theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
Michael Pennington is bringing his superb one-man show, Sweet William to the Little Angel Theatre, Islington, London this August. In it, Pennington explores his relationship with the writer with whom he has had a very personal relationship since the age of eleven. “It all started when I went and saw Paul Rogers and Ann Todd in Macbeth at the Old Vic. That was in 1955.” Pennington chuckles at having given away his age so easily. “Since then, Shakespeare has been a major part of my life.” Sweet William is Pennington’s personal homage to ‘William’, although the actor is at pains to point out this is “no routine anthology show.” Gone are the days when John Gielgud could make a TV series dedicated to the Ages of Man, taking the opportunity to play his greatest hits: “Gielgud was just displaying his own splendour – my show is something completely different.”
Of course, Pennington is no stranger to appearing in glorious isolation on stage. “I have a history of solo plays. I presented one about Chekhov – full of elaborate costumes and lighting. With Sweet William, I wanted to get back to something much simpler – just the actor and some light and a wonderful space.” Pennington has worked with the best. Sir Peter Hall and Michael Bogdanov are two directors he respects and admires. Now it is time to tell Shakespeare’s story on his own, though. “We know quite a lot about Shakespeare’s life, it’s just that we can never know enough!” Pennington adds that “life was so different in Elizabeth’s time – there is so much fascinating biographical information.”
This is not to suggest that Sweet William is straightforward historical biography or a simple monologue of various Shakespearean excerpts. Far from it. Shakespeare, so Pennington tells me, is the “bindweed – I often digress about my own theatrical experiences.” Fascinating as these digressions are sure to be, Pennington is adamant that he doesn’t want it to be a “luvvy show!” What we are introduced to are occasionally obscure and enlightening passages from plays like Henry VI, Pericles and A Winter’s Tale: “I have almost wilfully chosen speeches which are unfamiliar, but the root is in the narrative – the narrative is me and Shakespeare and the business of Shakespeare.”
Early on in the creative process, Pennington asked his agent how best to describe Sweet William. With surprising insight and poetic flair (sorry to all you erudite agents reading this), Pennington’s suggested, “It is like your love letter to your best friend.” Now that’s what I call an agent worth the percentage.
“It’s a play in two halves, about 45 minutes each way – and just me,” adds Pennington, talking about the logistics of performance. It is surprising to hear the ‘just’ word when describing Pennington’s presence at the Little Angel. He has already made his mark at the venue when the RSC brought their original production of Greg Doran’s Venus and Adonis. “Peter Glanville [the artistic director at the Little Angel] has been thinking of branching out from puppet work, and he invited me to return to this wonderful theatre with Sweet William. It is so exciting and intimate working in a space that only seats 100 people. It’s like doing the show as if it was in my own sitting room.” The play itself has been honed over several months, with acclaimed one-off performances at festivals and theatres around the country.
When asked about the creative process, Pennington confirms that he directed himself, “although I showed it to a half a dozen trusty friends – mostly playwrights and other actors – just to expose it and to get a grilling.” You can be sure, with Pennington’s pedigree there was little ‘grilling’ and much support and encouragement. “Well, it sums up all that I have been up to in my acting career so far.”
The most gratifying aspect of the show, apart from being invited back to the Little Angel? “Definitely the number of kids who see it and are enthralled. This is a production that speaks to all ages – it’s great for college students and graduates as well – but everyone will, I hope, get great pleasure from my personal ‘Love Letter’ to Shakespeare.” Sweet William is a love letter I’m sure the Bard would have been delighted to receive. Its sender, the inimitable Michael Pennington.
Kevin Quarmby © 2007
Originally published on R&V 31-07-07
Food & Wine
~ my everyday life through the lens of my camera ~
Helping Improve Lives
Vintage Inspired Paper Crafts & Digital Design
A journey through life in Southwest France
Historical Fiction with a French Flavour
It isn't being John Malkovich, but it is being me
Writer + Poet + Educator + Narrative Designer: Researching East Asian Literature, Folklore, Storytelling, Narrative Design, Game Studies & Pop Culture.
Daily Reflections from My Home and Garden
The Power of Story
Unlocking the Door to Your Past
Not just a blog, a philosophy
by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'
Realist, writer, reader, reviewer and rocker.
The Real England is a concise, direct, and not-so-gentle window into the depths of the leftovers of the world’s once greatest empire. It is told from the perspective of one lone (or not so lone) long term visitor. It informs one of the dregs of the country and helps to explain quaint British oddities such as the crack addicted chav.
Artists, Writers and Visionaries Blog on the Unique and Ordinary
Collected works and other excuses from a textile obssessive
has random thoughts
Airborne, Seadwellers and Landlubbers Lives
Working with dead people
Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!
the darker side to sedge808
Photographs, music and writing about daily life. Contact: email@example.com
Creative Intuitive from New Zealand
Family Saga Fiction by Adrienne Morris
Burgers, Books, Music, Movies, Offbeat Adventures & Pop Culture!
theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...
Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder
Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More
Traveling the World Through Others
A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.
Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History
Travel and Wildlife Adventures
Writer & Author
it's all about the story, possums...
Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...
Adventures in Watercolor Painting and Sketching, Watercolour Magazine, with Charlie O'Shields
Memoir, poetry, & writing theory
The Bridge between two countries
A lifestyle blog with a little bit of everything.
A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics
Entertainment, travel and lifestyle blog
Founder of the Three Things Method of Storytelling