Shakespeare Magazine 10 features Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Okonedo in the BBC’s epic The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

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Hot on the heels of his sensational 2015 Hamlet, Shakespeare superstar Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Richard III on the cover of Shakespeare Magazine 10. 

And our second cover features Sophie Okonedo, who stars with Benedict in the epic BBC Shakespeare series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. 

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Inside the magazine, we interview Hollow Crown director Dominic Cooke, and share our gallery of iconic Hollow Crown images.

Also this issue, we explore Shakespeare’s First Folio with the expert guidance of Emma Smith. 

And we learn all about Shakespeare’s Globe from Head of Education Farah Karim-Cooper.

We take a walk on the dark side with the witches of Macbeth, and talk to one of the witches from last year’s Macbeth film.

Meanwhile, stars like Ben Kingsley, James Earl Jones, Earle Hayman, Jim Beaver and Liev Schreiber reveal How Shakespeare Changed My Life. 

If you’re bored of traditional theatre, let us tell you about the quirky delights of Table Top Shakespeare. 

And our look at the best Indian Shakespeare films shows the Bard is much-loved in Bollywood. 

Finally, our biggest-ever issue has an affectionate and ever-so-slightly audacious mash-up of Shakespeare with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

May the Bard Be With You!

A Bard in Africa: Enjoy these beautiful and evocative images of this month’s groundbreaking Shakespeare Lives in Botswana event

Students from Maru-a-Pula School perform a scene from devised piece Water and Dust at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Monirul Bhuiyan (3)
Students from Maru-a-Pula School perform a scene from devised piece Water and Dust. [Photo: Monirul Bhuiyan]

Shakespeare Lives in Botswana (Shakespeare o a Tshela) concluded with a sold-out Showcase at the Maitisong Theatre in Gaborone, Botswana. The Showcase was part of the global GREAT Britain Campaign and the British Council’s ‘Shakespeare Lives’ project celebrating Shakespeare’s work on the 400th anniversary of his death.
A local actor performs a scene from Macbeth at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Monirul Bhuiyan
A local actor performs a scene from Macbeth. [Photo: Monirul Bhuiyan]

The Showcase featured performances by students from Maru-a-Pula School, Naledi Senior Secondary School, St Joseph’s College, Kagiso Senior Secondary School, Moeding College, Ledumang Senior Secondary School, the University of Botswana, AFDA, the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, and The Company of Maitisong Theatre.
A government school student reads the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase programme photographer Monirul Bhuiyan
A government school student reads the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana programme. [Photo: Monirul Bhuiyan]

Government school students performed scenes from their set text of Twelfth Night, while other performers presented selected moments from Shakespeare’s work in dynamic and innovative new interpretations of his plays and poetry.

Botswana poets Barolong Seboni, Moroka Moreri and Mandisa Mabuthoe, and musician Zeus, performed newly-commissioned work written especially for the event.
A student from Maru-a-Pula School performs a scene from devised piece Water and Dust at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Lorraine Kinnear (2)
A student from Maru-a-Pula School performs a scene from Water and Dust. [Photo: Lorraine Kinnear]

Students had the opportunity to work with UK and South Africa theatre practitioners who visited Botswana as part of the project:

Gregory Thompson (University College London), Natalie Ibu (Tiata Fahodzi Theatre Company), Ben Spiller (1623 Theatre Company), ShakeXperience Practitioners from South Africa, Nobulali Dangazele and Greg Homann, and Fiona Drummond (Shakespeare’s Globe Education).
A student from Moeding College performs a scene from Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Lorraine Kinnear
A student from Moeding College performs a scene from Twelfth Night. [Photo: Lorraine Kinnear]

“We are overjoyed to have completed this project in the company of a full house at Maitisong, who were able to see over 100 young people from Botswana performing Shakespeare’s work,” says Project Director Alastair Hagger.
UK High Commissioner to Botswana Katy Ransome holds her copy of Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Monirul Bhuiyan
UK High Commissioner to Botswana Katy Ransome with her copy of Twelfth Night. [Photo: Lorraine Kinnear]

“The ‘Shakespeare o a Tshela’ project has reached thousands of people in Botswana, and planted the seeds of an enduring love for Shakespeare in the young people of this country.”
Local actors perform a scene from Measure for Measure at the Shakespeare Lives in Botswana Showcase photographer Lorraine Kinnear
Local actors perform a scene from Measure for Measure. [Photo: Lorraine Kinnear]

Go here for more on the Maitisong Theatre and the event.

Go here for more on Shakespeare Lives in 2016.

Go here for more on the GREAT Britain campaign.

Canada’s literary superstar Margaret Atwood reveals the title and cover art of her upcoming Shakespeare-inspired novel

Distinguished Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood has unveiled the evocative and Shakespearean title – Hag-Seed – of her new novel to her one million followers on Twitter.

Atwood’s Tweets also tease Hag-Seed’s striking cover art – which seems to depict the watchful eye of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Hag-Seed is published in the UK by Hogarth on Thursday 6 October, 2016. The novel will publish simultaneously across the English-speaking world in print, digital and audio formats.

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Hag-Seed
is a retelling of Shakespeare’s late play The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

In Atwood’s take on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest with suitably dramatic consequences.

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Image by Liam Sharp

“‘Hag-Seed’ is just one of many insults Prospero flings at Caliban in The Tempest,” says Hogarth’s Becky Hardie. “There’s a lot of Shakespearean swearing in this new Tempest adventure, too, but also a mischief, curiosity and vigour that’s entirely Atwood.”

The Hogarth Shakespeare series aims to continue Shakespeare’s own tradition of “retelling”, and to celebrate his legacy.

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The series launched with Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (The Winter’s Tale) last October, followed by Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice) this month.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) follows in June, and then Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (The Tempest) arrives in October.

The first four novels will be followed by Tracy Chevalier’s Othello, Gillian Flynn’s Hamlet, Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth and Edward St Aubyn’s King Lear.

Go here for more on The Hogarth Shakespeare (UK).

Go here for more on The Hogarth Shakespeare (US).

Follow Margaret Atwood on Twitter @MargaretAtwood

The Tarantino-referencing Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare is unleashed alongside Othello and Romeo and Juliet this month by Birmingham School of Acting

Shakespeare’s blood-soaked Macbeth gets a modern makeover this month, as Birmingham School of Acting presents a reworking of the Bard’s tragedy that pays homage to some of director Quentin Tarantino’s best-loved films.

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Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare
 offers an irreverent and imaginative take on the play.

While staying true to the original text, the images and style of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill will collide violently on stage with Shakespeare’s verse, creating an exhilarating black comedy.

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Adapted and directed by acclaimed theatre director Malachi Bogdanov, Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare will be performed at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre.

It’s part of a trio of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies reimagined for Birmingham School of Acting’s 2015-16 season and performed in venues across the city this month.

Alongside Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare, the School will also be presenting Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Othello and Romeo and Juliet will be performed at the Patrick Centre, part of Birmingham Hippodrome.

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“In our version of Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespeare classic finds an exciting local resonance,” says Danièle Sanderson, Deputy Head at Birmingham School of Acting, “with the Montagues and Capulets donning razor blades in their caps, like the historical Peaky Blinders gang.”

“Similar to audiences today, Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre-goers were fascinated by violence, and Shakespeare’s most violent plays were the most popular during his own lifetime. By integrating Shakespeare’s tragedies through the lens of popular culture, our actors are hoping to sharpen our responses to these familiar works.”

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Othello
, directed by Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, is on at The Patrick Centre (Birmingham Hippodrome) until Saturday 20 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Romeo and Juliet, directed by Hal Chambers, is on at The Patrick Centre (Birmingham Hippodrome) from Wednesday 24 February to Saturday 27 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Macbeth – Kill Bill Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Malachi Bogdanov, is on at Crescent Theatre (Studio) from Wednesday 24 February to Saturday 27 February.
Go here to book tickets.

Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus is cover star of Shakespeare Magazine 09!

British actor Tom Hiddleston is cover star of Shakespeare Magazine 09!

The theme is “Shakespeare at the Cinema”, and the issue sees us review the screenings of both Hiddleston’s Coriolanus and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.

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We also look at Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard’s epic new film of Macbeth, while the Horrible Histories crew chat about their brilliant Shakespeare comedy film Bill.

Also this issue, we interview James Shapiro, author of 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear; and Paul Edmondson, author of Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile.

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There’s also a colourful taste of the glorious poster art from new book Presenting Shakespeare.

Not forgetting a profile of Tom Hiddleston’s Shakespearean career so far…

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As always, you can read Shakespeare Magazine completely free!

Go here to enjoy Shakespeare Magazine 09.

A new book demonstrates that the legendary ‘curse of Macbeth’ – as depicted in BBC2 TV drama The Dresser – is in fact a relatively modern invention

Watching the excellent adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser on BBC2, there were many moments that tickled our Shakespearean tastebuds.

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Not least of these was when ‘Sir’ (Anthony Hopkins) inadvertently says “Macbeth” in the theatre, and a panic-stricken Norman (Ian McKellen) has to lead him through a strange theatrical ritual to negate the resulting ‘curse’.

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Interestingly, a new book, Anecdotal Shakespeare by Paul Menzer, suggests that the infamous “curse of Macbeth” that has supposedly plagued theatres for 400 years is in fact an invented tradition – with no records of it ever being mentioned earlier than 1937!

As The Dresser is set circa 1940, however, that would make it just about historically accurate to include the so-called curse of The Scottish Play.

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On the other hand, this vintage clip from the BBC’s Blackadder, which is set in the 18th century, although utterly hilarious, would seem to be somewhat lacking in historical verisimilitude.

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But then, as Shakespeare might have said, why let the facts get in the way of a good story – or, indeed, a great gag?

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Anecdotal Shakespeare
is out now, published by Arden Shakespeare/Bloomsbury.

(Thank you to reader Gordon Kerry for sending us the Blackadder link)

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.

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.

“Titus Andronicus probably wouldn’t be the best starting point…” Teacher and Hour-Long Shakespeare author Matthew Jenkinson offers his tips on approaching Shakespeare with young people

“All’s Well That Ends Well is funny – if you’re fluent in Shakespearean English!” protested one GCSE English pupil to me recently. It is not an uncommon complaint, along with assertions that Shakespeare’s plays are too complicated or difficult for many school children. Well, quite rightly Shakespeare is not going to go away; quite the opposite, as the new National Curriculum puts even greater emphasis on his works.

So how can parents or teachers aid in the understanding of Shakespeare among their pupils or children? The most empowering thing you can say, at first, is “Do not worry about understanding all (or any) of the words”. It is amazing how quickly a pupil’s brain can shut down because they are panicking about ‘getting’ everything the first time around. Understanding comes with time, re-reading, and patient explanation.

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It is also enhanced by watching Shakespeare on the stage. But parents and teachers need to be judicious about this. Watching a poor stage production will have pupils running a mile in the opposite direction, and they certainly won’t feel inclined to explore the text in any greater depth. Watching a great stage production can have the opposite effect.

There is no need to traipse long distances to Stratford or London these days either. The Globe Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, respectively, have released some excellent DVDs of their recent stage productions. So you can now break up three-hour-long productions in the classroom or at home, pausing to discuss what is happening or to go to the loo.

Attending a live production can be exhilarating, but I would wait until the children have gained some traction. Making them stand in the rain at The Globe for three hours, as a first experience of Shakespeare, probably won’t have them begging for more.

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Watching a live performance enables pupils to work out plots by seeing the interaction between characters and hearing the tone employed by expert actors. I have used Roger Allam’s Falstaff scenes, performed at The Globe in 2010, to convey to pupils what happens in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. I have been amazed at how much laughter has come from individuals who just would not have understood the text if we had merely read it from the page.

The other way to get children engaged with Shakespeare is to get them on their feet, acting out parts. Again, a sensitive and judicious approach is necessary here. First of all, the choice of play is vital. Titus Andronicus probably wouldn’t be the best starting point. Parents and teachers also need to be understanding of the fact that many pupils, especially as they stumble through adolescence, will be quite reticent about standing up and delivering elaborate metaphors.

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There are two powerful ways to counter this. The first is to create a culture in school and at home where drama is an everyday feature – it is not nerdy or distant. The second – obviously – is to ‘differentiate’ the casting, ensuring that the allocation of parts reflects the confidence and ability of the pupils. Giving a reticent child the part of Macbeth will put them off Shakespeare for life, as will giving a confident actor the part of First Servingman. One of the joys of Shakespeare’s history plays, in particular, is the number of roles available, with differing levels of intensity; every pupil can find their niche.

There are very few schools out there that will be able to stage a full three-hour Shakespeare play, which is why I have been editing a new series of abridged versions in the Hour-Long Shakespeare series. As the title suggests, each play lasts about an hour when performed, with central characters and the overall narrative arcs preserved. This is by no means a novel project – the plays have been abridged since Shakespeare’s day, as evidenced by the discovery in 2014 of a First Folio in St Omer, France, in which Jesuits made cuts to suit their pupils.

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What is new about the Hour-Long series, aside from some original scene shifting (don’t use these texts in exams!), is the use of a Chorus in all of the plays. Shakespeare himself famously used a Chorus in Henry V, for example, but adopting this device in other plays enables any number of pupils to get involved as narrators, offering summaries of excised sections of plot, or acting as Roman citizens in Julius Caesar, the tyrant’s conscience in Richard III, or the witches in Macbeth – all with the text still in front of them.

Removing the pressures of learning vast amounts of lines, or spending too long on the stage, enables usually reticent pupils to engage with Shakespeare in performance. Maintaining juicy title roles with headline speeches attracts those keen actors who are ready for something more challenging. In sum, Shakespeare hopefully becomes more manageable for those who would normally be scared off.

Matthew Jenkinson is director of studies at New College School in Oxford. Hour-Long Shakespeare: Henry IV (Part 1), Henry V and Richard III is available now, priced £10. Hour-Long Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Julius Cesar will be published in September.

Canadian acting legend Christopher Plummer is delighted to receive 2015 Sam Wanamaker Award from Shakespeare’s Globe

Internationally-acclaimed actor Christopher Plummer has been awarded Shakespeare’s Globe’s most prestigious prize, the 2015 Sam Wanamaker Award, established in the name of the theatre’s founder to celebrate work that has increased the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare.

Christopher Plummer is regarded by many as one of the finest living actors on stage or screen today. His Shakespearean roles include King Lear and Iago, Macbeth opposite Glenda Jackson, Hamlet for BBC TV, Henry V, Mercutio, Mark Antony, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Leontes, Bardolph, Benedick, Richard III and, most recently, Prospero at the Stratford Festival in Canada.

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On winning the Award, Christopher Plummer said: “I look at the Globe Theatre today proudly restored and I think how easy it is to forget the long hard struggle. How one man kept circling the planet, mostly alone, to raise the necessary funds. Sam Wanamaker’s passion, devotion and ferocious Elizabethan energy fought for his jewel – our jewel.

“And just when it was ready to be mounted he died, never to look his triumph in the face. Sam Wanamaker was an American whose heart was in the right place. It sometimes takes the New Hemisphere to revive the Old and, by heaven, Sam was living proof of that! In one short lifetime he gave us back one of the wonders of the world.

“Sam knew of my devotion to the Globe and South Bank projects and very generously invited me onto his Board. I was never so honoured – and now this! I am moved beyond measure not just for this, but for Sam, that extraordinary fighter who won the battle for us all.”

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The Sam Wanamaker Award was instituted by Shakespeare’s Globe in 1994 to honour work which has a similar quality to Sam’s own pioneering mission. Christopher Plummer follows former illustrious recipients of the Award, the first of whom was Dr Rex Gibson, creator and editor of the Cambridge School Shakespeare.

Other recipients include Janet Arnold for her pioneering research into Elizabethan clothing; Professor Stanley Wells, Shakespeare scholar and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; John Barton, founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company; and actor and director Mark Rylance.

Christopher was a strong supporter of Sam Wanamaker as he tirelessly campaigned over the last 23 years of his life to reconstruct the Globe on London’s Bankside.

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Neil Constable, Chief Executive at Shakespeare’s Globe, commented: “Christopher has illuminated the world’s understanding of Shakespeare through many memorable performances.

He gave unswerving support to Sam Wanamaker, has been an active fundraiser for reconstructing the Globe on Bankside and also strengthened Globe links between London, Canada and the US.”

The Sam Wanamaker Award will be presented to Christopher in Toronto on 12 November, at a gala to celebrate the Shakespeare’s Globe Centre of Canada’s 25th anniversary.

Go here for more on Sam Wanamaker and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Go here to read about Great Shakespeare Actors in Shakespeare Magazine 07.