Preview: The Loves of Shakespeare's women , King's Head Theatre, London
Monday 22 May 2006
Susannah York has agreed to present her one-woman show, The Loves of Shakespeare's Women, at the King's Head Theatre in Islington, in aid of its Raise the Roof campaign. She has her own concerns about its structure: "I am still trying to work out how much of the set will fit into the theatre," she says. "I want my big medieval tapestries to hang at the back, but they are too big. I may have to do without the stone columns. There is only one prop - a letter [that John Falstaff sends to The Merry Wives of Windsor]."
York describes her show, with which she has toured the world, as a "bite at some of Shakespeare's characters" through speech and sonnet, which she intersperses with her personal insights and stories. During the first half, dressed in white, she will play the younger women: Juliet, Portia, Cressida, Rosalind and Hermia. In the second half, dressed in red, she plays the more mature roles: Lady Macbeth, Gertrude, Cleopatra, Mistress Ford and Constance (from King John).
"There are some wonderful female roles in Shakespeare," she says. "It is just extraordinary that he could get into the soul of women as well as men. It is the love [evident in the Bard's writing], but obviously not just romantic love. It is family love, love of power, love of an abstract idea, like mercy or truth. I wanted to show Shakespeare's variety."
After training at Rada, York made her name in the Sixties in such films as Tony Richardson's Tom Jones and The Killing of Sister George with Beryl Reid, and in theatre productions that have included Hamlet, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Glass Menagerie.
So why does the actress have a soft spot for the King's Head (founded in 1970 by Dan Crawford)? "It is a pioneer of the London Fringe. I worked here on a few occasions. Fringe theatre gives actors an opportunity to play parts that they might not get to do unless they are part of a big company. It is also cheaper for the audience, and it widens the scope of theatre in the capital."
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