this work did an all-day class to learn all the hidden secrets of the First Folio and get a feeling for being directed by the text. Then they received their part (around 40 lines and associated cues), which they had to study for text clues before their first one hour session with their ‘Verse Nurser’.

At this point we make sure they have any necessary info about their character and the story so far in the play, and check that they understand all their words and are on track with their study. They then get off book before session two, which is more about the physical performance, including potential movement in the scene.

Camilla_Greenwell_SC_Rose_LOWRES_017
We have historical precedent for this – and besides, it makes practical theatrical sense! ‘VN’ and line learning takes three weeks. On performance day, we had a practical session of entrances and exits, changes in costume, and any physical business. Again, there is precedent for this – it’s about the only kind of practical preparation there was before a performance in Shakespeare’s day.

Dominic Kelly as Worcester

Dominic Kelly as Worcester

The actual acting passes in a haze of mental and emotional fire that is almost impossible to describe. Kim Hardy, who’s done the work once before, commented: “It was a tremendous experience all round. The buzz was thrilling playing at The Rose.” John Kelley, on his first go, said: “A unique, emotional, unforgettable experience where I felt utterly supported and inspired by my fellow players.”

Everyone who’s tried it agrees: it’s addictive. It changes how you work with other actors, how you treat text, and how you feel about William Shakespeare: player, playwright, director, poet, genius, and best friend to the modern actor.

The company perform their closing jig

The company perform their closing jig

Anyone looking for more information on the salon: collective and Shakespeare: Direct (and the chance to join the next round), check out their details on The Cockpit’s website.

All images by Camilla Greenwell

How the tragic death of an intern inspired a new version of Shakespeare’s Othello set in the high-pressure world of London’s City Boys

James Barnes as Othello.

James Barnes as Othello.

Time Zone Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello runs from 3-28 February at the historic Rose Playhouse on London’s Bankside.

Returning to The Rose after acclaimed productions of The Taming of the Shrew in 2013 and Orpheus and Eurydice in 2014, Time Zone’s Othello transfers Shakespeare’s tragedy to the cityscape of modern London.

Director Pamela Schermann promises “an abyss of power and intrigue, riddled with suspicion and jealousy. Beneath the surface of this civilised and polite environment we encounter brutality and callousness.”

Trevor Murphy as Iago.

Trevor Murphy as Iago.

In part, Schermann, says she was inspired by the tragic death of an intern at the London office of an international bank.

“He died after working continuously for 72 hours,” she says. “Although it is uncertain whether his death was caused by exhaustion or a medical condition, the excessive hours at work illustrate a brutal business practice, where money is more important than people.”

Schermann’s fast-paced adaptation cuts Othello down to its five main characters, with the entire play set in the meeting room of the company’s office.

Othello-Promo

The cast comprises James Barnes (Othello), Trevor Murphy (Iago), Samantha Lock (Desdemona), Ella Duncan (Emilia), and Denholm Spurr (Cassio).

Schermann’s production aims to evoke an atmosphere of claustrophobia and ultra-high pressure where everyone is under constant surveillance.

“There’s always someone watching you,” says Schermann, “analysing your every move and waiting for an opportunity to stab you in your back.”

Go here for more onTime Zone Theatre.

Go here for more on The Rose Playhouse and to book tickets.