Q&A with Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

Following on from her recent Richard II Production Diary, we asked RSC fans on Facebook and Twitter to send in questions for Emma Hamilton who plays the Queen.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge playing the Queen?
Historically Queen Isabel was nine years old at time of the play but Shakespeare portrays her as a full grown woman.

Richard had been widowed and married little Isabel to galvanise a peace treaty with France. There is an argument that Shakespeare drew inspiration from Richard's beloved first wife Anne of Bohemia to create his mature version of Isabel. Famously, Richard destroyed the palace in which Anne died as he could not bear to be reminded of his loss.

Discovering how (and indeed how far) to conflate the ideas of these two very different women will definitely be one of the challenges that lie ahead.

What is your best tip for 'finding' the character?
Find them in the text. The legendary Jane Lapotaire shared a golden tip with me the other day; find a sentence in the play about your character (it may or may not be spoken by your character) which you think perfectly encapsulates them. Your character in a nutshell; one of many good places to start.

What do you think is the most exciting thing about this production?
All aspects of this production are pretty exciting in their own right. Personally I can't wait to see the extraordinary design by Stephen Brimson Lewis realised, which promises to be quite striking, and to hear Paul Englishby's original music composition.

Do you have any methods or tricks that you use to learn the lines and the timing?
Enjoy the language and keep the energy up!

Who of the cast is the fastest in learning lines? When will you all start to get nervous?
Michael Pennington, Antony Byrne and David Tennant are vying for that crown, I'd say, though Nigel Lindsay is also remarkably quick considering he's performing at the Donmar every evening as well as rehearsing with us during the day. Nerves usually kick in around first performances, but they're the best kind.

What's your favourite line in Richard II?
'I wasted time, and now doth Time waste me.' Act 5, Scene 5.

How is it to work with Gregory Doran?
Greg is a fount of knowledge and his enthusiasm and love of language is infectious. Our company have grown close as a result of the inclusive atmosphere he creates in the rehearsal room. He's a wonderfully generous man and a marvellous director.

How do you feel to work with David Tennant?
David has a terrific energy about him; he works extremely hard and never seems to tire. Always a smile in his eyes or on his face. He's a delight to work with.

What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
As it happens, Richard II. Years ago my favourite thing to do was to go for long drives along the coast in my car, listening to old recordings of the greats, including Sir John Gielgud. The first time I heard him play Richard in the deposition scene, I was moved to tears and had to pull over because I couldn't see the road. It's been my favourite Shakespeare play ever since.

Any advice for aspiring young actors hoping to work with the RSC one day?
Whether it's the posh seats, the cheap seats, restricted view or standing room only; try and see more theatre. It always surprises me how many aspiring actors don't go very often.

Standing room is often cheaper than cinema tickets and it's a great way to see plays in high demand. I'm always happy to loiter up the back with a packet of wine gums or peer around a pole if it means I get to see something exciting.

The Great British Bake Off recently revealed Richard's favourite dessert was the custard tart. What would you say the Queen's is and why?
I love this question! I like to think the Queen, who was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, might have favoured Spiced Quince Butter Cake, as spices were also popular at court at the time.

It is also widely believed (although evidence is inconclusive on this point) that just like baking royalty Mary Berry, Queen Isabel would always insist her pastries were free of soggy bottoms.

Richard II

by William Shakespeare

Barbican Theatre
9 Dec 2013 to 25 Jan 2014

Encore screenings of Richard II are now being broadcast worldwide.

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Teaching Shakespeare