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Friday, January 23, 2015

Ian McKellen's Shakespeare Muse of Fire Interview


I just watched Ian McKellen's full interview for the Muse of Fire documentary.

It's fantastic!




In case you haven't heard about it, Muse of Fire is a documentary with interviews with many of the greatest Shakespearean actors today: Judi Dench, Brian Cox, Mark Rylance, James Earl Jones, Tom Hiddleston, Ewan McGregor and so forth.

The documentary itself is a lot of fun, and you can get it online (here) but the filmmakers have given us a special bonus -- they put the full interviews online -- and for FREE!

You can find them here, on the Shakespeare's Globe Globe Player: 


I watched Judi Dench's interview recently (my thoughts here) and I couldn't wait to watch Ian McKellen's.

I could listen to Ian McKellen talk about Shakespeare forever, and to hear him recite Shakespeare is a greatly entertaining. It is just so wonderful to hear such an eminent actor, who has spent most his professional life working in Shakespeare, talk about something he so obviously loves.


As King Lear, with Sylvester McCoy as Fool


In case you don't know his Shakespeare work, and you only know him through the X-Men films and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, you must start watching them now. Some of them are available on DVD, like his magnificent King Lear, and Macbeth with Judi Dench, or his Richard III film.


As Macbeth with Judi Dench


I love how self-deprecating he is, when he says that he has had to work on Shakespeare, to slog through it during his career, while actors like Judi Dench are seemingly born knowing how to perform it!

He covers a lot of topics, and his insights are quite interesting, and I think they would be of special value to actors who are just starting their careers, or have turned to Shakespeare for the first time.


As Richard III


He speaks repeatedly about iambic pentameter, and demonstrates it with his handy Riverside edition of Shakespeare. What I enjoyed was how he explained that the language is not poetry, but dramatic verse. He reads Shakespeare to find how Shakespeare directs the actor through the language, and through the blank verse that predominates the plays.

He comes back to this over and over again. "It's all conveyed in the words." The story, the feelings, the meaning -- it's all in the words. It doesn't matter how old the actor is, what costume they wear, what the sets look like -- the words are of paramount importance. He fears that many actors are tempted to overact Shakespeare, when they should be just trusting the language -- it's all in the words.

He emphasizes the importance of the language, the actors and the audience. This "complicity" he describes between the actors and the audience, the smaller the theatre and more intimate the setting the better, where the real magic happens.


As Prospero in The Tempest


He demonstrates this process he has by looking at 5 lines in Romeo and Juliet and a few lines in The Winter's Tale. It is fascinating to watch how his mind works as he explores the meaning of the words, which leads to an understanding of the lines, then an understanding of the characters, then the scene, and eventually the entire play unfolds for him.

He has some very funny tips as well, such as using pauses to get the audience to pay attention to him, and using an Irish accent when reading Shakespeare!

Finally, he also said that the reason he has done so much Shakespeare in his career is because he loves the plays, he wants to bring them to more people by performing them, and he enjoys solving the problems inherent in the plays.

What I find interesting about this is that he never discusses the historical context in which the plays were written. I would be very curious to know if he has studied the Elizabethan/Jacobean world in which Shakespeare wrote. If he has not studied it, I think he should, since it might get him much closer to solving the plays.

I hope you watch this great and historic interview, and are inspired to watch the other Muse of Fire interviews and buy the online documentary. This type of project is long overdue, and if we want any more interviews like this, we should watch what we have available to us now.

Cheers,




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