I’ve been slack on getting back to writing this blog thing, I’m hoping that means that I have simply been far too busy with the rehearsals for Hamlet to write about the rehearsals for Hamlet. More about Hamlet in a moment. First, on 9 February both the Hamlet and the Cymbeline casts got together with Greg (Doran) for an afternoon session of selected Shakespeare sonnets.

Paapa Essiedu and Natalie Simpson in a sonnet workshop
Paapa Essiedu, who plays Hamlet, in the sonnet workshop
Photo by Cyril Nri © The artist Browse and license our images

Greg had picked out some 20 or so sonnets a few days before and we actors had chosen one from the 20 that took our fancy. We then went through an iambic verse masterclass using the sonnets as the basis for the class.

It reminded me of a similar session some 32 years ago with Cis Berry and John Barton, two established 'masters' in the fields of voice and speaking Shakespeare. It quickly became apparent that Greg is an embodiment of that same 'mastery' when it comes to an understanding of Shakespeare and an ability to eke out superlative performance and understanding from actors in their charge.

Going round the circle of actors and hearing different interpretations of the sonnets (sometimes two or three actors tackling the same sonnet, getting pointers and direction from Greg and taking a second run at the 14 lines of perfect emotion and argument), one comes away with just how modern Shakespeare always is. No matter where you have lived in the last 400 years, Shakespeare is as relevant in the age of the internet as he was in the age of the quill and the ink well. One reading of Sonnet 129, left me saying to Greg “I never realised Shakespeare was writing for an age of Grindr, Tinder and Kinder”.

Go look up Sonnet 129? And read it with such so called 'dating sites' in mind.

A pile of shoes and clothes of different sizes and colours
Cyril Nri

Cyril Nri

Cyril Nri is an actor who trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the same era as Greg Doran. His main ambition is to win the 'Best Newcomer Award' at least twice from the same judging body, in different years. He is playing Polonius in Hamlet.

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