ACTING SHAKESPEARE began in 1977, when I was invited to present a solo performance for the Edinburgh International Festival. I was acting for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the time and, with my mind full of Shakespeare, it was almost inevitable that a quickly-devised show should be based on that work.
The first performance in St Cecilia's Hall was pretty tame. I'd scarcely worked out what I wanted to say, let alone learnt the famous speeches. So I had cribs stuffed up my sleeve, with prompts all over the little stage. That might have been the end of it and as I've never much liked other people's one-man shows, I shouldn't have much missed my own.
But an invitation a year later from Israel and a subsequent visit with ACTING SHAKESPEARE to wonderfully enthusiastic audiences in Jerusalem, changed my mind.
I had unwittingly issued a visa which has since taken me across Europe, often to Socialist countries and introduced me not only to the world-wide reverence in which Shakespeare is held but also to the widest possible variety of theatre conditions. I've played national theatres in Romania, Norway and Cyprus (on both sides of the Green Line); I've played universities in America and Scandinavia, a drama school in Moscow (quite illegally), an open air theatre in Washington DC, a restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as theatre festivals in Paris, Belfast, Bolton and of course, Edinburgh.
Much of this touring has been organised by the British Council, who have had to respond to the regular cuts in their grants by sponsoring more and more soloists and fewer and fewer full companies of actors.
During these ten years the show has developed into an entertainment for Shakespeare enthusiasts who don't hear him in English as often as they would like. I hope Londoners — with a host of full-scale Shakespeare readily on tap — will welcome ACTING SHAKESPEARE.
I'm grateful to you for buying this souvenir of an occasion when we met to honour Shakespeare and two causes which I unreservedly support.
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