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!Interview: Jamie Parker there are other things that life is really like as well. And it’s actually a lot harder to write about joy and laughter than it is to write about pain and misery. It’s quite extraordinary that Shakespeare had the guts to write that play as well as King Lear. To write the play that asks what would life be like if we could forgive each other and find reconciliation?” When did you first fall for the Bard? “I was eight years old, watching Kenneth Branagh’s film of Henry V. I was rapt for two hours. It’s very much a play for a male, nascent psyche. It’s about crossing the threshold from boyhood into manhood, so I was right in the crosshairs. I probably fell in love with the Chorus before I fell in love with Henry. That was the first time I had been handed that contract and been asked to sign it, saying we’re nothing without your imagination. We’re just fully grown adults in silly clothes unless you make us exist. To my mind no one has ever said it better. A little later I saw Olivier’s Henry V. I’d never seen a Shakespearean playhouse before and when I saw the oak boards, the groundlings and the pillars, that’s when it clicked. That’s when I went ‘Yeah, it’s that role and it’s that theatre.’ At that point the current Globe didn’t exist, but basically for 25 years before I started the role, I wanted to play that role, in that costume, in that theatre.” After drama school you spent two years with The History Boys. How did you find your way back to Shakespeare and the Globe? “I think one of the reasons it took me so long to get there was that by the time I’d left college I’d grown quite distrustful of Shakespeare productions in Britain generally. It had been a long time since I had felt intoxicated by Shakespeare as I had been intoxicated when I was a child – just feeling like you were hearing them for the first time. The standout moment was when I saw Mark Rylance playing Hamlet at the Globe. I’d never seen

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“As You Like It is a play about forgiveness, reconciliation, conversion, transcendence and joy.” anything quite like that before. I can pinpoint the moment where everything that I thought I knew about Shakespeare was turned on its head, which was where he was doing the ‘O what a rogue and peasant slave am I’ speech. He was unpredictable and you didn’t know what he was going to do next. During the speech he went ‘Hah!’ and a small child in the groundlings went ‘Hah!’ in reply and he suddenly engaged in this back-and-forth, almost in tongues. I remember thinking, ‘Can you do that?’ But it worked. I’d never seen anyone be quite so irreverent with Shakespeare before. That was the moment when I realised that Shakespeare is really alive. I’d forgotten that boyhood dream but when the opportunity to work at the Globe came up, I took it. I didn’t see it coming and I didn’t work towards it – it just sort of happened and it happened at the right time.” What was so appealing about this opportunity? “It gave me a chance to work with Dominic Dromgoole again, he gave me my very first acting job. And it was a great joy to find out that Roger (Allam) was going to be playing Falstaff in the Henry IV plays, because I’d grown up listening to him. A lot of what I knew about performing Shakespeare had come from Roger and people like him. If the plays did have any success outside of Roger’s extraordinary presence on the stage, I’d like to think it was a kind of mentor-pupil relationship. There was that feeling that we’re on the same page and I’m coming up behind you. I’m going to try my best to top you, I know I can’t succeed, but I’ll try.”

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Profile for Shakespeare Magazine

Shakespeare magazine 03  

The third issue of Shakespeare Magazine catches World Cup fever with the Shakespeare Guide to Brazil. Other highlights include Shakespeare's...

Shakespeare magazine 03  

The third issue of Shakespeare Magazine catches World Cup fever with the Shakespeare Guide to Brazil. Other highlights include Shakespeare's...