Simon Callow calls for more Shakespeare to be taught in schools

Actor and director says the Bard teaches children 'basic life lessons'

Shakespeare should be “at the core of the British education system,” according to acclaimed actor Simon Callow, saying the Bard’s work teaches “basic life lessons. Like empathy and how people function.”

Callow is set to return to his critically acclaimed play Being Shakespeare, which covers the playwright’s life, many of his most celebrated characters and the times that shaped him.

He called Shakespeare “almost the ultimate educational tool. You’re in the midst of activating the brain in a very positive, practical way that also happens to be great art.”

This comes shortly after Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company said children as young as five should be exposed to Shakespeare. He is to meet Education Secretary Michael Gove to call for more Shakespeare in schools.

Callow said he supported Doran’s drive. “It’s our incredible luck that our national genius is a playwright,” the actor said. “It’s much easier to explore the interchange between humans and what drives them with plays than with art or poetry. Shakespeare is such a gift.”

He added: “That game of being someone else is incredibly instructive. It takes you out of your personal prism and teaches you empathy. You have to think about other people.”

This will mark the third run of Being Shakespeare in the West End. Callow also toured it around the UK and took it to Broadway.

“I would hate the idea of just repeating it. I saw all sorts of new things this time around,” he said. “Shakespeare has the extraordinary ability to nail things. My jaw often drops when I think how did he get that so right, and then make it so alive through the language.”

Callow, who received The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre at last year’s UK Theatre Awards, said: “It is meant to be an investigation of Shakespeare and what we know about him. It’s mean to be some kind of survey of his plays. At its absolute best it’s just a thing about being human.”

The play, written by Shakespeare expert Jonathan Bate, brings the audience “into the presence of the writer, his world, his characters and his take on life. Shakespeare, more than any writer who ever lived, encompasses so much of what it is to be human,” Callow said.

It also comes in the year that marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth with the actor saying he had wanted to mark the event.

Two years will be the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, and Callow intends to perform a similar style production but concentrating on Shakespeare’s sonnets, something he did in Stratford, Ontario.

“The Sonnets are astonishing. They themselves are little dramas; each is a three act drama. I would love to do it again.”

He has performed a series of one-man shows focusing on creative giants including Richard Wagner and Charles Dickens. “I’ve done so many of these,” Callow said, “it’s about spreading the words and the music.”

The play will be staged at the Harold Pinter Theatre for 22 performances. Callow takes on over 30 of Shakespeare’s characters during the show. “I fall in love with characters. I’ve come to feel more and more about acting, the absolute essence of it is thinking the thoughts of another human being. Once that happens, everything else will follow.” He added: “You don’t play these characters, they play you.”

He picked out playing Mamillius from A Winter’s Tale and Lear among his favourite characters to portray in the show as well as Falstaff. “I agree with those actors who have said Falstaff is perhaps the greatest of all Shakespeare’s creations. The richest, the most disgraceful and irresistible. He is life.”

The conspiracy theories over whether someone else wrote the plays are not tackled in the play. “It wasn’t worth bringing up; who cares? You could write a very entertaining play about the various ludicrous suppositions.”

From Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, to his wife Anne Hathaway, plenty of theories exist over whether other people actually authored Shakespeare’s plays.

“We can’t prove that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays, except that everybody at the time said he did,” Callow added. “In the diaries and so on of the time, nobody casts doubt on his authorship. Ben Johnson would have seized the opportunity to criticise him joyously. He criticised Shakespeare for other things, but he never said that.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried