Now in it's 10th year, Guildford Shakespeare Company aims to make Shakespearian theatre accessible to people of all ages, creating work that is exciting and engaging. Ahead of his talk 'Exploring the Enduring Appeal of Much Ado About Nothing', we spoke to Co-founder Matt Pinches about 10 remarkable years in the business, as well as the celebrations commemorating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare.
At what age did you first develop a passion for Shakespeare, and what drew you to his work?
There were a couple of things. The first was my English teacher, Mr Burford. He was so energetic and excited about the stories. This was at secondary school in the early 90s, and he made our class see the plays as plays NOT texts to be studied.
It was during this time that I made my first visit to Stratford and the RSC…and I have to say I was completely bored! The show, The Taming of the Shrew, which Mr Burford had made so funny and engrossing left me cold and uninterested. Then 4 years later I went back to Stratford and saw The Taming of the Shrew again…and was completely blown away! It was hilarious, colourful and inspiring. I was so struck by the way that the same play, same words and same story could be so different. I guess that is where my fascination with Shakespeare began – his malleability.
Guildford Shakespeare Company celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year, what has been your favourite moment since co-founding the company?
Crumbs there have been so many! From the first day of the first rehearsal of the first show in 2006 and realising that “Oh my, we are really doing this!’’, to every show we have done, have been filled with incredible moments.
I suppose if I had to be drawn on specifics, I would have to say working with the mighty Brian Blessed last year. In 2006, if you would have said to me that I would be sharing a dressing room and stage with this inspirational actor I would have laughed my socks off! He was a complete legend and I have some very fond memories that will stay with me forever…and now he’s our Honorary Patron!
Another moment would have to be when my personal theatre-hero Kenneth Branagh came to see Othello. Mr Branagh had kindly supported GSC in our first year and to have him attend a show was a very special occasion.
Finally, I think the other moment that will always stay with me is when a little boy of about 7 or 8 chased me along the station platform to tell me that I was the ‘Shakespeare-Man’ and that I was ‘very funny’! The fact that this little boy felt so compelled to tell me how much he enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Dream means that we had achieved our aim of making Shakespeare accessible.
This year marks 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death and there are lots of celebrations planned, including The Guildford Shakespeare Company’s year-long programme. Is there anything you are particularly excited to see?
It’s already been a great year for Shakespeare and we’re only half way through! I’ve had the privilege of speaking in the presence of the Cobbe Portrait at Hatchlands and visited the wonderfully intimate exhibition of Shakespeare’s Will at Somerset House.
I’m looking forward to visiting the new New Place experience in Stratford – Shakespeare’s home has had a major archaeological dig and the venue a complete overall which is being unveiled next month. Hopefully I will get to film some footage here as part of the film I am making for my Bard-Walk in August. Between 13-21 August I’m retracing Shakespeare’s footsteps and walking the 146-mile route from Stratford to Shakespeare’s Globe. The walk is part of our New Beginnings fundraising campaign, more details of which can be found at www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/newbeginnings
I also can’t wait to see Jonathan Pryce in The Merchant of Venice at the Globe in October. I missed it last year so very excited to catch it second time around.
And finally, your talk at The Lightbox on 23 June will focus mainly on ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ but what is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I, like many actors, will always say ‘the one I am currently working on’! This isn’t meant as a cop-out, it’s true. When you get to work on a part and play for up to 6 weeks you get to immerse yourself in the world of the play, the back stories, the words, the themes, and of course the story you are telling. These plays are so immense – deep – not in a difficult, intellectual way, but like an onion – there are so many layers to enjoy and learn from. For example, this summer I’m playing Benedick for the 3rd time, but as I am learning the lines I am learning new things about the part and his relationships.
I have been very lucky with GSC to have played so many lovely parts: Bottom, Touchstone, Malvolio, Cassio, Clarence, Edgar…I suppose if you were going to ask me is there a part you’ve not played yet, then I would have to say Richard II – that is such a gift of a part for an actor and a cracking good play to boot! For now, though I’ll stick with Dromio in The Comedy of Errors and Benedick!
Matt Pinches' talk, 'Exploring the Enduring Appeal of 'Much Ado About Nothing' will take place on Thursday 23 June at 1.00pm. Advance booking required - follow the link above to book your place.