As I continue through Playing Shakespeare I’m becoming more intrigued. I don’t really know anything about this Barton who runs the show. Are these people in his workshop professional actors who are doing him a favor, helping him to demonstrate techniques to a mostly off-screen audience of younger, less experienced actors? Or when Ben Kingsley asks a question, is he honestly the student to Barton’s teacher? Yes, that Ben Kingsley. Gandhi. Holding a script and asking Barton questions about how to play a scene.
There’s a moment I watched last night when his “students”, Kingsley among them, encourage Barton to do a passage to show them what he’s talking about. They give him this speech, of all things:
Where is Montjoy the herald? speed him hence:
Let him greet England with our sharp defiance.
Up, princes! and, with spirit of honour edged
More sharper than your swords, hie to the field:
Charles Delabreth, high constable of France;
You Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, and of Berri,
Alencon, Brabant, Bar, and Burgundy;
Jaques Chatillon, Rambures, Vaudemont,
Beaumont, Grandpre, Roussi, and Fauconberg,
Foix, Lestrale, Bouciqualt, and Charolois;
High dukes, great princes, barons, lords and knights,
For your great seats now quit you of great shames.
Bar Harry England, that sweeps through our land
With pennons painted in the blood of Harfleur:
Rush on his host, as doth the melted snow
Upon the valleys, whose low vassal seat
The Alps doth spit and void his rheum upon:
Go down upon him, you have power enough,
And in a captive chariot into Rouen
Bring him our prisoner.
And at the drop of a hat he’s right there, boom, whole speech, in character, as a demonstration of what he’s talking about (in terms of his students “not going far enough”). They even ask him about how he chose to pronounce certain words, and he specifies when he chose the Folio pronunciation.
Who the heck is this guy? All of the other actors, Patrick Stewart included, refer to a script when doing relatively well known passages such as from Julius Caesar or Merchant of Venice. And this Barton fellow riffs off the above, which is basically a whole sequence of proper names – French names, no less! – without so much as a pause? Maybe it was a good editing job (this is video, after all), but it was quite impressive, I have to say!