Shakespeare on Stage: Thirteen Leading Actors on Thirteen Key Roles

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by Julian Curry

Thirteen leading actors take us behind the scenes, each recreating in detail a memorable performance in one of Shakespeare’s major roles.

* Brian Cox on Titus Andronicus in Deborah Warner’s visceral RSC production

* Judi Dench on being directed by Franco Zeffirelli as a twenty-three-year-old Juliet

* Ralph Fiennes on Shakespeare’s least sympathetic hero Coriolanus

* Rebecca Hall on Rosalind in As You Like It, directed by her father, Sir Peter

* Derek Jacobi on his hilariously poker-backed Malvolio for Michael Grandage

* Jude Law on his Hamlet, a palpable hit in the West End and on Broadway

* Adrian Lester on a modern-dress Henry V at the National, during the invasion of Iraq

* Ian McKellen on his Macbeth, opposite Judi Dench in Trevor Nunn’s RSC production

Helen Mirren on a role she was born for, and has played three times: Cleopatra

* Tim Pigott-Smith on Leontes in Peter Hall’s Restoration Winter’s Tale at the National

* Kevin Spacey on his high-tech, modern-dress Richard II 

* Patrick Stewart on Prospero in Rupert Goold’s arctic Tempest for the RSC 

* Penelope Wilton on Isabella in Jonathan Miller’s ‘chamber’ Measure for Measure

The actors discuss their characters, working through the play scene by scene, with refreshing candour and in forensic detail. The result is a masterclass on playing each role, invaluable for other actors and directors, as well as students of Shakespeare – and fascinating for audiences of the plays.

Together, the interviews give one of the most comprehensive pictures yet of these characters in performance, and of the choices that these great actors have made in bringing them thrillingly to life.

Paperback, 255 pages

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