Apologies to Tom Hiddleston’s bum, but it may have been eclipsed last night - and not by Cumberbatch or Dench, but HRH Prince Charles.
Our future king - continuing the monarchy’s historic support of Shakespeare - gamely delivered the final line in a five minute ‘To be or not to be’ Hamlet gag that saw him join a stage heaving with British acting royalty: Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Harriet Walter, Rory Kinnear, David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu (starring as Hamlet at the RSC until August) - and Tim Minchin, whose interruption as Paapa began his oration gave nothing away about the joy to come.
The star quality of Essiedu was cemented as he followed the skit with the whole speech faultlessly.
Twitter was teaming with praise for the show, live from the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, with #RSCLive apparently trending higher than Britain’s Got Talent (which we know it has, we were watching them on BBC2). As usual though, there were the detractors, from those complaining about Juliet’s age and that the student actors didn’t quite hit the Denchmark set by Dame Judi *sighs*, to those showing their ignorance in complaining about the diversity and inclusivity of the show, covering as it did so many forms of music, dance and comedy as well as the plays.
Snobs, I think I’ll call them. Those who felt it should have been solely actors acting, with no nods at all to Shakespeare’s influence on opera, hip hop, ballet and jazz. Had I been exposed to Shakespeare via Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, I’d have embraced his work much sooner. These people seem to think art and culture belongs just to them. I’ve news for you: it doesn’t. The rest of us want in. We want to see Shakespeare plays, ballet and opera on our television - and we can still enjoy Dr.Who and Line of Duty and yes, Gogglebox, too.
It was seeing the Royal Ballet’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale two years ago that made me realise how much more Shakespeare was than words on a page. I’d read Twelfth Night for my O Level (and had it not been for the TV adaptation with Felicity Kendall, I’d never have passed). So there I was, sobbing my heart out at a Shakespeare tale where not a single word was uttered. Which, in the Royal Opera House wouldn’t have been so bad, but I was in the Imax at Bluewater …
Thankfully, the BBC and organisations like the RSC have realised that if public money is going to be poured into their activities, they have to make it accessible to all of us. And that’s exactly what they did with Shakespeare last night. Bravo to all involved.
If, for some extraordinary reason you weren’t watching last night, here’s the Hamlet clip.
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