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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shakespeare and Alan Cumming


Alan Cumming is really on a roll these days!

From what I have read, he loves Shakespeare and he has a real passion for performing his plays.





In the past, he has performed several roles, from Hamlet, to Romeo, to Malcolm in Macbeth, not to mention his roles in Julie Taymor’s Titus and The Tempest.

Last year he did Macbeth -- as a one man show! 

I don’t know a lot of actors with that kind of courage.

He has just released an album of the Bard’s speeches. It’s called The Head That Wears A Crown, and it’s available now from iTunes, or you can pre-order the CD.






You can get a taste of it from this promotional video (here on my Youtube channel).

He performs 22 speeches he chose personally, from Hamlet, to Richard II, to Prospero.

I’ve been listening to it this morning, and it’s quite good. He is a very versatile actor, and he obviously approached each speech with a great deal of thought. From one speech to another, it almost seems like he’s a different person each time.

I especially love his Richard III. His voice and his attitude is quite different than anything I have seen or heard Alan do before. And he really captures the spirit of a ruthlessly ambitious man.

His Hamlet is excellent. He chose several speeches from the play, and his “To be or not to be” is thrilling in the way he not only speaks the words, but uses the pauses and silence to effect.

When I was listening to him, I thought about Original Pronunciation -- the way Shakespeare and his actors would have really sounded. David Crystal and his son Ben have done remarkable work in educating and promoting this revolutionary approach to Shakespeare. When spoken correctly, the words take on new meaning, and very often they find more humor (some of it quite bawdy) in the plays that has never been discovered before.

Well, when Alan performs these speeches, his accent is similar to Original Pronunciation. Listen to Alan and then watch Ben Crystal recite some lines (also on my Youtube channel) and you will be amazed at the similarity.

As if the album wasn’t enough, he is going back on stage for more Macbeth!

He is performing it in a limited run, ending in June, at the Barrymore Theatre in Manhattan.

He has said that doing Macbeth was “the most challenging and fulfilling experience of his career” and it is exciting that he is back again for more.

If you are in or near New York City, I wouldn’t miss this chance to see it. I’ve got my tickets for Monday!

UPDATE: Click here for my review of Alan's Macbeth

It is amazing that he makes an effort to perform Shakespeare, when he has so much other work at hand. He has said that he wants to do more Shakespeare in the future, and I hope he does. There are so many roles for him to do.

He would be great as Iago, as Richard III, Prospero, and Shylock to name a few. I hope tries these roles on stage, and that he makes it a lifelong effort.

Also, as much as I think he should do as much Shakespeare as possible on stage, I think he would be great on film. He has already been a part of Julie Taymor’s versions of Titus and The Tempest, but I would love to see him in leading roles, in title roles.





Now, as far as some Shakespeare Solved, I think he would be great in these new versions of Hamlet, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice, set in Elizabethan London.

I have often thought he would be perfect as one of the members of Shakespeare’s company of actors, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which later became the King’s Men.

I can easily imagine him as one of the actors, performing big roles and small roles, doubling and tripling up on parts as they would have done on the stage at The Theatre and later The Globe.

But when I was writing my version of Hamlet, I thought long and hard about which actor could really do justice to the part of Robert Cecil. I don’t think there are many actors who could make it work. Alan Cumming could make it work.

Cecil was Shakespeare’s nemesis. He was the most powerful person in England at the time Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. I contend that he was more powerful than the Queen herself.

And Shakespeare had every reason to fear the likes of Cecil, who could have closed the theatres and shut Shakespeare up with relative ease. 

Cecil is featured prominently in my version of Hamlet, and will appear in future versions I am currently working on -- such as my forthcoming Othello.

It would be exciting to see Alan Cumming in a series of new versions of Shakespeare’s plays, as the one man whom Shakespeare really feared.





Every story needs a bad guy, and Alan Cumming would be a fantastic bad guy.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer

Related Article: Alan Cumming's Macbeth

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