My mother loves Shakespeare but none of my family do, so she introduced him to me. The first one I saw on stage was The Tempest when I was 9. Dad had bought me a children’s version of the play beforehand so I had some idea of the plot. Derek Jacobi was playing Prospero speaking out this wonderful language across the stage,even though I didn’t understand all of it, it was magic, from that moment on I was in love.
The reason I love his work so much is not just the language and the stories, it is that every time I see a play it’s different. Everyone has their own vision of the same story, different costumes, sets, actors. I have seen Much Ado About Nothing (my favourite) 5 times and each has been different. In one at the RSC they set the play after the First World War, and it gave the characters new stories. Beatrice had found independence by being a nurse, Don John was bitter because he had been permanently wounded, and Dogberry was given shell shock to explain his behaviour. Lines that had made me laugh before, now made me cry. All this without changing a word, it was the same words that Shakespeare wrote all those years ago, and they never grow old.