Shakespeare Magazine 06

Issue Six of Shakespeare Magazine features five exciting, inspiring and controversial Shakespeare interviews: actor, author and linguist Ben Crystal; novelist Andrea Chapin; UK comedian Sara Pascoe; Kill Shakespeare co-creator Anthony Del Col; and visionary actor-educator Ben Walden (interviewed by Top Teacher Phil Beadle). Also this issue: our US Staff Writer nabs a part in The Taming of the Shrew, and we take a fresh and surprising look at "To be or not to be". Plus! Some of the most brilliant Shakespeare books out now.

Issue Six of Shakespeare Magazine features five exciting, inspiring and controversial Shakespeare interviews: actor, author and linguist Ben Crystal; novelist Andrea Chapin; UK comedian Sara Pascoe; Kill Shakespeare co-creator Anthony Del Col; and visionary actor-educator Ben Walden (interviewed by Top Teacher Phil Beadle). Also this issue: our US Staff Writer nabs a part in The Taming of the Shrew, and we take a fresh and surprising look at "To be or not to be". Plus! Some of the most brilliant Shakespeare books out now.


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At last! A magazine with all the Will in the world<br />


FREE<br />

Hamlet<br />

Alone?<br />

Exploding<br />

the myth of<br />

“To be or<br />

not to be…”<br />

Issue 6<br />

Art<br />

thou<br />

Grumio?<br />

Our college<br />

girl takes on<br />

The Taming<br />

of the Shrew<br />

Big Books<br />

Giveaway!<br />

Brilliant Bard<br />

Books up for<br />

grabs inside!<br />

Set in stone<br />

Five great exclusive<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> interviews!<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> Hero Ben Crystal Clever Comedian Sara Pascoe<br />

The Tutor novelist Andrea Chapin Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s Anthony Del Col<br />

Superteacher Phil Beadle meets Bard Evangelist Ben Walden

Welcome <br />

Welcome<br />

to Issue 6 of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong><br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>ans tend to have a way with words, and this<br />

issue features five interviews to inspire and enlighten<br />

anyone with an interest in the Bard.<br />

Acclaimed educator and author Phil Beadle verbally spars with<br />

actor-director Ben Walden, a man possessed of compelling faith in the<br />

power of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

And Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> co-creator Anthony Del Col riffs on the<br />

exciting possibilities for <strong>Shakespeare</strong> in TV, video games and, of course,<br />

comics.<br />

Comedian Sara Pascoe has been delighting audiences with her<br />

mixture of amiable whimsy and razor-sharp wit. Here, she tells us all<br />

about the 16th Century man in her life – namely <strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

Staying in the 16th Century is Andrea Chapin, whose novel The<br />

Tutor introduces readers to a young, ambitious and mercurial William<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

Rounding off this virtual symposium is one of the most exciting<br />

all-round talents in the <strong>Shakespeare</strong> world right now. Ben Crystal tells<br />

us about his workshops, his books, collaborating with his dad, and the<br />

wonders of ‘OP’.<br />

Enjoy your magazine.<br />

Photo: David Hammonds<br />

Pat Reid, Founder & Editor<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 3

LOVE, SEX &<br />


“We will always be haunted by the question<br />

‘What inspired <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s greatest poetry?’<br />

In her captivating debut novel, Andrea Chapin<br />

offers a brilliant solution...”<br />

James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

Published in the UK by Penguin on 26 March, £7.99

The Taming of the Shrew<br />

Our US Staff Writer<br />

breaks the gender<br />

wall and takes to<br />

the stage as Grumio<br />

in her college’s<br />

ambitious production<br />

of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s most<br />

boisterous comedy.<br />

Words: Mary Finch<br />

The<br />

Taming<br />

of the<br />

GRU<br />

6 SHAKESPEARE magazine

The Taming of the Shrew <br />

fter putting on my jacket and<br />

straightening my hat, I turned<br />

to my sister with an air of<br />

expectancy. “You look like an<br />

asshole,” she said, laughing.<br />

I smiled. That was exactly the<br />

look I was going for.<br />

I was wearing leather pants, black kicks<br />

(that’s what the kids call those shoes, right?),<br />

a T-shirt two sizes too large, and a hoodie to<br />

match. The ensemble was topped off with a<br />

grey beanie on my head, and a bruise around<br />

my eye. The final touch was an oversized<br />

gold watch on my wrist. The wardrobe was<br />

inspired in part by Justin Bieber and Kanye<br />

West, so not my normal style.<br />

Over the next three hours, I got into fights<br />

(losing most of them), made crude jokes,<br />

drove go-karts and fought with lightsabres,<br />

all in the name of William <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. I was<br />

playing Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew.<br />

<br />

“The wardrobe was inspired<br />

in part by Justin Bieber<br />

and Kanye West, so not<br />

my normal style”<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 7

The Taming of the Shrew<br />

Mary<br />

“I decided that in true<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>an fashion I’d<br />

try to ‘suit me all points<br />

like a man’”<br />

This adventure began three months ago when<br />

I decided to audition. The fact that it’d been<br />

seven years since my last acting experience<br />

didn’t deter me. Nor did the fact that this play<br />

features hardly any female roles. Knowing<br />

that Messiah College, my small liberal arts<br />

school would have an abundance of girls<br />

competing to play Katherina and Bianca,<br />

I decided that in true <strong>Shakespeare</strong>an fashion<br />

I’d try to “suit me all points like a man”.<br />

Looking at the array of men’s parts,<br />

I considered my petite frame and artsy<br />

demeanor, and settled on auditioning for<br />

Petruchio’s hot-headed companion Grumio.<br />

To my disappointment, I was only called back<br />

for the female roles, but when the director,<br />

Tom Ryan, was short of someone to read<br />

Grumio, I was on stage before he could finish<br />

asking for volunteers. One anxious week later,<br />

the cast list was up and I was on my way to<br />

checking one more item off my bucket list.<br />

is transformed<br />

into a brawling<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>an<br />

delinquent…<br />

With the anxiety of auditions removed,<br />

though, I found myself beginning to worry<br />

about the fate of this beloved text. The first<br />

read-through, which took six hours, did little<br />

to boost my confidence in the capabilities of<br />

this cast (myself included) to tackle one of the<br />

Bard’s most nuanced comedies.<br />

Much to my chagrin, my college had<br />

not performed <strong>Shakespeare</strong> in four years, so<br />

for most of us this was the first <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

play we had been involved in. But I was not<br />

exactly enthralled by the director’s vision – a<br />

modern-day Shrew where the Minola family<br />

owned a pizza shop in Little Italy, NYC,<br />

while Lucentio travelled from Texas and<br />

Petruchio came from New Jersey. However,<br />

what unfolded over the month-and-a-half of<br />

rehearsals astounded me.<br />

Tom set the tone from the beginning.<br />

“These characters are stereotypical,” he said<br />

at the first rehearsal, “but their relationships<br />

8 SHAKESPEARE magazine

The Taming of the Shrew <br />

“The metre gives you everything you<br />

need, even the character at times”<br />

with each other are complicated.” My anxiety<br />

subsided a little.<br />

I won’t say we did something with<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> that was unheard of, or unique –<br />

I’ve seen too many productions to think that<br />

– but it was impressive.<br />

Part of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s genius, perhaps the<br />

main part, is that he does not tell the story<br />

of one, two or even three characters. Every<br />

person in his cast has the potential to be the<br />

main character of the action. Not only did<br />

Ryan know this, but so did each of my fellow<br />

cast members.<br />

Over and over, Ryan encouraged us to<br />

decide on who our character was, figure out<br />

the stereotype, discover ways to go bigger.<br />

Gremio (Bob Colbert) became a washed-up<br />

mobster who had seen better days. Biondello<br />

(Cheyenne Shupp) turned into an overzealous<br />

and hilariously naive stable hand.<br />

Vincentio (Tim Spirk) was a Texan oil baron.<br />

The play features<br />

perhaps <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s<br />

most inspired use of a<br />

golf buggy.<br />

Even the Pedant (Austin Blair) became<br />

his own character – in this production, a<br />

drunkard who spent most of his time passed<br />

out on stage.<br />

Beyond the hours of rehearsal at night,<br />

Ryan encouraged all the actors to study the<br />

text on their own time. Since poring over<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> encapsulates most of my free<br />

time, it was far from a tedious assignment.<br />

For other cast members, who didn’t share this<br />

passion, it was more of a chore.<br />

Nevertheless, they tackled the<br />

challenge with relish and it enlivened their<br />

performances. Actors previously unaware of<br />

the power of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s words and rhythm<br />

were finding it on their own.<br />

“It was really exciting to make discoveries<br />

as we did that homework,” says Michael<br />

Hardenberg (Tranio). “The metre gives you<br />

everything you need, even the character at<br />

times.”<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 9

The Taming of the Shrew<br />

Tobias Nordlund played Petruchio and<br />

struggled with the text before it came good in<br />

the end. “My experience with this show and<br />

with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>,” he says, “completely took<br />

me by surprise.”<br />

When opening night arrived, we were<br />

abuzz with nervous energy. Hell Week of<br />

rehearsals lived up to its name, but the<br />

production far exceeded our expectations.<br />

The audience roared when Kate<br />

(Rachel Ballasy) duct taped the hands of<br />

Bianca (Chrisanna Rock), trapping her<br />

on a speeding-up treadmill during the<br />

interrogation scene. In the wedding scene, I<br />

successfully manoeuvred a golf cart on and off<br />

the stage to gasps of surprise. And at the end<br />

of the road trip scene, when a member of the<br />

college faculty came out of the port-a-potty<br />

with toilet paper trailing from his feet, the<br />

audience erupted with laughter.<br />

Playing Grumio let me fall in love with<br />

The cast strove to<br />

make each character<br />

as three-dimensional<br />

as possible.<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> and theatre in new ways. Above<br />

all, it cemented my belief that anyone, truly<br />

anyone, can do <strong>Shakespeare</strong> – and do it<br />

phenomenally – and that is the reason he is<br />

still being performed today. Not necessarily<br />

because his ideas were that great or his poetry<br />

so complex. But because he created characters<br />

that can be understood by all people, as long<br />

as the proper amount of work and energy is<br />

invested into the production.<br />

<br />

“Playing Grumio let me fall<br />

in love with <strong>Shakespeare</strong> and<br />

theatre in new ways”<br />

10 SHAKESPEARE magazine




Original Pronunciation<br />

Cue-scripts<br />

Physical training<br />

Workshops and Consultancy<br />

www.passioninpractice.com<br />


Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

Ultra-vivid, ultra-violent<br />

and ultra-cool, Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

is a graphic novel series with<br />

added Bard Power. Co-creator<br />

Anthony Del Col takes us<br />

behind the panels.<br />

Words: Brooke Thomas<br />

Portraits: Piper Williams<br />

Art: Andy Belanger<br />

Serial<br />

12 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <br />

<br />

What would you say to a<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>an traditionalist who<br />

was sceptical about graphic novels?<br />

Anthony Del Col, photographed<br />

at <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s Globe, London,<br />

October 2014.<br />

“About seven years ago I myself was sceptical<br />

about comic books and graphic novels.<br />

I thought that they were all just superhero<br />

stories about men in tights and capes, that<br />

sort of thing. Then Conor (McCreery, Kill<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> co-creator), who had been<br />

working part time at a comic book shop at that<br />

time, started putting some really interesting<br />

and provocative titles into my hands. Things<br />

like Y: The Last Man, Fables, The League<br />

of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Blankets – all<br />

these things from different genres. It made me<br />

realise how interesting a storytelling medium it<br />

actually is.<br />

“With comic books and graphic novels<br />

you’re not limited by budgets or anything like<br />

that, you’re only limited by your imagination.<br />

It’s actually a very thought-provoking medium.<br />

Yes, you have the visuals in front of you, but<br />

you don’t have all. There are interesting stories<br />

being told between the panels.”<br />

Killer<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 13

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

“I had been told that <strong>Shakespeare</strong> was<br />

the crème de la crème of storytelling,<br />

and I thought there must be a reason why”<br />

I know you were considering<br />

other mediums back when Kill<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> was just an idea. Are<br />

you happy you settled on this one?<br />

“Absolutely. Traditionally <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

is viewed as very highbrow, which is<br />

unfortunate, and comic books are perceived<br />

as lowbrow. I thought it was poetic to make<br />

them meet half-way, to put the highbrow<br />

with the lowbrow. <strong>Shakespeare</strong> wrote his<br />

plays to be performed, not to be read, and<br />

in a lot of classrooms across the world the<br />

experience is to have a teacher or someone<br />

in the class read it out for you. In the comic<br />

book medium we can bring everything to<br />

life, even more so than <strong>Shakespeare</strong> could<br />

Witch’s brew:<br />

Lady Macbeth,<br />

as visualised in<br />

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

himself in some cases. Hamlet meets pirates<br />

in the play – it happens offstage but you<br />

hear about it. In the very first edition of Kill<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> you actually see this huge pirate<br />

battle. You can’t do that on stage. We write<br />

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong>, we have Sherlock Holmes vs<br />

Harry Houdini – I’ve fallen in love with the<br />

medium and I can envision myself writing<br />

comics for the next 30 years.”<br />

Which of the characters is your<br />

favourite to write?<br />

“When we first started, my favourite<br />

character was Iago because he’s so deliciously<br />

evil and always three or four steps ahead of<br />

everyone else. It almost got to a point where<br />

14 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <br />

“Iago is so<br />

deliciously evil.<br />

He’s always three or<br />

four steps ahead of<br />

everyone else”<br />

Anthony Del Col<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 15

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <br />

it felt like he was one or two steps ahead of<br />

Conor and myself. As time has gone on,<br />

and as the project has expanded into other<br />

mediums, Hamlet has become my favourite.<br />

I look for Hamlet in everything I watch or<br />

consume these days. The way we’ve scripted<br />

him in the television outline that we’re<br />

putting together right now makes him even<br />

more fun to write and I think that I… it’s not<br />

that I can fully grasp who Hamlet is, but I<br />

feel like I’ve gotten a better handle on who he<br />

is and the possibilities for his character.”<br />

What’s the plan for TV?<br />

“The goal for a Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> television<br />

series would be to combine the dark fantasy<br />

world-building of Game of Thrones with the<br />

wit and knowledge of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> in Love.<br />

Game of Thrones is a huge success worldwide,<br />

and opened many people’s eyes to the power<br />

of fantasy. We think doing Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

as television can do the same thing for<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>.”<br />

Outside of your own, do you have<br />

a favourite adaptation of Hamlet<br />

or any of the plays?<br />

“Oh, that’s a good question. I’m gonna go a<br />

little off the beaten track, but I do like – it’s not<br />

a straight-up adaptation – I’m a huge fan of<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> in Love. Just because it was a way<br />

to make <strong>Shakespeare</strong> accessible and exciting<br />

and relevant. I’ll do another cheat, because I<br />

am Canadian I have to give a plug for Slings<br />

and Arrows.”<br />

I adore Slings and Arrows.<br />

“For those that are reading this that have not<br />

watched it yet, I highly recommend it. In<br />

terms of straight adaptations, again because<br />

it made <strong>Shakespeare</strong> relevant for a whole new<br />

generation, I’ll say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo +<br />

Juliet. I know it has its fans and its detractors.<br />

I love how Baz just throws everything and<br />

the kitchen sink into everything that he does.<br />

That’s the adaptation – out of film, TV,<br />

everything – that I’ve enjoyed and watched and<br />

rewatched the most.”<br />

Hamlet (left) takes<br />

on Romeo in one<br />

of Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s<br />

trademark mash-ups.<br />

What do you think it is about<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s characters that<br />

make them so universal?<br />

“<strong>Shakespeare</strong> was the ultimate humanist.<br />

He understood humanity and individuals<br />

better than anyone ever has or ever will.<br />

The moment that <strong>Shakespeare</strong> really came<br />

to life for me was the first play I ever read<br />

in school. It was The Merchant of Venice.<br />

Shylock, who is a character who doesn’t<br />

necessarily speak to me – but it’s close to<br />

my heart – gives the ‘hath not a Jew eyes’<br />

speech which gives you all this sympathy for<br />

him. The next minute he wants his ‘pound<br />

of flesh.’ So he goes from being a villain to<br />

sympathetic to a villain yet again.<br />

“I find that so fascinating, that within<br />

a minute you’re able to see all the different<br />

facets – good and bad – of a character.<br />

That’s why I think his characters have stood<br />

the test of time and have been done and<br />

redone.”<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 16

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

“I’d love to immerse players into a world where<br />

you can play as one of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s characters<br />

and interact with all the others”<br />

So your first experience of<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> was a positive one?<br />

“Yes and no. I had a horrible teacher who was<br />

completely out of her element. The entire<br />

class was unruly. We were in Canada and not<br />

excited about <strong>Shakespeare</strong> – it was a negative<br />

experience up front. But I had been told by<br />

media and people in general that <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

was the crème de la crème of storytelling, and I<br />

thought there must be a reason why. So if I’m<br />

not going to learn from my teacher, then I’m<br />

going to go out and try to figure it out myself.<br />

That’s when I started self-guided learning<br />

and sought out and read more things about<br />

Merchant of Venice and Shylock.”<br />

Self-taught<br />

man: the young<br />

Anthony explored<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s works<br />

outside of school.<br />

You’ve just released the Kill<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> table top game,<br />

you’re working on TV ideas,<br />

what’s next?<br />

“In addition to television I’d like to do a<br />

videogame. There are some really fascinating<br />

stories being told through this medium.<br />

I think they’re called narrative games, where<br />

it’s not a first person shooter, it’s more about<br />

storytelling and personalities. I’d love to be able<br />

to immerse players into a world where you<br />

can play as one of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s characters and<br />

you get to interact with all the others. In an<br />

early brainstorming session, what became the<br />

Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong> comic was a video game, so<br />

I’d love to come back to that and introduce a<br />

whole new generation to <strong>Shakespeare</strong> through<br />

that medium.”<br />

I would play that.<br />

“I know! There would be so many <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

fans, even those who don’t play video games,<br />

who’d be like ‘Wait, what? I get to play as<br />

Hamlet? That’s amazing!’ and they’d dive into<br />

it. I also want action figures. Kill <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

action figures. Because what <strong>Shakespeare</strong> fan<br />

doesn’t want to have an action figure on their<br />

desk of Hamlet, or Othello, or Puck?”<br />

Absolutely! So, sky’s the limit,<br />

really?<br />

“Sky’s the limit, baby.”<br />

<br />

17 SHAKESPEARE magazine

The Tutor<br />

“I had a lot of fun<br />

playing around<br />

with Venus and<br />

Adonis because it<br />

is such a wonderful<br />

and sexy poem”<br />

Andrea Chapin<br />

18 SHAKESPEARE magazine

The Tutor <br />

The Tutor is your debut novel.<br />

What were you doing before this?<br />

Reeling<br />

in the<br />

Years<br />

Young, ambitious, full of passion…<br />

Andrea Chapin’s novel The Tutor features<br />

a version of William <strong>Shakespeare</strong> readers<br />

may not have encountered before…<br />

Interview by Mary Finch<br />

“When I started The Tutor I had been,<br />

for almost 15 years, a book doctor. That is<br />

someone who works on other people’s books<br />

before they are published, often with an agent<br />

or sometimes with an editor. It’s now over 250<br />

novels and memoirs that I have worked on. It’s<br />

fairly anonymous, maybe an acknowledgement<br />

or line saying thank you, but usually not even<br />

that. Because no one wants to publicise that<br />

they had someone work on their book before<br />

the actual editor worked on it.<br />

“I had been doing that non-stop for quite<br />

a while, but I had always wanted to write<br />

my own novel and it hadn’t worked out yet.<br />

I think I had, in my own journey, reached a<br />

point where I was really wondering, ‘Am I<br />

going to write my novel or not?’”<br />

Was there a catalyst that<br />

brought the novel about?<br />

“My brother-in-law said at Thanksgiving,<br />

‘Everyone in the theatre world is reading this<br />

amazing book, James Shapiro’s A Year in the<br />

Life of William <strong>Shakespeare</strong>:1599!’ I thought<br />

it sounded like something I would really like<br />

to read. Looking at one year of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s<br />

life from many different angles – from<br />

the political, from the religious, from the<br />

economical. But that was all.<br />

“Then, a couple days before Christmas, I<br />

was buying presents, last-minute books to put<br />

under the tree. And there, sitting in paperback,<br />

was this book my brother-in-law had<br />

mentioned to me. So, I bought it, wrapped it<br />

up, and put it under the tree for myself.<br />

“It was a larger gift than I had anticipated.<br />

When I started reading it, I was completely<br />

fascinated, and I was especially fascinated<br />

by the prospect of the lost years. What was<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> doing during chunks of his life?<br />

I thought to myself, ‘This is the job of a fiction<br />

writer – to imagine what <strong>Shakespeare</strong> was<br />

doing!’<br />

“Part of that curiosity goes back to that I<br />

have worked with a lot of authors and I have<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 19

The Tutor<br />

Andrea<br />

“<strong>Shakespeare</strong> would have gone to Oxford.<br />

But his father’s fortunes failed and<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> had to go off to make money”<br />

seen their names before then they showed up<br />

on the New York Times Bestseller List. I also<br />

taught fiction workshops at NYU, and worked<br />

with a lot of authors who were just beginning,<br />

who were just launching.<br />

“I began mulling over this idea of the<br />

lost years and what <strong>Shakespeare</strong> was doing<br />

before his name ever appeared in print. I kept<br />

thinking, ‘Even though <strong>Shakespeare</strong> feels like<br />

like a god, a huge force in our world, he was a<br />

person’.”<br />

behind<br />

the Shoreditch<br />

pub where the<br />

Curtain Theatre<br />

once stood.<br />

Why did you decide to tell the<br />

story from Katharine’s point<br />

of view?<br />

“I decided I couldn’t write it from a male<br />

point of view, and thought, ‘What if I<br />

created someone like me? Someone who has<br />

worked very collaboratively with authors,<br />

helping them create plot lines, really<br />

helped them develop their books. What if a<br />

character like that worked with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>?<br />

And that is how the whole thing launched.<br />

I started fooling around with it, toying<br />

with it. And interestingly, I have to say that<br />

when I started writing Katharine there was<br />

something very magical, almost chemical,<br />

about it. The Tutor came from a more<br />

honest place in my own voice than anything<br />

else I had previously written.”<br />

In your story <strong>Shakespeare</strong> is<br />

complex and oftentimes a bit<br />

unlikeable. Where did that version<br />

of the Bard come from?<br />

“I wanted to veer away from the warm and<br />

fuzzy <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. Not that there has been<br />

one, but in <strong>Shakespeare</strong> in Love – which I<br />

love – he is just so adorable. I had my own<br />

ideas about developing a character that ended<br />

up being fairly ruthless and narcissistic, but<br />

still very compelling. Sometimes those people<br />

can be not the nicest, but still be extremely<br />

intriguing and dazzling because of their<br />

brilliance.<br />

“While I was doing research, I read a lot<br />

about Picasso and Françoise Gilot, one of his<br />

partners. She wrote an amazing autobiography<br />

about what it was like to be Picasso’s muse. She<br />

really is the only one of his muses who escaped<br />

with her life in a way. She had to leave him –<br />

he was sleeping with someone else but he also<br />

couldn’t let go of her.”<br />

20 SHAKESPEARE magazine

The Tutor <br />

“I was taken by that aspect of the muse and the<br />

artist. And also, when you do read what there<br />

is about <strong>Shakespeare</strong>, it assumed that he didn’t<br />

really go home much. Early on he had three<br />

children, and by 24 or 25 was probably in an<br />

acting company. By 27 or 28 his name appears<br />

in London and then he is really in London. He<br />

does not return to Stratford as his home until a<br />

couple years before he dies.<br />

“What also struck me was the type of<br />

ambition that he needed was so huge. I am<br />

not saying that every ambitious person is a<br />

narcissist, but I played around with the idea<br />

that this person had to want it so badly that he<br />

would use people, and not be the greatest dad<br />

Andrea Chapin,<br />

photographed by<br />

Ric Kallaher.<br />

or husband, because he wanted to get where he<br />

wanted to go. And he did!<br />

“Not only to write the sort of poem that<br />

he wrote withVenus and Adonis, and get a<br />

patron like the Earl of Southampton – that<br />

is amazing. But also to decide not to be just<br />

a poet, not to be just a player, not to be just a<br />

playwright, but actually to be a businessman<br />

too and be a part of the company. That shows<br />

incredible ambition.”<br />

Where do you think that ambition<br />

could have come from?<br />

“Well, his father. We don’t know if John<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> could read or write, but he held<br />

about 15 positions in Stratford, ending up<br />

being the equivalent of the mayor of Stratford.<br />

That is an ambitious man. <strong>Shakespeare</strong> saw<br />

that. John <strong>Shakespeare</strong> also applied for a<br />

coat of arms, and married up – Mary Arden<br />

owned the property his parents worked on.<br />

To send your child to grammar school you<br />

had to have a certain political standing, and<br />

John <strong>Shakespeare</strong> made sure he had that.<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> had, as a role model, an extremely<br />

ambitious man.<br />

“So <strong>Shakespeare</strong> is someone who saw this<br />

ambition and then something happened. Was<br />

the father a catholic? Was he a drunk? Was he<br />

ill? We don’t know. But something happened<br />

and his father stumbled, right at the time when<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> would have gone on to Oxford.<br />

Someone with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s skills would have<br />

the opportunity, but right at that time his<br />

father’s fortunes failed and <strong>Shakespeare</strong> had to<br />

go off to make money, changing everything.”<br />

Can you give us a glimpse of<br />

your process and research?<br />

“In the beginning of all of this, an agent that I<br />

doctor for asked if I had read any good books,<br />

and, since I had just written the first couple<br />

chapters of my book, I mentioned that James<br />

Shapiro’s book had kind of changed my life.<br />

And she laughed, and said that he was one<br />

of her clients. Things progressed, she put us<br />

together, and Professor Shapiro was extremely<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 21

The Tutor<br />

“I mentioned that James Shapiro’s <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

book had kind of changed my life. And she<br />

laughed, and said he was one of her clients”<br />

more recent translations. Then, once I went to<br />

Ovid, I could see where so much of the poets<br />

of the time, certainly <strong>Shakespeare</strong>, got the<br />

seeds that became their works.<br />

“In my journey, I joke that I have given<br />

myself at least a master’s, maybe a PhD, in<br />

Elizabethan literature and history on my own.<br />

I really thought it was important to see what<br />

his influences were as much as I could. That’s<br />

why I brought them in and had so much fun<br />

doing it.”<br />

What do you hope readers will<br />

take away from your novel?<br />

generous in information. I could email him<br />

and he opened doors in terms of where I<br />

needed to go for research. That was terrific.<br />

“Before I opened Shapiro’s book, I had<br />

always enjoyed <strong>Shakespeare</strong> but I hadn’t been<br />

obsessed with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. It was when I<br />

started digging into the research, and all of his<br />

plays, and each sonnet, and then the poems,<br />

that I became truly obsessed.<br />

“I felt like I had to familiarise myself with<br />

what was going on in literature during that<br />

time. I delved into Philip Sidney, and other<br />

contemporaries. I went back to Ovid, and<br />

often had three different books in front of me<br />

with different annotations – the translation<br />

that <strong>Shakespeare</strong> would have used and two<br />

Andrea at Stratfordupon-Avon’s<br />

Holy<br />

Trinity Church.<br />

“I would love for my readers to learn about<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> and his life as they, hopefully,<br />

enjoy the story. I had a lot of fun playing<br />

around with Venus and Adonis because it<br />

is such a wonderful and really sexy poem.<br />

I would love for readers to become curious<br />

about those other works of his.<br />

“Reviews have said that the situation of<br />

Kate and the other characters is one we’ve all<br />

found ourselves in, like when our friends say,<br />

‘What are you doing with him?’ and someone<br />

says, ‘You just don’t understand!’ And that<br />

makes me so happy because, overall, I wanted<br />

to achieve a story that people could relate to<br />

now. I wanted to make these characters not feel<br />

ancient or archaic – not just Will and Kate, but<br />

the larger context of family and her relations.<br />

I wanted them to feel like contemporary folks.”<br />

<br />

The Tutor is published in the UK by<br />

Penguin on 26 March, priced £7.99<br />

22 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Library of Birmingham &<br />

Hôtel Teatro Theatre Company present<br />

a Young REP 18-25 Company production<br />

Hamlets<br />

Based on William <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s Hamlet.<br />

Adapted and directed by Daniel Tyler<br />

Library Of Birmingham<br />

Travel around 10<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Tue 17 Mar 8:30pm<br />

Wed 18 Mar 8:30pm<br />

Fri 20 Mar 8:30pm<br />

Sat 21 Mar 5:30pm &<br />

8:30pm<br />

£10.00 (£7 Concessions)

Interview: Ben Crystal<br />

“Irrespective of<br />

whether or not it<br />

becomes popular,<br />

there is nothing a<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> geek<br />

is excited more by<br />

than an unexplored<br />

area of his field”<br />

One of the most admired all-rounders in the <strong>Shakespeare</strong> world,<br />

Ben Crystal reckons we should “speak the speech” the way<br />

the Bard did. And that means “from the gut and the groin…”<br />

Interview: Helen Mears Portraits: Piper Williams<br />

24 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Ben Crystal <br />

Perhaps best known for his<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> on Toast book and<br />

Passion in Practice workshops,<br />

Ben Crystal is an actor, writer,<br />

producer and director. Alongside<br />

his father, linguist David Crystal,<br />

he has pioneered the practice<br />

of Original Pronunciation,<br />

getting as close as he can to how<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> would have sounded<br />

to Elizabethan audiences.<br />

Would you define your work as<br />

a <strong>Shakespeare</strong>an quest?<br />

“Yeah, definitely! I didn’t start out on a quest,<br />

I started off wanting to act it more than<br />

anything. And then the ideas for the books<br />

came up one by one and I became known as<br />

the boy who wrote that book. I struggled to<br />

get acting auditions for <strong>Shakespeare</strong> and then,<br />

partly though the writing and partly through<br />

needing an outlet, I found myself doing more<br />

workshops, writing more, exploring more.<br />

Finding the issues in both performance and<br />

education and in audiences’ perception of<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> and what seemed to be missing,<br />

and chasing that down.<br />

“Now, through following this path<br />

of spreading the word of the Bard, I’ve<br />

explored disciplines like pronunciation,<br />

become fascinated by the idea of the original<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> ensemble, found myself with an<br />

education programme, an OP programme<br />

and a <strong>Shakespeare</strong> ensemble. If you’d asked<br />

me when I was 16 or 17 what my dream was,<br />

it would have been to be at the RSC. But you<br />

follow the path you’re on, and the path I’m on<br />

certainly seems to be a quest. I’m very happy<br />

with it.”<br />

Could you explain Original<br />

Pronunciation for those who<br />

are new to the term?<br />

“It’s a recreation of the soundscape, the accents<br />

that <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s actors spoke in 400 years<br />

ago, in the same way as the Globe spaces are<br />

recreations of the original spatial dynamics. It’s<br />

a recreation of a sound system, not an attempt<br />

to be authentic – because that’s impossible, and<br />

there’s only so much you’re going to learn from<br />

authenticity. The Globe spaces are as close as<br />

we can get to what the spaces looked like, felt<br />

like, and we have spent a fair amount of time<br />

trying to work out how that can change or<br />

improve the way that we act <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. It’s<br />

exactly the same with this sound.”<br />

How do you go about recreating<br />

the accent?<br />

“It’s based on my father’s scholarly work for<br />

The Globe in 2004. He gathered all the<br />

evidence he could from three sources. One<br />

of these was the rhymes. Often <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s<br />

rhymes don’t work in a modern accent. To let<br />

them rhyme again requires particular types<br />

of vowel qualities. That’s one source of data.<br />

Then, if you go back to the Folio and the<br />

Quartos, they used to spell a lot more like they<br />

spoke. So, for example, the word film was spelt<br />

philome which is very definitely a two syllable<br />

word (fil’um) which you still hear in Northern<br />

Ireland. That’s an Elizabethan pronunciation<br />

carried over from 400 years ago.<br />

“Then there were people who wrote<br />

linguistic-like descriptions of what the accent<br />

sounded like. With those three sources of data<br />

combined you get to about 90 percent and<br />

that last 10 percent drives my father crazy, but<br />

he can’t fill it in. I see it as a great advantage<br />

because it means that if you and I were to<br />

form a <strong>Shakespeare</strong> company using OP then<br />

we would sound 90 percent the same but then<br />

that last 10 percent will be filled up with our<br />

natural accents, the story, the audible vocal<br />

sound of our experiences. Compare that to<br />

using RP [Received Pronunciation] which is<br />

not tied to a particular geographic location.<br />

“If there is one thing that accent means to<br />

people, it’s identity and territory. To me, the<br />

idea that <strong>Shakespeare</strong> should be spoken in<br />

this identity-less accent where it flattens out<br />

everybody’s character and they all sound the<br />

same, takes away its inherent uniqueness.”<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 25

Interview: Ben Crystal<br />

Ben’s<br />

“OP is a recreation of the accents <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s actors<br />

spoke in 400 years ago in the same way as the Globe<br />

spaces are recreations of the original spatial dynamics.”<br />

How different does it feel<br />

to perform in OP?<br />

“Acting in RP versus OP or even in your own<br />

natural accent, your actor’s centre will shift.<br />

A lot of people find in RP that their centre<br />

tends to be around their throat. When I act in<br />

my natural accent I find that my centre shifts<br />

to my chest. And with OP the centre shifts all<br />

the way down to your gut and into your groin.<br />

You plant your feet much more firmly on the<br />

ground and it tends to lead you to stronger<br />

character choices.<br />

“They tend to be earthier, more active<br />

tattoo is a<br />

famous line from<br />

King Lear.<br />

choices and, as a knock-on effect, you tend<br />

to move faster as well. You follow Hamlet’s<br />

advice to ‘speak the speech trippingly on the<br />

tongue’. It ramps everything up and you’re<br />

flying around the stage connecting with fellow<br />

actors in a vastly different way. One of the final<br />

results of all that is that it tends to engage your<br />

heart rather than your head. And people tend<br />

to find that it’s easier to understand and they<br />

tend to get more emotionally engaged. And<br />

that’s all we want – to make you laugh, make<br />

you cry, bring the audience along with us.”<br />

Do you think OP can attract<br />

bigger, more mainstream<br />

audiences?<br />

“That’s an interesting question. Because of<br />

course I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be spending<br />

time on it. But I have to caveat that it’s not<br />

a cash bunny. I don’t see it as the sort of a<br />

performance quality in <strong>Shakespeare</strong> that<br />

money can be made out of necessarily.<br />

I’m excited by it. Irrespective of whether or<br />

not it becomes popular, there is nothing a<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> geek is excited more by than an<br />

unexplored area of his field.”<br />

Is there a key thing that you’ve<br />

discovered by performing in OP?<br />

“There are plenty of lost rhymes and lost<br />

puns, but the biggest discovery has been more<br />

ephemeral, really. More abstract or intangible,<br />

because you end up with a different play on<br />

your hands. You speak the lines differently and<br />

end up with characters who are completely<br />

different animals to those you expected. When<br />

I did Hamlet there was no question that he<br />

was anything like the stereotypical passive,<br />

indecisive, boring fellow. He became almost<br />

Sherlock Holmesian in the way he was trying<br />

to discover the truth. He was active. And<br />

that, in part, came from the OP. So we’re<br />

rediscovering the plays in new lights, not just<br />

the words.”<br />

26 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Ben Crystal <br />

“Hamlet became<br />

almost Sherlock<br />

Holmesian in the<br />

way he was trying to<br />

discover the truth.<br />

He was active. And<br />

that, in part, came<br />

from the OP”<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 27

Interview: Ben Crystal<br />

What other interesting things do<br />

you think are currently happening<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>-wise?<br />

“The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is interesting.<br />

There are plans to build a <strong>Shakespeare</strong>an<br />

theatre for <strong>Shakespeare</strong> North. I’m intrigued<br />

by the Maxine Peake Hamlet that was up at<br />

the Royal Exchange and by the all-female<br />

company explorations that have been going<br />

on at The Donmar. There’s a lot of younger<br />

companies exploring <strong>Shakespeare</strong> – there’s<br />

Smooth Faced Gentlemen, The HandleBards,<br />

who go round on bikes. There’s lots of cool,<br />

interesting stuff in the underground as well as<br />

all the companies running around the country<br />

doing open-air <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. It’s interesting that<br />

both the Globe and the RSC have brought<br />

Interestingly, the<br />

word ‘Crystal’<br />

occurs 20 times<br />

in <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s<br />

works.<br />

in international companies. The reason we’re<br />

having this conversation, the reason there’s a<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> is that these plays really,<br />

really are wonderful. He had a capacity and<br />

a knack for exploring the human condition<br />

and the way that we think – and why we do<br />

the things that we do – in such an amazing<br />

way that it’s really hard to get them wrong.<br />

And yet we do. There is something that these<br />

international companies are tapping into.<br />

“Or maybe it’s tapping into something in<br />

us. Because we are both in tandem released<br />

from the pressure of ‘how are they going<br />

to deliver this famous line?’ I think we are<br />

being taught a lot by Europe and Eastern<br />

Europe about something that we’re missing<br />

with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>, craft and a long rehearsal<br />

period, a return to the ensemble. They are not<br />

restricted because they’re not bound to our<br />

language and they have a playfulness with it<br />

that I think we’re losing.”<br />

You’ve travelled widely, how<br />

would you say <strong>Shakespeare</strong> is<br />

perceived around the world?<br />

“Away from the UK everyone loves him! It’s<br />

a generalisation but it’s not too far off. I do<br />

not meet students who dislike him so much<br />

overseas but I do encounter this ownership<br />

issue that whilst they have a tremendous<br />

passion, heart and love for <strong>Shakespeare</strong>, there is<br />

still this idea that ‘We don’t do it right because<br />

we don’t have the right sound or we don’t have<br />

English training’.<br />

“Americans have embraced OP, though.<br />

Because the accent that left London 400 years<br />

ago got on the boats and went to the Americas.<br />

So when they hear OP they don’t say ‘Oh<br />

God, that sounds alien to us’. They hear accent<br />

qualities they can relate to and rather than<br />

thinking ‘We can’t do <strong>Shakespeare</strong> because<br />

we don’t have that beautiful RP accent. We<br />

don’t have any ownership over <strong>Shakespeare</strong>,<br />

even though we love him’, they say ‘Oh my<br />

goodness, he actually sounds like us, we can do<br />

this’. So it’s no wonder that they’ve embraced<br />

it. There is some really, really fascinating work<br />

both in the States and across the world. I just<br />

wish there was more flow, that more would<br />

come over. And, indeed, the other way.”<br />

28 SHAKESPEARE magazine

“It’s a celebration of my father’s research and<br />

it’s a continuation and an exploration of it”<br />

Interview: Ben Crystal <br />

lucky to have both that working and familial<br />

friendship with him and my mum. And I’m<br />

especially lucky that, considering how much<br />

of an expert he is, how experienced he is – and<br />

that even though sometimes it does take a little<br />

bit of shouting – he is always perceptive and<br />

open to new ideas.<br />

“You can’t really ask for a better colleague<br />

than that. So to be able to take his research on<br />

and explore it practically, it’s really wonderful.<br />

It’s a celebration of his research and it’s a<br />

continuation and an exploration of it that he<br />

wouldn’t necessarily be able to do himself. So<br />

we are a good partnership in that respect.”<br />

We’ve mentioned your father,<br />

David Crystal. In You Say Potato<br />

the relationship between the<br />

two of you bounces off the page.<br />

What’s it like work with your dad?<br />

“It’s a pain in the neck and it is the most<br />

wonderful, joyous experience that you could<br />

possibly wish for! I came up with the idea<br />

for <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s Words when I was 22. I was<br />

lucky to work with a parent at such a young<br />

age. We became friends, and we got to know<br />

each other so quickly. He certainly wasn’t used<br />

to someone telling him he was wrong. There<br />

absolutely were disputes. He taught me how to<br />

articulate an argument, he taught me how to<br />

articulate myself. I am utterly blessed and feel<br />

“For my next<br />

trick…” Ben Crystal<br />

prepares to overturn<br />

the education system.<br />

So, if you had one big<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>an aspiration,<br />

what would it be?<br />

“To change the education system,<br />

fundamentally, from the top down or the<br />

bottom up, whichever way is quickest.<br />

To refresh <strong>Shakespeare</strong> production and<br />

performance and the perception of it in a<br />

similar way that Gielgud, Olivier, Burton or<br />

Branagh has done. I would like very much<br />

to spend a considerable amount of time<br />

training and forming a company – much like<br />

the ensemble I’ve been starting to form – in<br />

a Globe-like space, and see where that may<br />

take us. To have artistic directorship of a place<br />

like The Globe or the Wanamaker, building<br />

our own space and recreating a similar sort of<br />

dynamic, that would be fine.<br />

“And coming away from these experiences<br />

in 20-25 years time and having someone in<br />

their twenties or thirties saying ‘Ben Crystal’s<br />

wrong, his ideas had their time and now this is<br />

where we need to go with <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’ would<br />

be a dream come true.”<br />

<br />

Find out more about Ben’s approach to<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> at www.passioninpractice.com<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 29

Interview: Sara Pascoe<br />

Great<br />

Shakes!<br />

Stand-up comedian, actress, writer,<br />

vegan and all-round clever clogs<br />

Sara Pascoe is a big fan of the Bard,<br />

and she’s not afraid to shout about it.<br />

Interview by Brooke Thomas<br />

30 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Sara Pascoe <br />

Studying English at<br />

Sussex University<br />

fostered Sara’s<br />

appreciation of<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 31

Interview: Sara Pascoe<br />

“How on earth?”<br />

“I’ve got an English degree, and a big part<br />

of my life at university was throwing off the<br />

misunderstandings and misapprehensions I’d<br />

had about <strong>Shakespeare</strong> at school and coming<br />

to appreciate him properly. At school I think<br />

we got taught Macbeth and King Lear and A<br />

Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the teacher<br />

would say ‘Oh, you see what he’s saying here?<br />

He’s saying this’, and I would think ‘How on<br />

earth?’ I just didn’t believe them, I thought<br />

the teachers were making it up. Then when<br />

I was at university we had to read virtually<br />

all of the plays and we went into much more<br />

depth. That was when I suddenly realised<br />

how clever <strong>Shakespeare</strong> was, and it was mindblowing.”<br />

“My favourite play…”<br />

“I did love the Sonnets. I think they’re so<br />

accessible and they have such universal<br />

<br />

her in the library at<br />

parties…<br />

“I suddenly realised how clever<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> was and it was<br />

mind blowing.”<br />

themes – death, and time, and how we<br />

replicate ourselves. If I had to pick a favourite<br />

play… I really loved The Winter’s Tale<br />

actually, and I remember thinking Measure<br />

for Measure was brilliant, but I think<br />

probably Hamlet is my favourite.<br />

“The one I seem to have seen most is<br />

As You Like It. I saw an RSC production of<br />

Much Ado About Nothing which had Tamsin<br />

Greig as Beatrice. They set it I think in Cuba<br />

or South America and it was just fantastic,<br />

really rhythmic and hilarious.”<br />

“If <strong>Shakespeare</strong> were<br />

here today…”<br />

“<strong>Shakespeare</strong> nowadays? Oh gosh, it would be<br />

something incredible, wouldn’t it? He was so<br />

fantastic at creating these flawed heroes where<br />

you could absolutely see how life had made<br />

them behave in a certain way, and because of<br />

that behaviour drama just unfolds everywhere<br />

around them. He’d put everyone else to<br />

shame because he’d be writing comedies and<br />

dramas and films all at the same time. Even<br />

now, people would probably be saying ‘Is it<br />

really just one man? It must be a committee<br />

of people doing it secretly!’”<br />

32 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Sara Pascoe <br />

“He understands how people can be trying to be good,<br />

but also that their worldview might be slightly too<br />

myopic to enable them to see anything larger”<br />

“He always sees<br />

the full picture”<br />

“I just think he understands human psychology<br />

so brilliantly. He understands cause and effect, he<br />

understands how people can be trying to be good,<br />

but also that their worldview might be slightly<br />

too myopic to enable them to see anything larger.<br />

However, he as the writer always manages to see the<br />

full picture and always, especially in the greatest of<br />

the plays, manages to create such a viable world that<br />

it doesn’t seem fictional. I recently saw the Macbeth<br />

they did at the Globe where they made the play a<br />

comedy, very successfully. And I thought that was so<br />

fantastic because the ambitions of the Macbeths had<br />

such lightness of touch all of a sudden, and the play<br />

still held together, it still felt true.”<br />

“Ten Things I<br />

Hate About You”<br />

“I think what was always surprising, probably<br />

because of the age I was when they came out, was<br />

finding out that things like Ten Things I Hate<br />

About You was The Taming of the Shrew. It’s always<br />

great when you think ‘Oh! Yes, I see, it’s that story!’<br />

I’ve been watching House of Cards, and they’ve very<br />

clearly jumped off from Macbeth.”<br />

“On being a teenage<br />

skateboard fairy”<br />

“I do talk about <strong>Shakespeare</strong> in my show that I’m<br />

touring with at the moment. I have a little routine<br />

about being told that A Midsummer Night’s<br />

Dream was a comedy and how as a 15, 16-year-old<br />

having teachers try to say ‘Look, here’s the joke –<br />

the queen loves a donkey!’ you just think ‘I don’t<br />

get it’. The routine’s about that and how in our<br />

production we were trying to liven it up. Everyone<br />

wants to do their own ground-breaking thing with<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>, even though it’s all already been done.<br />

So I played Puck, but I was on a skateboard and I<br />

knocked myself out. Twice. I wasn’t very good at<br />

the skateboard. We really thought this was groundbreaking<br />

at the time.”<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 33

Interview: Sara Pascoe<br />

“All about the attitude”<br />

“I think that’s what’s so interesting about<br />

new productions, they make you meet<br />

characters again in a different way. I really<br />

like Hermione from A Winter’s Tale. I think<br />

that her speeches are so brave and courageous.<br />

I’ll always love Kate from The Taming of the<br />

Shrew too, but she doesn’t even really talk<br />

very much in the play. It’s much more the<br />

attitude and the performance of her, isn’t it?<br />

“Beatrice and Benedick’s whole repartee<br />

with each other, it’s so brilliant to watch on<br />

stage because it doesn’t come across on the<br />

page in the same way. Trying to overhear<br />

somebody else’s conversation while hiding<br />

behind a pot plant, I always think that’s so<br />

hysterical.”<br />

“Women with brains and<br />

activity and thoughts”<br />

“I think in terms of his time he was<br />

incredible. This was a time when women<br />

weren’t allowed on the stage. To be born<br />

a woman and want to be creative was<br />

impossible. You couldn’t own property, you<br />

couldn’t earn money, you were either born<br />

into a rich family to be married off, or you<br />

were born with no money and very limited<br />

options.<br />

“<strong>Shakespeare</strong> did write women with<br />

brains and activity and thoughts, and I think<br />

in some plays the women are as varied as the<br />

men in terms of morality and intelligence.<br />

Although now for actresses the number of<br />

men on stage to the number of women is<br />

probably a bit frustrating, it could be a whole<br />

lot worse, so I think he should be respected<br />

for that.<br />

“Also people are now putting on allfemale<br />

productions. That’s so exciting because<br />

in <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s day it would have been an<br />

all-male company, and now the opposite is<br />

completely possible.”<br />

“I played Puck, but I was on<br />

a skateboard and I knocked<br />

myself out. Twice.”<br />

“Hang on a minute,<br />

is that a person<br />

hiding behind a pot<br />

plant over there?”<br />

“Most <strong>Shakespeare</strong> thing<br />

I’ve done…”<br />

“This isn’t so much a <strong>Shakespeare</strong> thing as a<br />

me thing, but I’ve been to the RSC twice to<br />

do stand-up. I got to do stand-up on the stage<br />

at the Swan, and that was amazing. Stratfordupon-Avon<br />

is a wonderful place. You walk<br />

around thinking ‘Oh my god, this is where<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> was born’. Then I remember that<br />

I live in London – where he chose to live.”<br />

<br />

Go to sarapascoe.com for Sara’s latest tour dates.<br />

34 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Contributors <br />

Brooke Thomas<br />

Our UK Staff Writer is a freelance<br />

writer based in London. She learned to<br />

love the Bard during her BA at Royal<br />

Holloway, University of London,<br />

and she recently graduated from their<br />

MA <strong>Shakespeare</strong> Studies programme.<br />

You can find Brooke on Twitter @<br />

literallygeeked where she hosts a short<br />

story competition called #SmallTales<br />

every week.<br />

Mary Finch Our US Staff Writer is<br />

in her fourth year studying English<br />

at Messiah College in central<br />

Pennsylvania. Will first grabbed her<br />

attention in secondary school and<br />

hasn’t let go since – she reads, recites<br />

and watches <strong>Shakespeare</strong> whenever<br />

possible. Besides going on irrational<br />

adventures to see performances with<br />

her friend Alison, Mary also has a<br />

passion for swing dancing, dabbling<br />

in calligraphy and tending to her<br />

ever-growing window garden.<br />

Piper Williams Our Chief<br />

Photographer is a freelance fashion<br />

and portrait photographer from<br />

Portland, Oregon, now working out<br />

of Surrey. He spends his days timetravelling<br />

via historical docudramas,<br />

silent films, and vintage radio<br />

broadcasts. These adventures are<br />

a catalyst for his imagery and his<br />

wardrobe. His current project, 1928,<br />

is a modern take on the Jazz and War<br />

age aesthetic. Also in the works is a<br />

Steam, Diesel and Cosplay inspired<br />

series of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>an characters.<br />

Meet thy makers...<br />

Just some of the contributors to this issue of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong><br />

Phil Beadle has taught Macbeth at<br />

least 20 times (though remains acutely<br />

aware it is each new class’s first time).<br />

He has (what he thought was) the<br />

French for “Against Nature” tattooed<br />

on his upper arm. As musician,<br />

songwriter and lyricist ‘Philip Kane’,<br />

he is not averse to stealing lines off<br />

the Bard, and his song ‘After the<br />

Shipwreck’ includes the line “We’re<br />

just two spent swimmers trying to<br />

hold our heads above the water”. Both<br />

he and Ben Walden are contactable via<br />

www.independentthinking.co.uk<br />

Francis RTM Boyle has worked<br />

in the theatre for 20 years. He<br />

discovered his love for <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

by reading Julius Caesar when he<br />

was ten. He went on to earn a BFA<br />

in Theatre from the University of<br />

Rhode Island and an MLitt and<br />

MFA in <strong>Shakespeare</strong> and Renaissance<br />

Literature in Performance from the<br />

Mary Baldwin College/American<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> Center partnership.<br />

Follow him on Twitter:<br />

@FrancisRTMBoyle<br />

Helen Mears<br />

teaches English Literature, Film and<br />

Media Studies at an FE college in<br />

Ipswich. She has loved <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

since her schooldays and at weekends<br />

can be found volunteering at The<br />

Globe or the Sam Wanamaker<br />

Playhouse. She is currently studying<br />

for an MA in the Advanced Teaching<br />

of <strong>Shakespeare</strong>. She is at her happiest<br />

when watching <strong>Shakespeare</strong>,<br />

exploring castles and monastic ruins<br />

or listening to Fall Out Boy.<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 35

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36 SHAKESPEARE magazine

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“To be...” “The RSC<br />

adaptation has<br />

David Tennant’s<br />

Hamlet all alone,<br />

with Ophelia<br />

scurrying off before<br />

the speech”<br />

David Tennant<br />

played Hamlet<br />

with the RSC<br />

in 2008. Here,<br />

he explores the<br />

play for the Sky<br />

Arts series My<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>.<br />

38 SHAKESPEARE magazine

“To be...” <br />

“…or<br />

not<br />

to<br />

Even people who aren’t<br />

sure what a soliloquy<br />

is know that Hamlet’s<br />

“To be or not to be”<br />

is the most famous<br />

soliloquy in theatre<br />

history. There’s just<br />

one problem. It’s not<br />

actually a soliloquy.<br />

Words: Francis RTM Boyle<br />

be”<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 39

“To be...”<br />

Maxine<br />

“All nine original Hamlet printings agree that<br />

Hamlet is not alone – Ophelia is also onstage<br />

throughout the speech”<br />

“To be or not to be…” Spoken by the title<br />

character of Hamlet, the most famous speech<br />

in the history of theatre is 34 lines and 271<br />

words long. Apart from providing titles for (or<br />

being quoted in) countless other plays, poems,<br />

novels, TV shows and movies, it has also<br />

appeared on posters, T-shirts, coffee mugs and<br />

keyrings. It’s even been translated into Klingon<br />

(“taH pagh taHbe”). There are at least 379,000<br />

hits on the internet for the first line alone.<br />

This speech is many, many things. One thing<br />

it is not, however, is a soliloquy.<br />

The image of the ‘lone prince’, so endemic<br />

Peake’s<br />

Hamlet debuted<br />

last year at<br />

Manchester’s<br />

Royal Exchange<br />

Theatre.<br />

on the stage, duly made the transition to TV<br />

and motion pictures. Laurence Olivier’s 1948<br />

version placed Hamlet alone on a windswept<br />

tower of Elsinore. Grigori Kozintsev’s 1964<br />

version is another lone Hamlet, this time<br />

walking along the Danish shore. Franco<br />

Zeffirelli’s 1990 film sees Hamlet alone in<br />

his father’s sepulchre. Kenneth Branagh’s<br />

1996 film places Hamlet in a mirrored hall,<br />

practically alone but for Ophelia hiding out<br />

of sight. Peter Wellington’s 2003 adaptation<br />

of the speech for the series Slings & Arrows<br />

features a seated, lone Hamlet. Gregory<br />

Doran’s 2009 TV adaptation of the Royal<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> Company’s Hamlet has David<br />

Tennant’s Hamlet all alone, with Ophelia<br />

scurrying off immediately before the speech<br />

and tromping back on just as he finishes saying<br />

“Soft you now.”<br />

Despite the entrenchment of the lone<br />

Hamlet on our cultural understanding of<br />

Hamlet, when we study the six quarto and<br />

three folio printings that comprise the original<br />

texts, we find the following: one, that the<br />

famous speech cannot be a soliloquy; two, that<br />

the entering Hamlet should know he is being<br />

spied upon; three, that Ophelia’s presence<br />

must be addressed; and, fourth and lastly, that<br />

Hamlet may be reading as he enters the scene.<br />

My methodology does need some<br />

explanation. I believe in the primacy of the<br />

text: dramatic texts are the most important<br />

factor in creating a production. The words of<br />

a text are the skeleton of a play, and basing<br />

one’s interpretation on elements not in the text<br />

is problematic at best. Now, I’m not trying to<br />

say there is only one way of doing any play<br />

or moment from a play. I only distinguish<br />

between two kinds of performances – those<br />

that agree with the text and those that do not.<br />

Soliloquies feature lone speakers, but all<br />

nine original Hamlet printings agree that<br />

Hamlet is not alone, as Ophelia is also onstage<br />

throughout the speech. Therefore, the classical<br />

40 SHAKESPEARE magazine

understanding of “soliloquy” does not apply.<br />

Further, the “To be or not to be” speech<br />

features none of the characteristics of Hamlet’s<br />

actual soliloquies. In those speeches, he follows<br />

a pattern – he speaks about Claudius, the<br />

late King Hamlet, and, usually, Gertrude.<br />

Hamlet does discuss his family with some<br />

other characters, but when he knows he is<br />

accompanied by potential spies, he stays away<br />

from the topic of his family. The “What a<br />

piece of work is a man” speech, delivered<br />

just after Hamlet discovers he cannot trust<br />

Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, is an elaborate<br />

deception. When Hamlet delivers his speech<br />

to appease his friends-turned-spies, he does<br />

not mention the circumstances of his father’s<br />

murder. He only mentions the King and<br />

Queen as the people to whom Rosencrantz<br />

and Guildenstern must report.<br />

“I will tell you why, so shall my<br />

anticipation prevent your discovery, and your<br />

secrecy to the King and Queen moult no<br />

feather.”<br />

Since “To be or not to be” takes place with<br />

others on stage, and since it deviates from the<br />

Naeem Hayat is<br />

one of the actors<br />

playing Hamlet<br />

on the Globe<br />

Theatre’s twoyear<br />

world tour.<br />

(image: Bronwen<br />

Sharp)<br />

“To be...” <br />

patterns <strong>Shakespeare</strong> established in Hamlet’s<br />

actual soliloquies, it cannot be a soliloquy.<br />

Since the speech is not a soliloquy, it cannot<br />

be staged as a soliloquy and still be faithful to<br />

the text. Text-based stagings focus on what is<br />

written. For instance, Hamlet, entering into<br />

the scene, knows he is being observed. The<br />

original printings agree that, by this moment<br />

in the play, Hamlet has discovered that his<br />

schoolmates have been dispatched by the King<br />

to spy on him. Further, all but one of the<br />

printings agree that Hamlet enters into the<br />

scene because he has been sent for by the King.<br />

The remaining printing, the First Quarto, does<br />

not mention this at all. What happens next is<br />

a strange division; all folio printings agree that<br />

the King and Polonius hide before Hamlet<br />

enters, while all quartos state they exit after<br />

Hamlet enters.<br />

The quarto texts allow Hamlet to see the<br />

King and his crony hide; Hamlet would clearly<br />

know he is being spied upon. In all three folio<br />

printings, the King and Polonius exit before<br />

Hamlet enters the scene. Even if a director<br />

chooses the folio option, it is still reasonable<br />

that Hamlet knows he is being spied upon.<br />

Hamlet already suspects Claudius on some<br />

level before the action of the play, as evidenced<br />

by his response to the Ghost’s news that<br />

Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father: “O my<br />

prophetic soul! / Mine uncle?”<br />

The King has just sent for Hamlet. If, as in<br />

the folios, Hamlet enters not seeing the King<br />

and Polonius, he still has another reason to be<br />

suspicious: the King is absent, but Ophelia is<br />

directly in his path.<br />

Let’s talk about Ophelia and the issue of<br />

the silent actor. In order to stage the scene, we<br />

must have a better understanding of Ophelia<br />

and her relationship with Hamlet. She has<br />

only appeared twice before, in scenes revolving<br />

around her relationship with Hamlet.<br />

Ophelia speaks on this subject with her<br />

father, Polonius, saying her relationship with<br />

Hamlet is an honorable and affectionate one<br />

that has included every promise, save that of<br />

matrimony. Polonius dismisses this as Hamlet<br />

merely wanting to master her chaste treasure<br />

and commands her to never see Hamlet again.<br />

When Ophelia is placed in Hamlet’s way,<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 41

“To be...”<br />

“Since the speech is not a soliloquy, it cannot be<br />

staged as a soliloquy and still be faithful to the text”<br />

she is being used to provoke her boyfriend into<br />

showing why he is behaving so strangely. This<br />

is part of Polonius’ plan to discover if Hamlet<br />

is mad for his daughter’s love. Claudius accedes<br />

to the plan and, immediately before Hamlet’s<br />

entrance, describes his plan to Gertrude, that<br />

Hamlet should “affront” Ophelia.<br />

The meaning of the word “affront” is<br />

crucial: “to put oneself in the way of so as<br />

to meet; to accost, address.” By strategically<br />

placing Ophelia onstage, Polonius and<br />

Claudius mean for her to come face to face<br />

with Hamlet so they can hear what follows<br />

between them. As a result, Ophelia could be<br />

Hamlet’s audience, either in part or in whole.<br />

Before this passionate meeting, there is<br />

one more discovery to address: what Hamlet is<br />

doing as he enters the scene. The First Quarto<br />

offers a fascinating option. In it, before Hamlet<br />

enters for “To be or not to be”, the King says,<br />

New production<br />

Women Playing<br />

Hamlet offers a fresh<br />

take on “To be or<br />

not to be”.<br />

“see where he comes poring upon a book.”<br />

This is similar to Gertrude’s statement in an<br />

earlier scene, “But look where sadly the poor<br />

wretch comes reading,” which appears in all<br />

other printings of the story. It may be the<br />

First Quarto misplaces Hamlet’s entrance, but<br />

this anomaly bears study. Hamlet does have a<br />

book in other scenes, so a Hamlet who enters<br />

reading can be textually valid. In fact, the book<br />

he reads may still exist.<br />

Douce in 1839 and Hunter in 1845 noted<br />

that Girolamo Cardano’s 1576 book Comfort<br />

includes passages very similar to a portion of<br />

Hamlet’s speech:<br />

“…saying, that [death] did not only<br />

remove sickness and all other griefs but… what<br />

should we accompt of death to be resembled to<br />

anything better then sleep… and to die is said<br />

to sleep.”<br />

Compare all this talk of death, the easing of<br />

griefs, and sleeping to this famous portion of<br />

Hamlet’s speech:<br />

“To die – to sleep,<br />

No more; and by a sleep to say we end<br />

The heart-ache and the thousand natural<br />

shocks<br />

That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation<br />

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep…”<br />

A reading Hamlet opens up a new possibility<br />

to the speech. If Hamlet is reading about<br />

death, his speech might refer to the book.<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> gives us a similar situation in<br />

Henry IV, Part One, where, examining a letter<br />

from a confederate, Hotspur reads a phrase<br />

and then makes a scathing response. If this<br />

formula were applied to Hamlet’s speech, “the<br />

question” may refer to ideas raised in the book<br />

itself. A staging using this reading can allow<br />

the prop to help explain why Hamlet is in this<br />

frame of mind.<br />

Studying the original texts with a respect<br />

for their primacy reveals that the cherished<br />

long-established vision of Hamlet simply does<br />

not agree with the text. The options revealed<br />

by the text and its established circumstances are<br />

42 SHAKESPEARE magazine

“To be...” <br />

many and must be explored in a production.<br />

After studying the evidence, I staged the scene<br />

two different ways. In the first, Hamlet entered<br />

reading, responded to the book like Hotspur<br />

in Henry IV, and discussed the contents with<br />

Ophelia. In the second staging, I took Hamlet’s<br />

book away, allowed him to see Claudius and<br />

Polonius exit, and had him confess his dark<br />

thoughts to Ophelia.<br />

The first staging was greatly intellectual.<br />

Hamlet mused about the ideas of death,<br />

sharing them on that level with Ophelia.<br />

This Hamlet is the consummate philosopher,<br />

matching wits with Ophelia and even referring<br />

to the book she is carrying. The concepts<br />

of death and release are explored with great<br />

cerebral impact, so much so that, in directing a<br />

full production, I can easily see Hamlet reading<br />

voraciously through the early stages of the play.<br />

The second staging focused upon the<br />

circumstances of the characters. Hamlet,<br />

knowing he is spied upon, takes refuge in the<br />

arms of his forbidden love but is unable to tell<br />

her the whole truth of his problems. Ophelia,<br />

torn by duty to her father, her King, and her<br />

love, must react to Hamlet’s considering death<br />

and suicide. This staging speaks to the troubles<br />

as written by <strong>Shakespeare</strong> and had great<br />

emotional and visceral impact. Similar to the<br />

first staging, I can see a full production of this<br />

sort of Hamlet.<br />

These are two very different interpretations<br />

of the “To be or not to be” speech, but it is<br />

vital to remember they are both based on<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s texts.<br />

“So what?” you may be thinking. “Why is<br />

this important?” Well, for hundreds of years<br />

the theatre world has embraced a version of<br />

Hamlet that does not agree with the words<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> wrote. Elsewhere in Hamlet,<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong> commands “suit the action to the<br />

word”, charging us to base our versions of his<br />

work on the words he left behind. He did the<br />

job of a playwright well, creating the skeleton<br />

of his plays. It falls to us to give that skeleton a<br />

heart, a soul, and scars.<br />

Rory Kinnear played<br />

Hamlet at the<br />

National Theatre in<br />

2010.<br />

“Ophelia says her<br />

relationship with Hamlet<br />

is honourable. Polonius<br />

dismisses this as Hamlet<br />

merely wanting to master<br />

her chaste treasure”<br />

<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 43

Interview: Ben Walden<br />

“Once<br />

more<br />

unto<br />

the<br />

TEACH...”<br />

44 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Ben Walden <br />

<br />

Actor Ben Walden is a man on<br />

a mission to educate and inspire.<br />

And his weapon of choice is<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>. All of which makes<br />

him the perfect candidate for a<br />

rare interview by award-winning<br />

teacher, author and contrarian<br />

Phil Beadle.<br />

Images courtesy of European<br />

Council of International Schools<br />

“He has kill’d me, mother.”<br />

I have witnessed this epitome of weakness<br />

delivered so thoughtlessly as to render the<br />

desolation of Macduff as kindergarten<br />

mawkish. The forlorn bleat of an innocent<br />

without a name as he’s descended into the<br />

writhing masterpiece of eternity comes<br />

usually in Disneyfied pastels. Not so the last<br />

time I was in the same dark room as this<br />

line. I sat, horrified, on an uncomfortable<br />

bench with two of my three sons flanking<br />

me, both of them rigid with fear as The<br />

Porter brutally slammed down a trapdoor,<br />

through which, milliseconds ago hard light<br />

shone, disappearing it, and along with it the<br />

anguished cry of the death of promise.<br />

The second time I met Ben Walden the<br />

conversation went like this:<br />

Ben: “What did you think?”<br />

Phil: “Yeah, it was great. Really good.”<br />

Language can be drivel. What I had meant to<br />

say about the touring version of Macbeth that<br />

I’d just seen in Deptford that Ben directed<br />

was that it had all the visceral thrill and panicinducing<br />

horror of the Hellraiser films. But I<br />

didn’t.<br />

The reason my words disappointed me so<br />

particularly is that the first time I met Ben<br />

Walden I thought he may well have been one<br />

of the coolest people I’ve ever encountered.<br />

Unassuming in a pastel V-neck in a circle<br />

of middle-aged white men of above-average<br />

professional capital at the AGM of the firm<br />

we both work for, Independent Thinking Ltd,<br />

he introduces himself in anger: fists of tears<br />

which he cannot and vehemently will not<br />

suppress roll down his cheeks. The object of<br />

his anger? What the proud philistine Michael<br />

Gove – He’s dead. He’s dead. That B-movie,<br />

lowlife, literate bozo is dead! – is doing to arts<br />

provision and education for working class<br />

children. I understand the anger that gave<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 45

Interview: Ben Walden<br />

“Ben’s version of Macbeth had the visceral thrill<br />

and panic-inducing horror of the Hellraiser films”<br />

vent to his tears, as I feel it acutely myself.<br />

The third time I met Ben Walden I left a<br />

decade-and-a-half old yellow corduroy jacket<br />

containing my phone and house keys in a<br />

pub in East Grinstead. I couldn’t be bothered<br />

to go down there to pick it up, and miss it<br />

still. I then left the notes for this interview in<br />

Montenegro (it’s a long story) and that is why<br />

this interview is five months late.<br />

I had met with him to discuss the<br />

impact of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> on his life. If you<br />

do not know who Ben Walden is, and you<br />

should, he was a member of Mark Rylance’s<br />

original company when the Globe opened,<br />

is an actor of seriousness and note, and<br />

now runs a company, Contender Charlie,<br />

whose mission is to bring the power of<br />

<strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s text to inner city kids, and<br />

who subsidises this work, which they do<br />

for next to nothing, by giving presentations<br />

to corporate clients on what they can learn<br />

about leadership from Henry V. I ask him<br />

some penetrating questions:<br />

Phil: “What lessons from the plays have you<br />

applied to you own life?”<br />

Ben: “I was sent to a boarding school<br />

when I was a kid, and as a result have always<br />

despised not only the concept, but the human<br />

manifestation of ‘repressed Englishness’: their<br />

reticence, their poison, their cowardice. For<br />

me, people should speak what they feel, and<br />

“For me, people should speak<br />

what they feel, and because of<br />

this Edgar’s line in King Lear<br />

reverberates strongly with me”<br />

Ben Walden<br />

because of this Edgar’s line in King Lear –<br />

‘The weight of this sad time we must obey.<br />

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to<br />

say” – reverberates strongly with me.”<br />

Phil: “How much of the language infiltrates<br />

your own day-to-day expression?”<br />

Ben: “The best way to explain this, Phil,<br />

would be for you to watch Kate Tempest’s<br />

‘My <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’.”<br />

[I watch it five months after our meeting,<br />

after my notes finally return from their<br />

sojourn in the former Eastern bloc. I don’t<br />

buy Kate Tempest as a performer, but<br />

the passion is clear, as is the fact that she’s<br />

distanced being a drama school cockney<br />

infecting culture with lies. “He’s not<br />

something boring taught in classrooms in<br />

language that’s hard to understand. He’s not<br />

just a feeling of inadequacy when you sit for<br />

an exam”].<br />

Phil: “Tell me the shape of your year?”<br />

Ben: “There’s a lot of airports. And those<br />

gigs that require air travel pay for the work we<br />

do with kids from different environments.”<br />

Phil: “What different environments? What<br />

do Contender Charlie do… in exactly seven<br />

words?”<br />

Ben: “Help kids find purpose and meaning.<br />

Can I have four more?”<br />

Phil: “Grudgingly…”<br />

Ben: “…By examining their feelings.”<br />

Phil: “What are your feelings about the<br />

philistinism of Gove trying to make drama<br />

and the performing arts not formal GCSEs?”<br />

46 SHAKESPEARE magazine

Interview: Ben Walden <br />

Ben speaks at<br />

the ECIS Annual<br />

Conference in<br />

Nice, 2014.<br />

Ben: “For me, whether <strong>Shakespeare</strong> is on the<br />

curriculum or not is an irrelevance. Humans<br />

are naturally ritualistic. Making drama not<br />

a ‘proper’ GCSE doesn’t change that. People<br />

will still seek the spiritual. <strong>Shakespeare</strong>,<br />

himself, was a deeply spiritual anarchist, in<br />

touch with our deepest nature. His work<br />

remains vital no matter what space policymakers<br />

have him in this week. Kids will<br />

always connect with it like I did. <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

came close to saving my life. When I was<br />

overwhelmed as a young adult, I would read a<br />

speech for solace and read it again and again.<br />

The transient whims of policy-makers are just<br />

that.”<br />

Phil: “Put the four great tragedies in order of<br />

something other than their greatness.”<br />

Ben: “Can I put them in the order of how<br />

much I like them?”<br />

Phil: (Murmurs assent)<br />

Ben: “Lear, I give 11/10, Macbeth 10/10,<br />

Othello 9/10 and Hamlet 8/10.”<br />

Phil: “Harsh on Hamlet?”<br />

“<strong>Shakespeare</strong> came<br />

close to saving my<br />

life. When I was<br />

overwhelmed as a<br />

young adult, I would<br />

read a speech for<br />

solace”<br />

Ben Walden<br />

Ben: “It’s arrogant playwriting. And<br />

he is self-indulgent as a character. It is<br />

really <strong>Shakespeare</strong> examining depressed<br />

adolescence. Hamlet is caught in his own<br />

depression and his own pain, and is a bad<br />

lesson. In life, you have to rise above your<br />

own pain to see the profundity in and of<br />

everything – to see the ‘special providence in<br />

the fall of a sparrow’. True wisdom is in being<br />

truly present emotionally, facing pain and<br />

meeting it head on. Truly wise people don’t<br />

fall off the wire.”<br />

<br />

Go to www.contendercharlie.com for<br />

more on Ben Walden and his work.<br />

SHAKESPEARE magazine 47

Next issue<br />

We hope you’ve enjoyed Issue Six of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>.<br />

Here’s a taste of what we have coming up next time…<br />

My <strong>Shakespeare</strong><br />

<br />

The TV series that gets under <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s skin.<br />

Opera Shakes<br />

Our guide to <strong>Shakespeare</strong>’s greatest opera hits.<br />

<br />

Turn’d Turk<br />

Exploring what <strong>Shakespeare</strong> means in Turkey.<br />

<br />

High Treason!<br />

<br />

The real story of <strong>Shakespeare</strong> and the Essex Revolt.

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