Pathways to Shakespeare

Sarah Ridgeway

October 30, 2013

Saah Ridgeway in CandideI saw Sarah in the role of Lavinia in the public understudy performance of Titus Andronicus when she and David Rubin, playing Marcus, held us electrified in the scene after Lavinia's rape.

The balance between her inability to speak and his cathartic pouring out of words was a revelation for me in what Shakespeare, the master craftsman, can do dramatically.

I also saw her as the volatile Sarah in Candide. And I was interested to find out how this young actress from a theatrical family had found her way to Shakespeare and the RSC.

From the city to Shakespeare
Her father, Fred Ridgeway, had a highly successful career as a financier before he decided to take up acting professionally. As far as the young Sarah was concerned Daddy was just changing jobs. Part of their family life together was visits to the theatre, treats whenever it was someone's birthday.

When she was about eight or nine she saw her father in the role of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in an amateur production. She says that this was her first awareness of Shakespeare and it came with the lines: 'I am a Jew… .If you prick us do we not bleed?'

She remembers talking it through with her dad after the show, how keen he was to answer her questions. She says that although much went over her head she could follow the story in performance. She met the play again at A' level and was surprised how easy she found it. She thinks that it may well have been because she had experienced it first as theatre when she was young.

She read Drama and English at Manchester University and came out with a good degree but the course was not practical..For three years she tried to get into Drama School but was not accepted.

Lift-off with Juliet
It was Barry Rutter of Northern Broadsides who gave Sarah her first professional job, casting her as Juliet in a production that toured the country. When it was in Kingston her dad came to see the show for eight out of ten performances.

And that job gave her lift-off. She played Adriana in Comedy of Errors at The Globe - a theatre that she loves.

She has loved being part of an ensemble here in Stratford working on three classical plays in the Swan Theatre. She likes the way the company has worked together on the different styles and how well they know each other- evident in that superb Titus Andronicus understudy performance which worked seamlessly with the actors all changing roles.

If you can make just one person stop and think then acting is a job worth doing, Sarah says. The audience is an essential ingredient in a performance and is always different. You learn how to read them in the opening moments, you know when they are not engaged by their fidgets and coughs and you know that at times you could hear a pin drop.

She would encourage young people to experience something like the National Youth Theatre and to see Shakespeare whenever they can. She is hopeful that the films of theatre performances being screened to a wider public by the National Theatre and the RSC will enable this to happen.

And she urges young people to take advantage of those £5 tickets. She went to the theatre on her own and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Maybe it's geeky but if you enjoy it,do it, Sarah believes.

Image: Sarah Ridgeway in Candide.

by Viv Graver  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare