What does it take to bring Shakespeare’s characters to life? How do today’s actors make his plays accessible and keep them fresh? Sit in on 9 acting workshops led by John Barton of the Royal Shakespeare Company featuring 21 of Britain’s finest actors including Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Peggy Ashcroft, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and David Suchet. Seen on PBS. SDH subtitles; 9 episodes; approx. 456 min. on 4 DVDs plus viewer’s guide.
Episode 1: The Two Traditions
Shakespeare wrote for a performance style that differs in many respects from modern, “naturalistic” acting. Barton urges the actors to marry both traditions for the richest, most faithful characterizations.
With Mike Gwilym, Sheila Hancock, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, and David Suchet.
Episode 2: Using the Verse
By varying the stresses contained in a line and using other poetic techniques, Shakespeare planted subtle clues for the actors playing a scene.
With Sinéad Cusack, Sheila Hancock, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard, Jane Lapotaire, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, and Michael Williams.
Episode 3: Language and Character
Barton and the company search for antitheses in the verse to reveal complexity of character, working to make dialogue seem fresh and spontaneous.
With Sinéad Cusack, Lisa Harrow, Ben Kingsley, Michael Pennington, Roger Rees, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, and Michael Williams.
Episode 4: Exploring a Character
Patrick Stewart and David Suchet demonstrate their individual approaches to one of Shakespeare’s most fascinating charactersShylock in The Merchant of Venice.
With Patrick Stewart and David Suchet.
Episode 5: Set Speeches and Soliloquies
Understanding the underlying poetic structure of long speeches and soliloquies helps the actor engage the audience in the character’s thought processes.
With Tony Church, Sinéad Cusack, Judi Dench, Susan Fleetwood, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard, Jane Lapotaire, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Richard Pasco, Michael Pennington, Donald Sinden, Patrick Stewart, and David Suchet.
Episode 6: Irony and Ambiguity
How do actors identify ironic dialogue? How do they use it to reveal character? And how do they communicate it to the audience?
With Tony Church, Mike Gwilym, Alan Howard, Ben Kingsley, Jane Lapotaire, Richard Pasco, Michael Pennington, and Norman Rodway.
Episode 7: Passion and Coolness
In many instances, Shakespeare expressed overflowing emotion and profound thought in the very same speech. How do actors balance the heart and the intellect?
With Tony Church, Susan Fleetwood, Mike Gwilym, Sheila Hancock, Lisa Harrow, Ben Kingsley, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Michael Pennington, Donald Sinden, and Patrick Stewart.
Episode 8: Rehearsing the Text
Without stage blocking, Barton and four actors explore Shakespeare’s verse as they would in rehearsal, using a scene from Twelfth Night.
With Judi Dench, Richard Pasco, Norman Rodway, and Michael Williams.
Episode 9: Poetry and Hidden Poetry
Barton examines three ways in which performance falls short of hopes, and members of the company reflect on changing styles of Shakespearean performance.
With Peggy Ashcroft, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Donald Sinden, and David Suchet.
"Incredibly moving, exciting, and, well, a heck of a lot of fun…simply wonderful"Examiner.com
"Fascinating…The series is a classic"Blogcritics Magazine
"This one is a treat"Playbill.com
CRITICS’ PICK: "Highly informative, slightly addicting, this series is a must-have for every actor's toolbox."Back Stage Magazine
"Absolutely fascinating"Boston Event Guide
"This set is a winner from every point of view"The Keene Sentinel (New Hampshire)
"This is brilliant television and great theatre."Blogcritics Magazine
"The most perfect microcosmic version of "all the world's a stage" that one could hope for."DVD Talk
Associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than 35 years, John Barton has directed more than 50 productions there. He received the 2001 Sam Wanamaker Award from Shakespeare’s Globe for his distinguished work.