between the lines

The producer Thelma Holt calls on Shakespeare when the going gets tough.
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The Independent Culture
Shakespeare has probably had more effect on my life than Jesus Christ, God help me as a Catholic for saying so. He's my bible. I never go to sleep without reading him, and I've never understood why people on Desert Island Discs ever need anything but the Complete Works. Put four people round a table and let them speak only in Shakespearean quotes, and they could say anything they wanted. I talk in Shakespearean riddles all the time. Ask the Secretary General of the Arts Council. "Be warned," I'll say, "I am about to cry havoc," and people who know me will say, "Thelma has let slip the dogs of war". I quote Hamlet primarily. For a producer, it has a lot to offer. "I know a hawk from a handsaw" means, at worst, that I'm about to call a spade a spade, or, at best, I'm nailing my colours to the mast.

Before a show opens, when I'm wondering how we'll do everything in time or whether anyone will come, I'll say, "Oh God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams", often combining it with, "the night has been unruly" from Macbeth as I breeze in in the morning.

On tour, I'll even pour my tea into a mug which has on it Polonius's advice to Laertes, "To thine own self be true" - a quote that, at home, I have on tea towels, mugs, plates, the works. And when I want something to supplement Shakespeare, I borrow some words from Billy of the Boyne: "No surrender."


n Thelma Holt chairs the Arts Council drama panel. She is currently producing 'The Glass Menagerie' at the Comedy Theatre, London SW1 (0171-369 1731)