Shakespeare Unbound…in a Nutshell, by Will Sutton

A Visit with Colin David Reese

… It all began with the internet. Just to be clear FB friends are people you interact with online and have never met in person.

A FB friend introduced me to another FB friend of hers. He joined my fb group page. There are several such in the group and I know, as far as one can know anything, that if we meet we will click. Shared interest in Shakespeare is enough but there’s more. There’s a difference towards the kooky the quirky the little bit out of the ordinary.

The first time you meet a FB friend in person you are familiar with much about their ideas and opinions from their timelines and comments. You accept or reject said such like a demi-god wantonly killing flies. But face to face is more than that. The social veneer, present or absent, will out.

D-day, June 6th, platform 14a Centraal Station, Amsterdam, the TGV (trein grand vitesse) from Paris arrives. Out back of the station my partner in theatrical crime Michael M. waits in his vehicle. “The package is in the pocket”, I phone to him. Mike loves silliness and has the attention span of oh look aaah, as the bishop said to the …

The package is actor Colin David Reese. The first person I see is a Dutch actress who had cancelled doing his forthcoming workshop due to paid work, picking up some American friends. Then behind her surprised effusions I see a man in black with matching floppy hat bearing down on us. My actor. His first words after introductions assure me we’re on the right footing, “Can I smoke in the station or is there a fine?”

Outside we pile him and his baggage into Mike’s car and head off to his B’n’B and then to the Badhuistheater, a former bath house. The evening is picture perfect Amsterdam summer as it’s meant to be. Thursday and friday Colin introduced about 9 actors to his method of approaching verse and prose, his technique being based on the cue scripts used by Jacobethan actors.

Sadly for this part of the exegesis I too had paid work at the Binger Filmlab under tutelage of Mark Travis. Meaning I pertinently will avoid any discussion of his method until I do it myself.

Judging by the reactions of the workshop participants, his workshop cannot be highly recommended enough. And indeed as we search the web for cue scripts we find the Folger has developed a similar technique as have others. Certainly he will be back for those of us who missed out on it this time around.

So that’s what I didn’t experience. Shakespeare Unbound, I did. And boy was I excited beforehand. An audience with John Heminges. “At last, at last” are his first words as he rushes onstage into to his dimly lit Jacobean study

The actor I met has been replaced by an old Elizabethan man who worked with Shakespeare and in his hands is a copy of the First Folio, hot from the presses (speaking of which, Heminges’ copy is nowhere extant right?).

Heminges realises he’s not alone and addresses his audience as the ghosts of the future, and whether they still know of Will?

He questions them about their knowledge of the plays or the poems. And whether they know any titles. I threw in Pericles knowing it didn’t make the Folio and Heminges answered, while the actor rebalanced.

Shakespeare Unbound is a collection of anecdotes from Sh’s life, from the travelling group that lost young Knell the impetuous actor in Oxford and picked up young ingenue Will Shakspere whilst travelling through Stratford in the mid 1580s to the burning of the Globe in 1613. Interspersed with this necessarily shortened biography are readings from the Folio that illustrate some particular character trait of Heminge’s remembered Will.

As such, we are treated to a veteran actor smoothly shifting gears from piece to piece.

His method of running with the impulses of the verse gives plenty of scope for hearing the text like new. His physical skill in creating character is seamless and flawed. The subject matter is such that the I of the story is always being questioned. Sometimes Heminges was Reese, and Will through the text whatever he wanted Colin David Reese to want him to be. Or not to be. But that’s another question.​

The next day, Mike and I released the package to continue his journeys to chateaux and down under. Earlier that Saturday afternoon I finally had a chance to brunch at Renzo’s with Colin to myself, and of course our knowledge of Will. Later at my apartment, he glanced at my bookshelves and noted the same books as in his collection. And, like him, our prized possessions are our First Folio facsimiles that have been read and read again.

So our first FB Shakespeare collaboration commenced and interluded, for a time will come when we meet again. Until then, much thanks, and if you ever see this show Shakespeare Unbound in a theatre near you, don’t hesitate to buy a ticket. The workshop likewise is perfect for Universities and colleges and drama schools. Or do what we did and use FB to do it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *