BOOKS: WHAT THE ARDEN MEANS TO ME

David Thacker, director: The Arden Shakespeare is at the centre of scholarly and performance practice in the work I do. I might work from my own typed copy of the script, but I cross-refer to the Arden all the time. Particularly useful for me is the collation which gives you the various crucial editorial amendments, like: "Now might I do it pat, now he is sleeping" or "Now might I do it but now he is sleeping." I try to get the actors to research as thoroughly as they can, too.

Clare Hope, librarian, RADA: I make sure we have a copy of every Arden edition and we've got the first three of the new set too - although they have got a rival in the Cambridge University Press editions with the blue covers. When students are working on a big speech they tend to borrow a lot of different editions and compare them.

Jonathan Kent, actor and director of the Ralph Fiennes Hamlet: I read something disgraceful recently, about a director who said: "I use the Arden and give the actors the Penguin edition" - so that he could be one up. Actors do a tremendous amount of work on the text - you can't just come to it blank. The Arden is great, but you can't treat it religiously; you can't afford to get too taken up with one view. But when you simply want to know what a line means it's invaluable.

Philip Franks, actor/director : You can never do enough work on the text; the Arden gives you so much background. What I can't bear is when they try to do the interpretive stuff; it's not their forte. I'm never frightened of getting lost in thickets of word-meanings - if you do you can always go back to the Penguin. It's useful to have both in your bag. You actually stand more of a chance of having a fresh response if you know all the options. I just don't like those covers. The Brotherhood of Ruralists - second-rate pre-Raphaelite whimsy!

Sam Mendes, artistic director, Donmar Warehouse: I never use them.

Andrew Wade, Voice Department, RSC: Footnotes can trip you up with information. Too much analytical analysis can be inhibiting for the actor. Much of the voice work on Shakespeare revolves around finding the meaning by speaking out aloud. We all have our Shakespeare somewhere inside us. The meeting of the academic and the practical is a fascinating and delicate one. The use of footnotes pinpoints this complexity. Of course in the end it is how they are used and the selection of which ones are useful for an actor. If it were only about accurate and full footnotes, then I suppose academics would make the best actors!

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