Olivier Award-winner Sheila Atim stars as shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian in a new and timely screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy Twelfth Night, released on 25 October.

Sheila Atim (Viola)
Shanty Productions is an independent film production company, co-founded by Rakie Ayola and Adam Smethurst, and committed to producing drama that speaks to a diverse audience. Its first production is a full text version of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a 400-year-old stage play adapted for the screen to reflect and reach multicultural Britain today.
Adapted and directed by Smethurst, with Welsh actor Ayola (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) as Executive Producer, Twelfth Night is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes from Thursday 25 October 2018.
Shalini Peiris (Olivia)
The film stars 2018 Olivier Award winner Sheila Atim as the Bard’s shipwrecked twins, Viola and Sebastian. She has previously performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy, and is currently playing the role of Emilia in Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe.
This is a modern, full text version of Shakespeare’s tale of unrequited love, which also features Shalini Peiris as Olivia, Antony Bunsee as Malvolio, Zackary Momoh as Antonio and Upstart Crow’s Dominic Coleman as Sir Andrew Aguecheek among its talented cast.
Twelfth Night is the first feature from Shanty Productions; a new independent film production company committed to producing exceptional drama for diverse, multicultural audiences – creating worlds they recognise and characters they can relate to on accessible platforms for today’s digital natives.
Steven Milller (Fabian), Dominic Coleman (sir Andrew Aguecheek), Simon Nagra (Sir Toby Belch)
Commenting on the driving force behind Shanty Productions, Co-Founder Rakie Ayola said, “It is essentially the realisation that Adam and I could put our money where our mouths are, channel our skills and produce the kind of work we want to see. Work that combines our love of Shakespeare with our need to represent the world as we see it – as we’d like our daughters and their contemporaries to see it.”
On his decision to start with an adaptation of Twelfth Night, Adam Smethurst explained, “With the widespread rise of anti-immigrant populism and governments actively encouraging a hostile environment for refugees, telling the story of the outsider surviving in an alien world on her wit, charm and ingenuity became and remains compellingly urgent.”
 Zackary Momoh (Antonio)
Lead actor Sheila Atim added, “We’re not trying to dumb Shakespeare down; we’re not trying to make it what it isn’t so people can digest it. We’re staying absolutely true to what it is. We’re just bringing it forward to a time when people may feel like they can connect with it more.”
Twelfth Night is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes from Thursday 25 October 2018. For more details, visit the Shanty Productions website.
Antony Bunsee (Malvolio)

“I love the fact that the Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet technically doesn’t exist…” We asked Six Questions about Shakespeare to Melissa Barrett of South West England-based Sun & Moon Theatre

Which play or area of Shakespeare are you working on right now – and what are you getting from it?

“After Twelfth Night finished in November 2017, we took a break over Christmas, but it’s hard to not reflect on ideas, even when you’re meant to be taking a break. At the moment, we’re looking at Romeo and Juliet, as David (my Co-Artistic Director) and I have a tendency to flip back and forth between plays that we’re itching to do. In 2016, David was eager for us to do The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in 2017 I was keen to do Twelfth Night, and now he has a strong urge to do Romeo and Juliet – a play driven by youth – while we’re still fairly young!

“We’re getting so much from working on Romeo and Juliet, especially in terms of exciting conversations in these pre-production stages – it feels like striking a match before the candle lights up. We’ve re-read the play, re-watched some adaptations – including the 1936, 1968 and 1996 films, and even an adaptation of the ballet – for inspiration, and chatted about past productions we’ve seen, discussing what works and what doesn’t (for us) in all of these adaptations, and with the play itself. Our intention is also, while we cut the script, to compare the Quartos and the First Folio while we edit, in order to create a script that we’re happy with. Finding our production concept is currently dominating conversation, as Romeo and Juliet is so frequently done that it is tricky to find a concept that really excites or feels unique without being gimmicky. But more importantly the goal is to find a concept that feels fitting right now for audiences today, and yet also feels like a Sun & Moon production, as we’ve been exploring and building our identity as a company over the last few years.

Our summer open-air show is As You Like It. We’re excited about this one as, truth be told, we’re not big fans of this play, and we are hoping by doing it ourselves we will understand why people love it. We have a concept that we’re looking forward to getting our teeth into, and already we are finding wonderful moments within the play as we begin our text sessions with our actors.

What have you learned about Shakespeare that would have surprised your younger self?

“I think I would have been surprised by how Shakespeare is such a huge part of my life, and that it would invoke such wonderful conversations between friends and loved ones. I’ve had chats about characters, themes, the plays themselves, which could have gone on for hours and hours. When I was first introduced to Shakespeare at 13, when beginning Year 9 at school, I had been warned by others that Shakespeare would be really hard and really boring. To my absolute surprise, I loved it (I give a lot of credit to my old CGP Macbeth book). It felt like a world had opened up and my imagination was captured. I loved reading text that could have so many possible meanings, and exploring such fascinating, layered characters. Did I know at 13 that I would have loved working with Shakespeare so much that I’d do a Staging Shakespeare Masters degree and that I’d set up a theatre company revolving around it? I definitely would have been surprised, but hopefully in a positive way.

58Sun&MoonTheatre170810Matt Austin_edit
“Being more specific, and based on what we’re doing now, I would have been stunned that different versions of the plays exist – Quartos and Folios – and how editors have such an impact on how audience and readers perceive the plays. I first discovered that in my third year studying English at university. Younger me would definitely have been surprised by how much I love the First Folio and how I use it as a tool in acting and directing. It is such a joy of a text to use, and I love how many discoveries you make and clues/inspirations you get from just looking at First Folio edition (or even a Quarto!). It is like a mini director in the text offering guidance.”

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?

“Interestingly enough, it may well be the character I most recently played, Viola from Twelfth Night. I remember asking a professional who would come in to work with us on monologues while training with Year Out Drama, a lovely man named Alec Wilson, which character I should consider for speeches. He recommended that I look at Viola, as I seem like a natural Viola. For some bizarre reason, I didn’t follow up on that until four or five years later, when I was cast as Viola in a production while training for my MFA. I suddenly realised what Alec was talking about – that part fit me like a glove.

“I can relate to Viola. While cross-dressing Rosalind feels more like a natural extrovert, Viola is a natural introvert like myself, who has to play an extrovert in a character like Cesario, and does enjoy this taste of liberty via performance (until things go wrong). I relate to Viola’s empathy, her compassion for others, her diplomacy, her passion, her love for her family, and her personal neuroticism – like me, she’s a dweller who worries a LOT, and has to force herself to not think about it: ‘Time thou must untangle this’. She is a quiet figure, but when it matters, boldness will come to her and she is no pushover – I hope that is me too. On a more trivial note, like Viola, I am no athlete (always had Ds for PE at school), and identify with her terror at being in any kind of physical fight. It’s why we had a boxing scene early on in which she fails against another woman (Orsino’s household, in our interpretation, were all women pretending to be men, partly to highlight Orsino’s denseness) and why we usually cut the ‘A little thing would make me tell them how much I lack of a man’. We didn’t want her argument to be gendered. Our philosophy was, ‘Viola, women can fight, but you can’t’. Playing her in our own production throughout 2017 was an absolute joy.

“There is the touch of the Hermia in me too – five foot two, in a very loving relationship, but prone to passion and fieriness when crossed, inherited partly from my loving, yet fiery-natured Irish family… ‘Though she be but little she is fierce’. A touch of fiery Hermia spirit helps when running a theatre company!”

If I ask you to give me a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to your mind?

“‘A good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald, a fair face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow, but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon’ (Henry V). It partly inspired the name of our company.”

What’s your favourite Shakespeare-related fact, myth, story or anecdote?

“I love the fact that the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet technically doesn’t exist. It has become so engrained in our culture that it gets called ‘The Balcony Scene’, when not once is a balcony mentioned. We’re currently debating whether or not we have one in our own production! It allegedly emerged in Thomas Otway’s play, The History and Fall of Caius Marius, which was inspired heavily by Romeo and Juliet. Otway staged his equivalent scene ‘in the balcony’ and David Garrick used a balcony in his staging of Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of example in how much I love that productions in their place and time can have such a significant impact on cultural consciousness, to the extent that Juliet’s balcony via her ‘house’ (Casa di Giulietta) is an attraction that tourists flock to every year, and that there is even a Juliet Club, in which people write to ‘Juliet’ and get replies from volunteers who answer as ‘Juliet’ – a mythical character. That in itself is fascinating, as it all started when people left letters by Juliet’s ‘Tomb’ back in the 1930s, and the caretaker was so moved that he sent replies, starting this wonderfully bizarre movement. The power of Shakespeare is phenomenal sometimes.”

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

“I love Classic Hollywood so I have a tendency to cast people in my head who couldn’t possibly be cast because they’re no longer around, and that style of performance is long gone. I’m a big fan of the film The Philadelphia Story,  and watching Katharine Hepburn in that, I would have loved to have seen her take on Beatrice, perhaps with Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart as Benedick.

“Sticking to  Much Ado,  and being more realistic in terms of casting living performers, I love Damien Lewis and Sarah Parish’s performances as Benedick and Beatrice in the Shakespeare Retold adaptation. My partner and I always say that we wish they could play the roles in the actual play. Plus I recently read an interview with Helen McCrory and she said she’d love to play Beatrice opposite Lewis (her husband since 2007) as Benedick. They’d be fantastic.

“Oh, I can’t stop now! I saw Charles Dance recently do a talk and I asked him which Shakespeare roles would he love to perform that he hasn’t played yet, and he said Malvolio, Titus and Jacques – I would love to see him play all three!

Melissa Barrett is the Co-Artistic Director of Sun & Moon Theatre, which she founded with her partner, David Johnson. They will be touring with Shakespeare’s As You Like It in July 2018.

Thursday 21 June – University of Exeter North Piazza, Exeter
Saturday 30 June – Coleshill Organics, Oxfordshire
Sunday 8 July – The RSC Dell Open-Air Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Saturday 14 July – St George’s Park, Bristol (Bristol Shakespeare Festival)
Wednesday 25 & Thursday 26 July – Poltimore House, Exeter
Sunday 29 July – Queen’s Drive Space, Exmouth

Go here to find out more about Sun & Moon Theatre.

Back in 2014, an illuminating interview with Hollow Crown Fans kicked off the very first issue of Shakespeare Magazine. This month, we caught up with Rose from HCF for a timely update on her Shakespearean activities

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III

Your very own #ShakespeareSunday hashtag began in 2012, and is still reaching new Twitter heights.
Rose: “There have been great themes and theme pickers over the years, and it continues to show just how popular and global the Bard’s works are. The Bard’s birthday celebrations this year actually landed on a #ShakespeareSunday which was great timing, even Stan Lee and Chaka Khan joined in! It really is fun to see who discovers the tag each week, as well as enjoying the creativity of the regular tweeters on the tag.

“Since the interview with Shakespeare Magazine in 2014 we had the unexpected good news that Neal Street were going to make a second series of The Hollow Crown, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III, which has come and gone. Now there are already rumours of a third series involving the Roman plays, so that is certainly an area I’ll be looking into further. It has been a popular theme on #ShakespeareSunday a few times, and Coriolanus a favourite to quote from since Tom Hiddleston starred in the leading role at the Donmar in 2013. The Roman plays seem to be very much the choice of the moment, and Hollow Crown fans are also excited at the prospect of Julius Caesar opening in London next year with Ben Whishaw and David Morrissey!”

Maxine Peake (left) as Doll Tearsheet in The Hollow Crown

Maxine Peake (left) as Doll Tearsheet in The Hollow Crown

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?
“Going off from the Hollow Crown cast for this question, I’d say Doll Tearsheet… maybe. I can rock the English peasant look, for good or bad, even Neal Street thought that when they cast me as an extra for Henry V! Ha Ha.”

If I ask you to give me a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to your mind?
“What relish is in this? How runs the stream? Or I am mad, or else this is a dream.” – Twelfth Night (Act IV, Scene 1)

You have the power to cast anyone in the world (actor or otherwise) to play any Shakespearean character. Who do you choose – and which role do they play?
“Seth Numrich – Prince Hal / Henry V. I have become a fan of Seth’s via another love of mine, the AMC TV series TURN: Washington’s Spies. Fans of the Bard and history really need to check this show out if they have not done so already. Fantastic cast, gripping storyline and Shakespeare quotes dropped in at various points over the seasons. There is a wonderful YouTube video of Seth quoting from The Merchant of Venice (“The quality of mercy is not strain’d…”) that has not left my head since watching it many moons ago. To see him on stage doing Shakespeare would be a real treat!

Seth Numrich in TURN

Seth Numrich in TURN

“In his interview for Muse of Fire (which you can see on Globe Player, 47 minutes in) Seth mentions his desire to play the role of Prince Hal, and he would be perfect. One of my favourite characters from The Hollow Crown and Shakespeare’s plays as a whole. I watched this interview in 2015 and I’m still waiting. If I had the power I’d certainly make it happen! Whilst we all wait, do check out Seth with Matt Doyle in Private Romeo, an all-male cast set in a high-school military academy.”

Follow Hollow Crown Fans on Twitter, and join the #ShakespeareSunday festivities each weekend.

Read our Hollow Crown Fans interview in Shakespeare Magazine 01.

Read the Hollow Crown Fans interview with actor Edward Akrout in Shakespeare Magzazine 04.

“Could Shakespeare’s Cymbeline have been influenced by Rustaveli, the national poet of Georgia?” was the question asked in a packed lecture room at London’s Royal Asiatic Society

As the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is celebrated around the world, Georgia has been marking the 850th anniversary of Shota Rustaveli, a medieval poet whose writing helped preserve his country’s unique language.

Over the centuries, the fiercely proud nation of Georgia has fought to maintain its independence during domination by Persians, Turks, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Like England, its national symbol is the cross of its patron saint, St. George.

Tamar Beruchashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to the UK

Tamar Beruchashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to the UK

The London event was organised by the Embassy of Georgia in partnership with the British Council in Georgia, Georgian Art Palace, British-Georgian Society and Royal Asiatic Society. Launched on the night was a catalogue of Shakespeare in Georgian Theatre full of fascinating items illustrating how strongly Georgia has embraced Shakespeare over the years.

Professor Elguja Khintibidze of Tbilisi State University presented his theory that Rustaveli’s tale The Man in the Panther’s Skin was a source for Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

Rustaveli’s The man in the Panther Skin

Rustaveli’s The man in the Panther Skin

A chivalric romantic tale of court intrigue, The Man in the Panther’s Skin may have inspired two plays by Beaumont and Fletcher (A King and No King and Philaster) that were familiar to the Bard. Khintibidze believes that Beaumont and Fletcher followed the manuscript directly, and that Shakespeare then followed Beaumont and Fletcher.

Shakespeare would also have known of the 1590s travels of Sir Anthony Sherley, Ambassador to Shah Abass of Persia. Sherley’s expedition was itself turned into a play, and seems to have been referenced in Twelfth Night.

Dr. Graham Sheffield, Director, Arts of the British Council; Director of the British Council in Georgia Mr. Zaza Purtseladze; Ambassador of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili

Dr. Graham Sheffield, Director, Arts of the British Council; Director of the British Council in Georgia Mr. Zaza Purtseladze; Ambassador of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili

Professor Khintibidze pointed out a dozen plot details that were very similar between The Man in the Panther’s Skin and Cymbeline. Most sound familiar from many myths and legends (and other Shakespeare plays) but altogether the similarities seem strong.

The Shakespeare-meets-Rustaveli theme was the brainchild of former Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, now the Ambassador to the UK. The idea was supported by former British Ambassador, Alexandra Hall-Hall, a popular figure in Georgia, and by the new British Ambassador Justin McKenzie Smith.

Artwork from the event

Artwork from the event

The audience also heard an entertaining and informative lecture by Professor Donald Rayfield on the problems of translating Rustaveli (several Soviet era translators came to sticky ends), and Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze on the “social lives of manuscripts”. Aleksidze cited a bishop who denounced the religiously ‘ecumenical’ Rustaveli as a “writer of vile poetry” who “preached profanity”, and George Bernard Shaw criticising the lack of moral social heroes in Shakespeare.

Rustaveli was first translated into English in the 1890s by Marjorie Wardrop, sister of the first British consul to independent Georgia. Wardrop’s papers form an important part of the Bodleian Library’s collection of Georgian material.

Audience at the event

Audience at the event

Since the 1980s, the Rustaveli Theatre has been internationally famed for the Shakespeare productions of Robert Sturua. However, as early as 1925 it had staged an acclaimed version of Hamlet.

Go here to find out more about the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi, Georgia.

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.

The tagline for her one-woman show To She Or Not To She is “Get stuffed, Will!”, but Emma Bentley is a lifelong Shakespeare fan with a fresh – and funny – feminist message

Writer and actor Emma Bentley plays a parodic version of herself in one-woman show To She Or Not To She, beginning at 14 years old when it is announced that the year nine spring term play is going to be Hamlet.

Emma knows she is perfect for the lead role: she grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, knows all about Shakespeare, and (not to boast or anything) she’s the best actor in the school. Her gender doesn’t occur to her as being a problem, until her drama teacher informs her post-audition that she “just couldn’t see Hamlet as a girl”.

Bentley says: “I chose Shakespeare because before I went to drama school I thought I knew a lot about him, and then at LIPA [Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts] I realised how much more complex the plays are. So it was a process of finding out for me. I also am not that good at really serious, intense emotional scenes – I prefer comedy.”

Bentley brings her experience in mime and clowning to the excellent caricatures she presents – a particular highlight is Emma’s diva-ish classmate Jimmy Danish, a Cumberbatch wannabe with a swagger and a quiff, who tells her she should audition for Ophelia because “You’d look really cool drowned”.

The show’s quirky style and close rapport with its audience are key to its appeal. Alongside the laughs, however, comedy proves a useful mechanism for making people think. Walking home from school in the rain, the young Emma mourns her Hamlet-that-might-have-been. Soaked to the skin, it is as if she becomes Ophelia – side-lined as mad for defying the status quo, and ultimately disposed of with very little fuss. The moment prompts us to wonder how many other young potential female Hamlets are turned into Ophelias as early as their first auditions.

To She Or Not To She is part of a recent upsurge in female actors playing male Shakespearean heroes, notably Harriet Walter’s Henry IV (at the Donmar Warehouse) and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet (at the Manchester Royal Exchange), alongside all-female companies like the Smooth-Faced Gentlemen. But for Bentley there is still a long way to go before female actors have access to the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

“I did see Peake’s Hamlet in the cinema, and people’s reactions around me were, ‘I wasn’t even thinking about the fact she’s a woman!’” she says. “But female actors in leading Shakespearean roles are still really quite rare in this country and I don’t think they get the recognition they deserve. I feel like that’s quite a depressing answer [to your question]! I think things are changing, just not very quickly, which can be frustrating. I would love it if To She Or Not To She was part of a trend of productions that would get things moving faster.”

“Countries like France and Germany are great for taking Shakespeare and mixing things up. Maybe because there is not that sense of it being a traditional part of their culture in same way, so they’re happy to pull it apart and cut out whole scenes, or look at a character a different light. In the UK, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious thing, the weight of tradition can hold people back.”

Bentley is certainly comfortable pulling Shakespeare apart – as To She Or Not To She follows Emma through drama school and her attempts to forge an acting career, lines from the plays compare her situation with those of male Shakespearean characters, making a convincing case for how relevant they are to her (female) experiences.

Particularly effective towards the end of the play are Bentley’s original lines written in iambic pentameter. She says, “It’s a generalisation, but I think girls can often be more confident in Shakespeare [than with other plays]”.

And it is through Shakespeare’s rhythms and language that Emma can express her desperation for female voices in theatre. What she wants is not just to be allowed to play male roles, but to find female roles that are crazy, drunk, passionate or brave.

Although it is intrinsically honest, in places the show verges on didactic where it could allow its audience a little more space and time to draw conclusions for themselves, but Bentley is the first to admit that the show is a work in progress.

“The production is constantly changing – the ending especially has changed a lot. At one point it ended with my character getting a job at the Globe, but I felt like I was just making things up as I’ve never actually been lucky enough to work there, so it wasn’t… honest.

“I’ve also cut the jig at the end [a Globe-style song and dance], even though I love doing it, because people fed back that they felt I just needed to leave time for the final scene to resonate, rather than dancing around as if everything’s OK.”

It might be the influence of the show, but Bentley seems oddly similar to popular conceptions of Shakespeare – humble, self-parodying and often witty. While To She Or Not To She is a serious reflection on sexism in the acting profession, it is also very comfortable exposing (and laughing at) the pretentiousness that often creeps into an actor’s life, with lines like “Did I play Hamlet? Or did Hamlet play me? That is the question”.

Asked which Shakespearean parts she would most like to play, Bentley muses: “I think I’d have to say Hamlet – I know it’s a cliché, but I feel like this is the right moment for me to take on that role. You hear older actors saying they wish they’d done Hamlet, and I feel like if it doesn’t happen for me in the next three years, it probably never will.

“I’d also like to play Feste – I’ve played him at drama school but would love to do it again. Directors of Twelfth Night tend to see Feste’s as the lines to cut – he’s just talking nonsense, right? – but having played him and realised what he’s saying, I find there’s so much there that really resonates with life today.”

To She Or Not To She is produced by Joue Le Genre and is touring to Broadway Theatre Catford and Arts Theatre Leicester Square in the UK this month.

Go here for more information and tickets.

Pennsylvania’s Gamut Theatre Group christens its new theatre with performance of Twelfth Night

Normally, standing ovations come at the end of a performance, but the opening performance of Gamut Theatre Group’s Twelfth Night was bookended by them.

As co-founders Clark and Melissa Nicholson took the stage to welcome the audience to the new theatre, the crowd erupted into applause, and as the actors returned to bow at the close, the same sound filled the new “cathedral to the arts”.

Full Cast
It has been a long journey to renovate and reinvent the historic church building into a top notch performance and education space, but one worth the work. Before the move, Gamut had to perform in a rented space in a city shopping mall. Admittedly, they put on great performances there, but the new space holds much more potential – and gives them a permanent home.

Harrisburg, most well known for being the bankrupt capital of the state of Pennsylvania, lacks a strong reputation for the arts. However, many people committed to both the city and to the arts have been working to change that.

Feste and Toby
For the past 21 years, Gamut has been working to rejuvenate the city through the power of theatre. Even before the new space, Gamut mounted several shows a year, including educational shows that went on tour to schools around the northeast US, as well as offering classes on Shakespeare performance and education.

This new space will allow them continue and expand upon all their realms of work, with several classroom spaces, along with performance and rehearsal spaces.

drunk surgeon
The design of the mainstage pays homage to Early Modern theatre with a wooden thrust stage and facade featuring three entrances as well as a balcony – very reminiscent of the shape of The Globe or Blackfriars. But, looking up doesn’t reveal starlight or candelabras, but a lattice of lighting and sound equipment. It’s a marriage between the past and the present.

Of course, what use is a beautiful theatre without performances to complement it? The opening performance of Twelfth Night matched the space perfectly. The actors brought the scenes to life with the Bard’s lines rather than elaborate sets pieces or props. When modern technology appeared, it subtly heightened the action of the scene without interrupting it.

Ceasario and Olivia Arch Pity Me
The same care that defines the new space was given to the performance of the text. Each character contained nuance and variety, creating a multi-faceted production full of laughs and drama. Tom Weaver’s performance as Malvolio contrasted in every way Francesca Amendolia’s performance as Feste, adding an undercurrent of humor and intrigue to the convoluted romance unfolding.

For their first season, the Gamut Theatre Group is bringing their usual array of children’s shows (such as A Christmas Carol currently running for the holiday season), Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti (opening after the new year), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in February. Interspersed amongst those main shows, there are also a number of performances from their improvisational team as well as community projects with their Stage Door Series.

Go here for more information on Gamut Theatre Group.

25th Shakespeare Festival at the Globe in Neuss, Germany showcases Shakespeare talent from around the world

This weekend, the 25th annual Shakespeare Festival at the Globe in Neuss, Germany reaches the end of an eclectic programme of 13 productions, featuring Shakespeare performers from around the world.

The festival commenced on 28 of May, concluding on 27 June. It anticipated plenty of laughter from a total of six comedies, including Twelfth Night in Catalan and a cross-dressed As You Like It.


The festival also featured three tragedies and an adapted history play featuring all of Shakespeare’s kings.

The 500-seat Neuss Globe theatre was designed in 1987 by impresario Reinhard Schiele, who took his inspiration from London’s reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe.

In 1991 it was transported to its current site beside a racecourse in the city of Neuss in western Germany, where it has produced its Shakespeare Festival every summer since.

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This year’s programme included the German premiere of a Portuguese-language Hamlet set in Rio de Janeiro, and an “impro-opera” by Munich-based ensemble La Triviata, in which four singers and a pianist composed and sang an improvised Shakespearean opera in response to keywords suggested by the audience.

In honour of the festival’s silver jubilee, British director Dan Jemmett created a quirkily dramatic production of Measure for Measure, set in a dilapidated funeral parlour and performed by his company Eat a Crocodile.

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Die Theaterachse from Salzburg presented a fast-paced take on The Merry Wives of Windsor with piano accompaniment, and Lautten Compagney Berlin performed a selection of English Renaissance music in A Midsummer Night’s Fantasies, with German film and television star Dominique Horwitz as Puck.

On Tuesday 23 June, Gustav Peter Wöhler and the WDR radio choir united in Shakespeare Theatre A Capella, and Stephen Jameson’s company Mountview Productions will bring the festival to a close with three performances of Love’s Labour’s Lost from 25 June onwards.

Go here for full programme details and to book tickets.

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.

Mayhem Musical Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night sells out at two South London parks

Although Mayhem Musical Theatre Company call themselves an “amateur company”, their Shakespeare-in-the-park performances consistently receive high praise with tickets selling out in advance.
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And their new production of Twelfth Night at Nonsuch Park, Cheam and Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon has continued this tradition, even though additional performances were added this year to help meet the demand.
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The company’s quirky take on Shakespeare’s brilliant comedy is enhanced by the Parks’ idyllic setting. Audience members can even pre-order a picnic dinner to accompany the show.
If you’re disappointed that you missed seeing Twelfth Night, keep an eye out for MMTC’s Peter Pan and A Salute to Stage & Screen 4 later this year, as well as more Shakespeare next summer.

Further details from here.