Keeping My Hand In

To keep my Shakespearean hand in, I often used bits of Shakespeare in compilation shows for school and youth theatre performances and I remember one in particular, an extract from Richard III (act IV scene 4), that bitter, angry and anguished conversation between Queen Margaret, Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York, which includes Margaret’s immensely powerful:

“So, now prosperity begins to mellow
And drop into the rotten mouth of death.
Here in these confines slyly have I lurk'd,
To watch the waning of mine adversaries.
A dire induction am I witness to,
And will to France, hoping the consequence
Will prove as bitter, black, and tragical.”

It was performed by three extremely talented 16-year-olds. They were in full costume and you really did forget their age.

At various times, we also did bits of Romeo and Juliet (well, we would, wouldn't we?) and that marvellous confrontation between Lady Anne and Richard III ("Set down, set down your honourable load").

What a wonderful scene that is! I keep coming back to it because of the interplay between the two, Richard's sophistry and the way he, so slyly and subtly, turns her emotions through 180 degrees!

I also remember another 16-year-old getting really angry with me for making her do that speech by Katharine at the end of The Taming of the Shrew:

“Fie, fie! Unknit that threat'ning unkind brow
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor...
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty”

She was a good actor, so she gave the speech the power that it needs whilst at the same time the disgust of a 16-year-old at having to express such old-fashioned male chauvinist ideas informed her whole performance, reflecting Katherine’s ambiguity, and it was superb! I'm still in contact with her on Facebook and, more than 20 years later, I’m still not sure that she’s forgiven me!