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Monday, July 23, 2012

Ian McKellen

I love this Shakespeare and Me series in The Guardian.

I had a couple of thoughts about Ian McKellen and his piece in the series.

The first is that he performed Coriolanus when he was 45 -- and some of the audience sat on the stage!

I wish he has said more about this, as I am sure that this had a tremendous effect on the audience and the actors, having the audience so intimately involved with the play.

As we know, in Shakespeare's day, the plays were performed around 2pm. So the actors would have seen the audience and vice versa. There was no separation.

Also, as a teenager, he saw performances by Laurence Olivier and Ian Holm. As he says, their brilliance "put a brake on" his own ambition to act.

How fortunate that he was not deterred from acting and had the mind and courage to continue his career as an actor.

I find a good lesson here. In my humble opinion, if we do not find new ways to understand and view Shakespeare -- his plays and his life -- then we are putting the brakes on. If we just accept the received wisdom of actors, directors, and scholars that Shakespeare must forever be performed and interpreted as it has been, and as it currently is, then we have stopped the car.

My versions of Hamlet, Richard III and Merchant, and the means by which I interpret them, may not be to your liking, but at least they keep the car going.