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!

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

[Images by Adrian Harris]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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