Pathways to Shakespeare

Daniel Easton

October 3, 2013

It was not in the classroom but in the school chapel that Dan, making his debut with us in the 2013 summer season, found his first real excitement in relation to Shakespeare.

He had encountered Macbeth in English where the class took turns in reading the lines in what seemed an unfamiliar, archaic language to a 15-year-old. But then he took drama and found himself doing the scene from Hamlet in which Hamlet comes across Claudius at prayer: 'Now might I do it pat'. The setting of the chapel was perfect and, off the page, the language powerful to engage with.

Dan went to school at Sacred Heart Catholic Comprehensive, Crosby, near Liverpool and joined an after-school drama club. They were taken to the theatre, came down to Stratford, but it is Othello at Manchester's Royal Exchange that he remembers.

His parents encouraged him to join the Everyman Youth Theatre in Liverpool. Every Friday for years his parents would take him into Liverpool for an 8pm start to the session and collect him at the end.

After a degree at Manchester University in drama and film and some postgraduate work, he was forced to take stock and realised that if he wanted to be an actor he would have to do a training course which dealt with the specifics of technique.

But how was he to fund it? He already had one student loan to repay.

He took on work, any work that enabled him to save up. At times he had four jobs on the go. Eventually he had enough to fund his first year and secured a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).

In his second year he worked with Melanie Jessop on classical text and played Richard III in a condensed version of the play. He also played Roderigo in Othello. RADA's focus on text was a wake-up.

After RADA he did Richard II at Donmar and found work at Chichester and Southwark. He was seen there by Helena Palmer, casting director for RSC.

When he got an invitation to join RSC he says that he had no concept of how the company worked. Being in an ensemble that has produced three Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, All's Well That Ends Well and As You Like It) has been confidence-building and so well did the company interact that when they came to All's Well That Ends Well it was relatively easy and fun!

In Hamlet he plays Reynaldo. Robin Soanes' presentation of Polonius as a serious, cautious statesman gives room for Dan's presentation of Reynaldo who is learning from the master and being groomed by him. There is obviously a back-story to the relationship when played.

He was given considerable responsibility for understudy roles and was thrilled by the time spent on rehearsal for the public performances. It meant he had the chance to play Orlando in As You Like It and since this role involves a wrestling match, gym training started early in the year! He says that he had to have an eye for the specific blocking of a scene so that he wouldn't throw the actress playing Rosalind, Pippa Nixon. But there was still room for some of his own ways of playing a line.

Dan is now looking forward to three weeks in Newcastle. He is interested to see how the plays will transfer to a different theatrical context and how they will be received by audiences there.

So an important year for him as an actor and one that has strengthened his commitment to Shakespeare and classical text.

Photo by Keith Pattison

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Teaching Shakespeare