A Chat About Shakespeare

Book Club

In the spirit of the new Shakespeare drama written by Ben Elton, starring Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen (Also known as the epitome of thespians) called ‘All is true’ which is out today, here is a little chat about the famous bard himself. Shakespeare is a playwright and poet we all know about, some know of ‘Yorrick’s skull’ in Hamlet, or ‘to be or not to be’. Others know of his plays in more depth having studied them at school, and all English speakers use phrases from his plays in everyday life. But the question many ask is of the relevance of his plays today.

At the Globe!

I love Shakespeare’s plays, I revere his craft and the storytelling; the way in which the plays really capture human nature – the ways in which we think, our own hypocrisy, our flaws, our tendencies and the multifaceted sides of all of our personalities. I find that when I watch or read one of the plays, each time you get a new insight into what it means to be human. I think the quote that really sums it up is from Hamlet when Ophelia in her supposed madness says ‘we know who we are, but not what we may be.’

Shakespeare, in my opinion, is often a little bit like marmite – you either love it or you hate it. However, if you are currently one of the haters I urge you to give the plays another try. Go in with an open mind and if it’s a play done by great actors you will understand it.

My personal recommendation is Henry IV as part of The Hollow Crown series of Shakespeare’s histories with Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal, Jeremy Irons as Henry IV and Simon Russel Beale who plays a brilliant Falstaff, or Branagh’s ‘Much ado about nothing’ with Emma Thompson is very funny and was the film that got me into loving Shakespeare’s plays. (You can find both of these on amazon)

Other favourite performances…

My favourite adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ is Andrew Scotts performance – if you get the chance to watch it, his performance is so clever with little actions really emphasising the themes of the play even if you don’t completely understand the language.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to The Globe, there really is nothing quite like seeing the plays in a replica of what it would have been like watching his plays in the Elizabethan / Jacobean era.

I saw Almeida Theatres Richard II starring Simon Russel Beale a couple of weeks ago, The national theatre often record many of the live performances which makes it so much easier to see theatre in your home town.

Shakespeare with all its old English and metaphor can make it seem completely inaccessible but I urge you to watch some of these adaptations focusing on all the incredible themes focusing on the human capacity to be multiple beings and how he captures human nature. So many scholars have taken Shakespeare over but his plays are something everybody can enjoy.

This new film focuses on Shakespeares later life in his final years and I can’t wait to watch it, I have heard it is quite emotional.

What are your favourite adaptations?