Talks this week…

    Giving three talks this week…

    Shakespeare, Language and the Elizabethan Mind, 1pm, Feb 25th, British Library

    Shakespeare & Original Pronunciation, NATE Conference 2011, 4pm, British Library

    Romeo and Juliet Investigate Day, 10am-12.30pm, Feb 26th, Octagon Theatre / Bolton University

    Shakespeare, Language & the Elizabethan Mind – 25th Feb, British Library

    Been looking forward to this for a while. My new talk coming soon to the British Library:

    What would it have been like to go to the theatre in Shakespeare’s time? How did his plays tap into his audience’s views on life and love? How did the social, cultural and political developments of the time shape his writing? Just as the English language was going through great change, so was the city of London. The world was rocked too by the death of Elizabeth, and James’s accession to the English throne.

    Shakespeare’s audience had a tremendous ability to suspend their disbelief, and a great appetite for story-telling; they would have been thrilled by his language play, by the new words he invented and by the semi-familiar worlds he and his actors took them to. His works are revitalised when seen through the eyes and minds of the people he was trying to entertain.

    Actor and author Ben Crystal (Shakespeare’s Words, Shakespeare on Toast) dives into the hearts, minds, ears and words of Shakespeare’s world.

    1-2pm, Friday 25th, The British Library – Shakespeare, Language & the Elizabethan Mind…

    Review of Gnomeo & Juliet for The Atlantic Magazine

    An excerpt of my review published today in The Atlantic Magazine:

    I like adaptations of Shakespeare. He often adapted well-known stories and so the plots of his plays would have been very familiar to his audience—the fall of Troy would have been a bedtime story, the legend of Romeo and Juliet a fairy tale, and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, with its forest-bound love story featuring a man turned into an ass by tricksy fairies, a pre-Brother’s Grimm fable….

    Gnomeo and Juliet has a stellar cast of voices, ninja gnomes, er, music by Elton John, and, um… I’m sorry. It’s no good. I tried to like it, I really did. But it was, by turns, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, cheap, and dull, with jokes about women, gays, and foreigners that I thought we’d done with decades ago.

    Click here to read the full review…

    Original Practices Public Forum, 10th Feb, Birkbeck College

    Birkbeck Theatre Conversations presents

    Original Practices?

    How much do we now know about the playhouses of Elizabethan London, and the working practices of the companies who performed in them? How might this inflect the work of today’s directors and performers of Elizabethan drama?

    A public forum with:

    Julian Bowsher, theatre archaeologist, Museum of London

    Professor Tiffany Stern, University College, Oxford, author of Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan and Documents of Performance

    Ben Crystal, actor and writer, author of Shakespeare on Toast and co-author of Shakespeare’s Words

    Daniel Winder, director, Iris Theatre Company

    Chaired by Michael Dobson, Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Birkbeck College

    February 10th, 6.30-8pm, 32 Tavistock Square. Refreshments. All welcome.

    Shakespeare’s Sonnets – British Library – 2nd Feb 2011

    Looking forward to an evening of sonnet exploration at the British Library

    Probably the greatest love poems in English literature, the sonnets introduced to the language such phrases as ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’, ‘the darling buds of May’, and ‘remembrance of things past’. Still fresh and intriguing after 400 years, they express almost every phase and every permutation of love, from the first infatuation to final loss, and are perhaps the most personal of all Shakespeare’s works.

    An evening of appreciation and exploration with award-winning poet Don Paterson, and Shakespearean scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen (co-authors of the RSC Complete Works of William Shakespeare) and actor and writer Ben Crystal.

    Click here for more details…

    “Now is the Winter of our discontent…” — in Original Pronunciation

    The Richard III Quarto, at the British Library Evolving English Exhibition, 13 November 2010 -- 3rd April 2011

    I was asked to record the opening speech of Richard 3 for the British Library’s Evolving English Exhibition. Knowing the listener would be using headphones while reading the original Quarto edition, I found myself whispering the speech into the microphone. Have a listen and get inside Richard’s head… The Folio text is below.

    Now is the Winter… in Original Pronunciation

    Enter Richard Duke of Gloster, solus.

    Now is the Winter of our Discontent,
    Made glorious Summer by this Son of Yorke:
    And all the clouds that lowr’d vpon our house
    In the deepe bosome of the Ocean buried.
    Now are our browes bound with Victorious Wreathes,
    Our bruised armes hung vp for Monuments;
    Our sterne Alarums chang’d to merry Meetings;
    Our dreadfull Marches, to delightfull Measures.
    Grim-visag’d Warre, hath smooth’d his wrinkled Front:
    And now, in stead of mounting Barbed Steeds,
    To fright the Soules of fearfull Aduersaries,
    He capers nimbly in a Ladies Chamber,
    To the lasciuious pleasing of a Lute.*
    But I, that am not shap’d for sportiue trickes,
    Nor made to court an amorous Looking-glasse:
    I, that am Rudely stampt, and want loues Maiesty,
    To strut before a wonton ambling Nymph:
    I, that am curtail’d of this faire Proportion,
    Cheated of Feature by dissembling Nature,**
    Deform’d, vn-finish’d, sent before my time
    Into this breathing World, scarse halfe made vp,
    And that so lamely and vnfashionable,
    That dogges barke at me, as I halt by them.
    Why I (in this weake piping time of Peace)
    Haue no delight to passe away the time,
    Vnlesse to see my Shadow in the Sunne,
    And descant on mine owne Deformity.

    *In the Quarto text the word is Love, not Lute
    **I think my favourite bit is the way the rhythm begins to canter here…

    “Before you see the play, read Shakespeare on Toast”

    “Before you read the play, go and see it.

    Before you go and see it, read Shakespeare on Toast!”

    Stewart Ross, judge for the Society of Authors

    Ceremony for the Educational Writer of the Year Award 2010
    House of Commons, December 2010

    Passion in Practice – Two

    In November 2010, I ran a Process week on Shakespeare at the Three Mills Studios with the director Dan Winder, and formed a Company of actors for six days.

    Laura Wickham, Natalie Thomas, Diana Kashlan, Jamie Harding, Jaskiranjit Deol, William Sutton, Warren Rusher, David Baynes, Dan Winder and myself (joined on the last day by Ben O’Mahoney) worked towards a fresh approach to acting Shakespeare.

    On the last couple of days we worked closely with the First Folio, exploring as a Company how far we could follow the text as it was printed – irrespective of compositors’ mistakes – to see what directions and new ideas we could find.

    In short: if we ignore all the emendations that have been made over the centuries by non-theatre practitioners – if the Folio text is entirely as the author intended it to be, and was written to be understood by actors – how do we make it work, as it is? Can we make it work…?

    Some images from that day…

    All photos are copyright of Scott Wishart

    Passion in Practice

    In November 2010, I ran a Process week on Shakespeare at the Three Mills Studios with the director Dan Winder, and formed a Company of actors for six days.

    Laura Wickham, Natalie Thomas, Diana Kashlan, Jamie Harding, Jaskiranjit Deol, William Sutton, Warren Rusher, David Baynes, Dan Winder and myself worked towards a fresh approach to acting Shakespeare.

    Using a combination of solid Folio-based text-work, and physical exercises I’ve adapted from Complicité and the Shakespeare voice coach Cicely Berry, we played and explored for a week…

    A documentary team filmed the process, and that footage will be up on this page soon.

    In the meantime, some images of the week.

    All photos are copyright of Scott Wishart

    Toast shortlisted for the Educational Writer of the Year Award 2010,

    Honoured beyond belief… Toast shortlisted for the Society of Authors Educational Writer of the Year Award 2010!

    Full shortlist is announced here