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Playing Shakespeare (Performance Books) Paperback – 1 Jul 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen Drama; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713687738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713687736
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.8 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"What the programs and published text reveal, is the method and principle approach of acting Shakespeare which has been fundamental to the Royal Shakespeare Company since it was formed.Generations of actors joining the RSC have benefited from John Barton's teaching."--Trevor Nunn"One of the sanest, wisest and most practical volumes I have ever read about Shakespeare."--Michael Billington

About the Author

John Barton is Advisory Director to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Barton is an epic figure in Shakespearean acting circles and rightly so. I found this book after watching a masterclass he filmed with Kevin Kline on Sky Arts, and just being bowled over by how much the actors, who were already good, improved under his tutelage.

This book consists of edited transcripts of a series of television programmes Barton made with some incredibly famous actors on how to Play Shakespeare. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It is absolutely fascinating to hear how different actors approach the same role, notably the chapter on Shylock in which David Suchet and Patrick Stewart compare their respective takes on the role.

Barton is eloquent and interesting as are his cast. The work is illuminating and underpins Barton's crucial reliance on what the text is doing, his belief is that Shakespeare uses both the words and the structure of the text to give the actors direction.

I must point out that I am not an actor myself, so how useful this is as a guide to acting I don't know. I am however, studying Shakespeare in production, and for this, this book is perfect. Well worth purchasing. A timeless classic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William D. Freeman on 13 April 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book based on the scripts for the 1982 TV series. It includes a modern follow-up DVD in which Barton interviews Jane Lapotair, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. To appreciate the book you need first to watch the original series. You may also wish to watch the DVDs while following along in the book as the actors bring scenes to life.

Don't miss out as well on Peter Hall's equally good "Shakespeare's Advice to the Players". Hall and Barton co-founded the RSC and think along the same lines (no pun intended) about how best to perform and appreciate Shakespeare.

Simply, most people first read Shakespeare as literature instead of understanding the texts as plays intended for performance. Shakespeare was writing for actors, and his style was intended to assist them in learning how to play their parts. Both Barton and Hall show you how to understand the texts in this way each contributing something that the other omits.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. A. Smith on 22 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I've read on Shakespeare's writing - because that is exactly what it concentrates on. John Barton is highly regarded among actors as a practical analyst of Shakespearean verse and prose, giving often simple but penetrating advice. His trademark method is to use verse or sentence structures and lexical choices to decipher some very specific and useful instructions encoded by Shakespeare for the actors. Stands the test of time
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Tavener VINE VOICE on 21 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
I have owned this book for a number of years and have come to rely on it as a common sense guide to how to exploit the language of Shakespeare for maximum theatrical effect.

Yes, it is a bit 'luvvy' in places but at the end of the day, it is a wonderful record of some of the greatest speakers of Shakespeare ever to have graced the modern stage. When I bought my copy, there wasn't a way of seeing the original series - and yet I still managed to draw lots of useful material from the text alone. Now, it is available with or without a DVD of some of the broadcasts (or you can buy the full set on its own) - but for many people, the book will be enough.

Barton has a direct and unfussy approach to language. He acknowledges how things have changed over the centuries and he is not at all precious about it. He leads his actors with wit, warmth and humour - and that shows in the transcripts we have in the book.

It really should be in the collection of anyone who aspires to work with Shakespeare - as actor or director. Even someone who just wants to get to know the plays better would find it an illuminating read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Fergus McClelland on 1 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was directed by John Barton and Peter Hall for two years in the Royal Shakespeare Company and for a year by Trevor Nunn. I was VERY lucky in the '60s. When I read this book I loved it. It taught me a lot about the brilliance of the best playwright ever and is full of anecdotes to fascinate.

Very deep information about the sonnets and a lot of non-obvious stuff that will train you well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this as I'm taking part in a performance of As You Like It later in the year. I remember Shakespeare from school and was fortunate enough to go to Stratford years ago, but taking part? Best left to the pros!
What this book does, along with Shakespeare's Advice To The Players (Peter Hall), is unlock the text and debunk many of the myths about the difficulty of the language so that amateurs like me can enjoy it without fear. The book and DVDs of the Masterclasses (available separately) reveal just how rich the plays are, how actor-friendly they are, and give plenty of hints about how to work out what to do with each character. The DVDs are well worth buying too, containing a roll-call of famous British actors and a wonderful spoof from Fry and Laurie pointing out that being TOO serious about Shakespeare is almost the biggest mistake you can make.
There are other ways of looking at Shakespeare and lots of other 'methods' of unlocking a text, I'm sure. I've read Stanislavsky as well, but this makes more sense for Shakespeare and I highly recommend it.
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