The Royal Shakespeare Company have announced Sonnets in Solitude, a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets self-recorded by RSC actors while in lockdown.
Many of the actors were working with the RSC at the time of the theatre’s temporary closure on 17 March and have been unable to perform or rehearse since.
RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran said,
“The sonnets are so intimate, confidential and direct, and watching them being performed in this way captures that immediately. Perhaps after 400 years, the form has finally found its ideal format”.
The RSC will release 90 of the 154 sonnets over the coming weeks which will be available to view via the RSC’s You Tube channel Miles Jupp, Alexandra Gilbreath, Antony Sher, Emma Fielding and Rosie Sheehy are just some of the actors involved in Sonnets in Solitude.
- Sonnet 18 ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ read by Antony Byrne (who was performing The Duke in Measure for Measure on the UK Tour in Newcastle upon Tyne when the theatres closed)
- Sonnet 20 ‘A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted’ read by Jonathan Broadbent (who was in rehearsal for The Comedy of Errors)
- Sonnet 29, ‘When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes” read by Antony Sher (performing in Kunene and the King in the final week of its run at the Ambassadors Theatre)
- Sonnet 55 ‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments read by Lucy Phelps (who was playing Rosalind in As You Like It and Isabella in Measure for Measure on the RSC UK tour)
- Sonnet 60 ‘Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore’ read by Emma Fielding (who would have been opening as Gertrude Bell in A Museum in Baghdad at the Kiln Theatre in a transfer from the Swan Theatre)
- Sonnet 66 ‘Tired with all these, for restful death I cry’ read by Rosie Sheehy (who was playing King John, in the last week of performances of the play in the Swan Theatre)
- Sonnet 97 ‘How like a winter hath my absence been’ read by Amanda Harris (who was playing Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew and The Provost in Measure for Measure on the RSC UK tour);
- Sonnet 116 ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’ performed by Alexandra Gilbreath (who played The Provoked Wife in 2019, and was rehearsing for the international leg of The Taming of the Shrew tour to Chicago, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo)
- Sonnet 130 ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ read by Miles Jupp, who should have been opening as Antipholus, one of the twins in The Comedy of Errors, in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre this month.
Other contributors include David Ajao, Joseph Arkley, Hannah Azuonye, Patrick Brennan, Ben Caplan, Richard Clews, James Cooney, Amelia Donkor, Laura Elsworthy, Andrew French, Amanda Hadingue, Kemi-Bo Jacobs, Joe Kloska, Debbie Korley, Brian Martin, Michael Patrick, Charlotte Randle, and Amy Trigg.
First published in 1609, Shakespeare’s Sonnets were described by William Wordsworth as “the Key which unlocked Shakespeare’s heart”. They explore themes of love, sexual desire, jealousy, mortality, friendship and the passage of time and continue to be published and shared around the world to this day.
The project follows the creation of the ‘Shakespeare Gym’ in 2019, a new initiative by Gregory Doran which aims to engage and train actors in the craft of speaking Shakespeare’s verse along with other classic texts. Inspired by the joint legacies of Cicely Berry (appointed RSC Head of Voice in 1970) and Founder Member of the RSC John Barton, the Shakespeare Gym includes regular workshops and practical demonstrations for actors at all stages of their careers and focus on the exploration of texts in performance.