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.

Heading for Shakespeare’s Globe… Guildhall student Luke Dale, winner of The Actors Centre Alan Bates Award 2015

This year’s Alan Bates Award has been won by Luke Dale, a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The award was presented to Luke by EastEnders star Lindsey Coulson at the central London ceremony on Friday 24 April.

Lindsey Coulson said: “This award is the legacy of Alan Bates’ commitment to prepare young people to enter the profession. The quality of this year’s talent has been really outstanding and it’s so important to have organisations like the Actors Centre in place to nurture the growth of young talent.”

Eastenders star Lindsey Coulson (left) with Luke and Dame Janet Suzman (right).

Eastenders star Lindsey Coulson (left) with Luke and Dame Janet Suzman (right).

Along with the Actors Centre’s varied range of professional workshops and opportunities, Luke’s prize bundle includes headshots, a showreel and voicereel, a bespoke built website and Equity and Spotlight subscriptions. Leading fashion brand Ted Baker will style and dress him from “Ted to Toe”. Luke will also receive a supply of books from publishers Methuen Drama, Oberon Books and Nick Hern Books, and he will be appearing at Shakespeare’s Globe in the Read not Dead programme of staged readings.

The Actors Centre’s Chair Paul Clayton, who will be mentoring Luke Dale over the next year commended the judges’ decision: “He is the most engaging actor and when I saw him I thought ‘You stand out’ – and among six really first-class competitors. He did a fantastic Shakespeare speech, had a lot of energy… And he comes from Yorkshire, which can’t be all bad because so do I!”

Paul Clayton (left) with Luke.

Paul Clayton (left) with Luke.

The Alan Bates Award is the toughest and most unique competition of its kind. Graduating actors nominate themselves before the winner is selected through a rigorous, three-stage audition and interview process which includes a panel of actors and industry judges.

Award winner Luke said: “I feel very privileged, honoured and absolutely elated. I am so thankful to the Actors Centre, and the best thing about winning this year’s Alan Bates Award is I can keep coming back to work with the amazing actors and people.”

Alan Bates Award judge Dame Janet Suzman is one of the few living actors to feature in Great Shakespeare Actors, the new book from Shakespeare authority Professor Stanley Wells.

Last year’s winner Charles Babalola (left) with Luke.

Last year’s winner Charles Babalola (left) with Luke.

“I admire young actors today enormously,” she says. “It is rather humbling as they are all going into a world that is much more difficult than the world that I went into. Somehow it is more transient, more over-crowded, and you have to learn much more in less time.”

Go here to find out more about The Actors Centre and the Alan Bates Award 2015.

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.

Actor Ben Walden is a man on a mission to educate and inspire. And his weapon of choice is Shakespeare. All of which makes him the perfect candidate for a rare interview by award-winning teacher, author and contrarian Phil Beadle.

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“He has kill’d me, mother.”

I have witnessed this epitome of weakness delivered so thoughtlessly as to render the desolation of Macduff as kindergarten mawkish. The forlorn bleat of an innocent without a name as he’s descended into the writhing masterpiece of eternity comes usually in Disneyfied pastels. Not so the last time I was in the same dark room as this line. I sat, horrified, on an uncomfortable bench with two of my three sons flanking me, both of them rigid with fear as The Porter brutally slammed down a trapdoor, through which, milliseconds ago hard light shone, disappearing it, and along with it the anguished cry of the death of promise.

The second time I met Ben Walden the conversation went like this:

Ben: “What did you think?”

Phil: “Yeah, it was great. Really good.”

Language can be drivel. What I had meant to say about the touring version of Macbeth that I’d just seen in Deptford that Ben directed was that it had all the visceral thrill and panic-inducing horror of the Hellraiser films. But I didn’t.
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The reason my words disappointed me so particularly is that the first time I met Ben Walden I thought he may well have been one of the coolest people I’ve ever encountered. Unassuming in a pastel V-neck in a circle of middle-aged white men of above-average professional capital at the AGM of the firm we both work for, Independent Thinking Ltd, he introduces himself in anger: fists of tears which he cannot and vehemently will not suppress roll down his cheeks. The object of his anger? What the proud philistine Michael Gove – He’s dead. He’s dead. That B-movie, lowlife, literate bozo is dead! – is doing to arts provision and education for working class children. I understand the anger that gave vent to his tears, as I feel it acutely myself.

The third time I met Ben Walden I left a decade-and-a-half old yellow corduroy jacket containing my phone and house keys in a pub in East Grinstead. I couldn’t be bothered to go down there to pick it up, and miss it still. I then left the notes for this interview in Montenegro (it’s a long story) and that is why this interview is five months late.
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I had met with him to discuss the impact of Shakespeare on his life. If you do not know who Ben Walden is, and you should, he was a member of Mark Rylance’s original company when the Globe opened, is an actor of seriousness and note, and now runs a company, Contender Charlie, whose mission is to bring the power of Shakespeare’s text to inner city kids, and who subsidises this work, which they do for next to nothing, by giving presentations to corporate clients on what they can learn about leadership from Henry V. I ask him some penetrating questions:

Phil: “What lessons from the plays have you applied to you own life?”

Ben: “I was sent to a boarding school when I was a kid, and as a result have always despised not only the concept, but the human manifestation of ‘repressed Englishness’: their reticence, their poison, their cowardice. For me, people should speak what they feel, and because of this Edgar’s line in King Lear – ‘The weight of this sad time we must obey. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say” – reverberates strongly with me.”

Phil: “How much of the language infiltrates your own day-to-day expression?”

Ben: “The best way to explain this, Phil, would be for you to watch Kate Tempest’s ‘My Shakespeare’.”

[I watch it five months after our meeting, after my notes finally return from their sojourn in the former Eastern bloc. I don’t buy Kate Tempest as a performer, but the passion is clear, as is the fact that she’s distanced being a drama school cockney infecting culture with lies. “He’s not something boring taught in classrooms in language that’s hard to understand. He’s not just a feeling of inadequacy when you sit for an exam”].
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Phil: “Tell me the shape of your year?”

Ben: “There’s a lot of airports. And those gigs that require air travel pay for the work we do with kids from different environments.”

Phil: “What different environments? What do Contender Charlie do… in exactly seven words?”

Ben: “Help kids find purpose and meaning. Can I have four more?”

Phil: “Grudgingly…”

Ben: “…By examining their feelings.”

Phil: “What are your feelings about the philistinism of Gove trying to make drama and the performing arts not formal GCSEs?”

Ben: “For me, whether Shakespeare is on the curriculum or not is an irrelevance. Humans are naturally ritualistic. Making drama not a ‘proper’ GCSE doesn’t change that. People will still seek the spiritual. Shakespeare, himself, was a deeply spiritual anarchist, in touch with our deepest nature. His work remains vital no matter what space policy-makers have him in this week. Kids will always connect with it like I did. Shakespeare came close to saving my life. When I was overwhelmed as a young adult, I would read a speech for solace and read it again and again. The transient whims of policy-makers are just that.”
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Phil: “Put the four great tragedies in order of something other than their greatness.”

Ben: “Can I put them in the order of how much I like them?”

Phil: (Murmurs assent)

Ben:Lear, I give 11/10, Macbeth 10/10, Othello 9/10 and Hamlet 8/10.”

Phil: “Harsh on Hamlet?”

Ben: “It’s arrogant playwriting. And he is self-indulgent as a character. It is really Shakespeare examining depressed adolescence. Hamlet is caught in his own depression and his own pain, and is a bad lesson. In life, you have to rise above your own pain to see the profundity in and of everything – to see the ‘special providence in the fall of a sparrow’. True wisdom is in being truly present emotionally, facing pain and meeting it head on. Truly wise people don’t fall off the wire.”

Go here for more on Ben Walden and his work.

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

One of the most admired all-rounders in the Shakespeare world, Ben Crystal reckons we should “speak the speech” the way the Bard did. And that means “from the gut and the groin…”

Portraits of Ben Crystal by Piper Williams for Shakespeare Magazine.

Perhaps best known for his Shakespeare on Toast book and Passion in Practice workshops, Ben Crystal is an actor, writer, producer and director. Alongside his father, linguist David Crystal, he has pioneered the practice of Original Pronunciation, getting as close as he can to how Shakespeare would have sounded to Elizabethan audiences.

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Would you define your work as a Shakespearean quest?
“Yeah, definitely! I didn’t start out on a quest, I started off wanting to act it more than anything. And then the ideas for the books came up one by one and I became known as the boy who wrote that book. I struggled to get acting auditions for Shakespeare and then, partly though the writing and partly through needing an outlet, I found myself doing more workshops, writing more, exploring more. Finding the issues in both performance and education and in audiences’ perception of Shakespeare and what seemed to be missing, and chasing that down.”

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“Now, through following this path of spreading the word of the Bard, I’ve explored disciplines like pronunciation, become fascinated by the idea of the original Shakespeare ensemble, found myself with an education programme, an OP programme and a Shakespeare ensemble. If you’d asked me when I was 16 or 17 what my dream was, it would have been to be at the RSC. But you follow the path you’re on, and the path I’m on certainly seems to be a quest. I’m very happy with it.”

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Could you explain Original Pronunciation for those who are new to the term?
“It’s a recreation of the soundscape, the accents that Shakespeare’s actors spoke in 400 years ago, in the same way as the Globe spaces are recreations of the original spatial dynamics. It’s a recreation of a sound system, not an attempt to be authentic – because that’s impossible, and there’s only so much you’re going to learn from authenticity. The Globe spaces are as close as we can get to what the spaces looked like, felt like, and we have spent a fair amount of time trying to work out how that can change or improve the way that we act Shakespeare. It’s exactly the same with this sound.”

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How do you go about recreating the accent?
“It’s based on my father’s scholarly work for the Globe in 2004. He gathered all the evidence he could from three sources. One of these was the rhymes. Often Shakespeare’s rhymes don’t work in a modern accent. To let them rhyme again requires particular types of vowel qualities. That’s one source of data. Then, if you go back to the Folio and the Quartos, they used to spell a lot more like they spoke. So, for example, the word film was spelt philome which is very definitely a two syllable word (fil’um) which you still hear in Northern Ireland. That’s an Elizabethan pronunciation carried over from 400 years ago.”

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“Then there were people who wrote linguistic-like descriptions of what the accent sounded like. With those three sources of data combined you get to about 90 percent and that last 10 percent drives my father crazy, but he can’t fill it in. I see it as a great advantage because it means that if you and I were to form a Shakespeare company using OP then we would sound 90 percent the same but then that last 10 percent will be filled up with our natural accents, the story, the audible vocal sound of our experiences.”

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“Compare that to using RP [Received Pronunciation] which is not tied to a particular geographic location. If there is one thing that accent means to people, it’s identity and territory. To me, the idea that Shakespeare should be spoken in this identity-less accent where it flattens out everybody’s character and they all sound the same, takes away its inherent uniqueness.”

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How different does it feel to perform in OP?
“Acting in RP versus OP or even in your own natural accent, your actor’s centre will shift.
A lot of people find in RP that their centre tends to be around their throat. When I act in my natural accent I find that my centre shifts to my chest. And with OP the centre shifts all the way down to your gut and into your groin. You plant your feet much more firmly on the ground and it tends to lead you to stronger character choices.”

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“They tend to be earthier, more active choices and, as a knock-on effect, you tend to move faster as well. You follow Hamlet’s advice to ‘speak the speech trippingly on the tongue’. It ramps everything up and you’re flying around the stage connecting with fellow actors in a vastly different way. One of the final results of all that is that it tends to engage your heart rather than your head. And people tend to find that it’s easier to understand and they tend to get more emotionally engaged. And that’s all we want – to make you laugh, make you cry, bring the audience along with us.”

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Do you think OP can attract bigger, more mainstream audiences?
“That’s an interesting question. Because of course I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be spending time on it. But I have to caveat that it’s not a cash bunny. I don’t see it as the sort of a performance quality in Shakespeare that money can be made out of necessarily. I’m excited by it. Irrespective of whether or not it becomes popular, there is nothing a Shakespeare geek is excited more by than an unexplored area of his field.”

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Is there a key thing that you’ve discovered by performing in OP?
“There are plenty of lost rhymes and lost puns, but the biggest discovery has been more ephemeral, really. More abstract or intangible, because you end up with a different play on your hands. You speak the lines differently and end up with characters who are completely different animals to those you expected. When I did Hamlet there was no question that he was anything like the stereotypical passive, indecisive, boring fellow. He became almost Sherlock Holmesian in the way he was trying to discover the truth. He was active. And that, in part, came from the OP. So we’re rediscovering the plays in new lights, not just the words.”

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What other interesting things do you think are currently happening Shakespeare-wise?
“The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is interesting. There are plans to build a Shakespearean theatre for Shakespeare North. I’m intrigued by the Maxine Peake Hamlet that was up at the Royal Exchange and by the all-female company explorations that have been going on at The Donmar. There’s a lot of younger companies exploring Shakespeare – there’s Smooth Faced Gentlemen, The HandleBards, who go round on bikes. There’s lots of cool, interesting stuff in the underground as well as all the companies running around the country doing open-air Shakespeare. It’s interesting that both the Globe and the RSC have brought in international companies.”

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“The reason we’re having this conversation, the reason there’s a Shakespeare Magazine is that these plays really, really are wonderful. He had a capacity and a knack for exploring the human condition and the way that we think – and why we do the things that we do – in such an amazing way that it’s really hard to get them wrong. And yet we do. There is something that these international companies are tapping into.”

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“Or maybe it’s tapping into something in us. Because we are both in tandem released from the pressure of ‘how are they going to deliver this famous line?’ I think we are being taught a lot by Europe and Eastern Europe about something that we’re missing with Shakespeare, craft and a long rehearsal period, a return to the ensemble. They are not restricted because they’re not bound to our language and they have a playfulness with it that I think we’re losing.”

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You’ve travelled widely, how would you say Shakespeare is perceived around the world?
“Away from the UK everyone loves him! It’s a generalisation but it’s not too far off. I do not meet students who dislike him so much overseas but I do encounter this ownership issue that whilst they have a tremendous passion, heart and love for Shakespeare, there is still this idea that ‘We don’t do it right because we don’t have the right sound or we don’t have English training’.”

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“Americans have embraced OP, though. Because the accent that left London 400 years ago got on the boats and went to the Americas. So when they hear OP they don’t say ‘Oh God, that sounds alien to us’. They hear accent qualities they can relate to and rather than thinking ‘We can’t do Shakespeare because we don’t have that beautiful RP accent. We don’t have any ownership over Shakespeare, even though we love him’, they say ‘Oh my goodness, he actually sounds like us, we can do this’. So it’s no wonder that they’ve embraced it. There is some really, really fascinating work both in the States and across the world. I just wish there was more flow, that more would come over. And, indeed, the other way.”

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We’ve mentioned your father, David Crystal. In You Say Potato the relationship between the two of you bounces of the page. What’s it like work with your dad?
“It’s a pain in the neck and it is the most wonderful, joyous experience that you could possibly wish for! I came up with the idea for Shakespeare’s Words when I was 22. I was lucky to work with a parent at such a young age. We became friends, and we got to know each other so quickly. He certainly wasn’t used to someone telling him he was wrong. There absolutely were disputes. He taught me how to articulate an argument, he taught me how to articulate myself. I am utterly blessed and feel lucky to have both that working and familial friendship with him and my mum. And I’m especially lucky that, considering how much of an expert he is, how experienced he is – and that even though sometimes it does take a little bit of shouting – he is always perceptive and open to new ideas.”

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“You can’t really ask for a better colleague than that. So to be able to take his research on and explore it practically, it’s really wonderful. It’s a celebration of his research and it’s a continuation and an exploration of it that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to do himself. So we are a good partnership in that respect.”

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So, if you had one big Shakespearean aspiration, What would it be?
“To change the education system, fundamentally, from the top down or the bottom up, whichever way is quickest. To refresh Shakespeare production and performance and the perception of it in a similar way that Gielgud, Olivier, Burton or Branagh has done. I would like very much to spend a considerable amount of time training and forming a company – much like the ensemble I’ve been starting to form – in a Globe-like space, and see where that may take us. To have artistic directorship of a place like The Globe or the Wanamaker, building our own space and recreating a similar sort of dynamic, that would be fine.”

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“And coming away from these experiences in 20-25 years time and having someone in their twenties or thirties saying ‘Ben Crystal’s wrong, his ideas had their time and now this is where we need to go with Shakespeare’ would be a dream come true.”

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Find out more about Ben’s approach to Shakespeare at the Passion in Practice website.

This interview originally appeared in Shakespeare Magazine Issue 6. 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.

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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

Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine arrives just in time for 2015 – and, yes, it’s still completely free!

Cover 05
Yes, we made you wait for it (sorry about that) but the latest completely FREE issue of Shakespeare Magazine is finally here.

Our scintillating cover story celebrates the amazing Shakespeare documentary film Muse of Fire.

We also investigate Shakespeare and the Tower of London, and take a trip to Staunton, Virginia – home of the American Shakespeare Center.

Meanwhile, actors from Shakespeare’s Globe have teamed up with a crew of legal eagles to perform at the famous Inns of Court.

Lois Leveen rethinks Romeo and Juliet with her evocative novel Juliet’s Nurse, while the experimental Filter Theatre Company remixes Macbeth at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Plus! You could win a copy of Station Eleven, the thrilling post-apocalyptic Shakespeare novel by Emily St. John Mandel.

Go here to read Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine right now.

And a very Happy New Year to our readers all over the world!

Globe’s Read Not Dead presents staged reading of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Benjamin_Jonson_by_Abraham_van_Blyenberch_retouched

Since 1995, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre have been presenting productions with less than 12 hours of rehearsal time through their Read not Dead programme. And at 4pm on Sunday 29 June they will be performing Every Man in his Humour in their recently-opened indoor theatre the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Written by Shakespeare’s famous contemporary, friend and rival Ben Jonson, the play was first staged in 1598 by Shakespeare’s own company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. And according to the published folio, Shakespeare himself took on the acting role of Old Kno’well.

In Sunday’s performance, distinguished Shakespeare authority Professor Stanley Wells will step into Shakespeare’s shoes by playing Old Kno’well. Joining him on stage will be a cast of experienced actors from stage and screen, including Blackadder comedy hero Tim McInnerny, along with Alan Cox and David Oakes.

Having received their scripts in the morning, the cast will take to the stage at 4pm to perform Jonson’s legendary comedy of misperceptions and deceit. “These are not polished productions, but live experiments,” says a spokeswoman from Shakespeare’s Globe. “There is a shared spirit of adventure and excitement for actors and audiences.”

Go here for tickets and more information.

Every Man in his Humour by Ben Jonson

Sunday 29 June, 4pm

Sam Wanamaker Theatre,
Shakespeare’s Globe,
21 New Globe Walk,
Bankside,
London SE1 9DT

 

Three new Shakespeare plays from Globe on Screen

Jessie Buckley as Miranda and Roger Allam as Prospero in The Tempest.

Jessie Buckley as Miranda and Roger Allam as Prospero in The Tempest.

Shakespeare’s Globe, in partnership with Arts Alliance Media, will bring three of its 2013 ‘Season of Plenty’ theatre performances to cinemas around the world this summer. Following  last year’s Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, Globe On Screen 2014 will feature a trio of supernatural Shakespeare classics: The Tempest from 28 May, Macbeth from 25 June and A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 15 July, with additional encore screenings.

All three performances have been captured in high definition and will be broadcast in their entirety in pristine digital cinema quality, with full 5.1 surround sound offering audiences the opportunity to experience the world’s most famous stage as if they were there in person.

Globe On Screen continued to go from strength to strength last year, with a record-breaking 2013 season of over 2000 screenings in 12 countries. Box office grosses in 2013 increased by more than 300% from 2012 and Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry, proved to be the best performing Globe On Screen production to date.

Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Dominic Dromgoole, says of Globe On Screen “Thousands of people saw these enchanting sell-out productions at the Globe last year, and we are delighted to be taking them to thousands more across the world with the latest cinema releases. From Colin Morgan’s otherworldly Ariel to Samantha Spiro’s earthy, tempestuous Lady Macbeth, 2013 was a season of dazzling performances in definitive productions of three of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.”

Tickets for the 2014 season are on sale now. Find more info and showtimes here.

The new Globe On Screen season will also be releasing later this year on selected screens across North America, Australasia and Europe.

 

Globe’s Read Not Dead revives Nathan Field comedy Amends For Ladies at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Sunday 18 May sees the pioneering Read Not Dead project from Shakespeare’s Globe make its debut in the newly opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Amends For Ladies by Nathan Field is a satirical and witty city comedy in which a maid, wife and widow have their virtue questioned by the men who claim to love them.

Bringing the text back to life with Read Not Dead.

Bringing the text back to life with Read Not Dead.

 

The Read Not Dead concept is brilliantly simple. Actors are given a script on a Sunday morning and work with a director to get the play up on its feet – with entrances and exits, token costume, props and music if needed. They present it, script-in-hand, to an audience at 4pm that very same day.

Read Not Dead was launched in 1995 and brings actors, audiences and scholars together to explore and celebrate the plays performed on London stages between 1567-1642. About 400 plays of the period have survived in print – Read Not Dead has staged over 200 of them to date, and all are recorded for archive.

Amends For ladies by Nathan Field
Sunday 18 May, 4pm-7pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe,
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

For more information on this event and for further upcoming
Read Not Dead presentations, go here.