This is the first blog entry from Matthew Kelly (Pandarus), in which he talks about his experience of Shakespeare at school, becoming an actor and his first impressions of Troilus and Cressida.
Transcript of Podcast
Shakespeare at school
I don’t really remember Shakespeare at school and my parents never really took me to see any shows. Although, since I wanted to be an actor from the age of six, I thought it must have been an inevitability that I would get into it. So it wasn’t until I got to drama school that I got to know about Shakespeare, particularly from my fellow students who loved it. I never ever thought that it was boring and I never thought that I couldn’t understand it, because people who were my contemporaries all loved it. I’m enthused by passion and when you meet people who are passionate about Shakespeare, you can’t help but think there must be something in it. I have seen some great productions. My wife’s parents used to take her to Stratford all the time so she saw some of the really classic Shakespeare productions, with some of the great performers. But the majority of my experience has actually been not in seeing Shakespeare but in playing it.
Becoming an actor
When I saw my first pantomime at the age of six, I knew that’s what I wanted to do – nothing would deter me! I got into drama school when I was sixteen, but couldn’t take my place until I was eighteen. I only got it because men didn’t go to drama school then, men didn’t become actors – they did ‘proper jobs’. Now of course, there is no security in any job so you might as well be an actor!
I’ve done three productions of Twelfth Night; I’ve played Aguecheek twice and Malvolio once. I’ve also done three productions of The Taming of the Shrew; I’ve played Curtis, Biondello and Petruccio. I think that play is one of the greatest love stories that has ever been written. What I particularly love about it is that last speech of Kate’s (which is so controversial), but which I think is a speech about equality. If it is played right you know that those two – Kate and Petruccio – are going to go off at the end and have the best time together, they are absolutely equal to each other and it’s going to be based on mutual respect. The other thing is you know that the other couples – Bianca and the widow – are going to have horrendous relationships because they are not equal; the women are trying to be superior and clever. You know that Petruccio could just as easily say the same speech to Kate and mean it as well. It’s the only way to look at it. I don’t think it’s being controversial at all; if you love somebody, that’s what you will do.
Previous knowledge of Troilus and Cressida
I didn’t know anything about the play or Pandarus, except everybody knows what a ‘panderer’ is and I knew that’s where the word came from. Soon after I got cast, I read Troilus and Cressida (though I’m very bad at reading plays) and I loved my part … I thought all the other parts were boring! Funnily enough, my part was the only one that I didn’t know how to play! It’s all prose to begin with, and it seems like there is a lot of obvious stuff in my part, for example playing Pandarus as gay; that would be alright, but I think there is more to it than that. It’s a very long play and there are two stories to it that don’t really join. It has a funny ending – or actually a not very funny end. So I listened to a full length version of it done by a company in the 90s, who were doing all of Shakespeare’s plays. My suspicions were confirmed: it was the dullest thing I have ever heard in my entire life! I thought “What have I signed up to?” Then I listened to a radio version, where Max Adrian played my part, and the performances were shockingly tedious. I think that might be to do with the fact that it is very difficult to recreate a play like this on radio. However, when I got the script for the version we’re doing, it suddenly started to come off the page. Then I came in and met the rest of the cast and heard them doing the lines and I thought “Oh, this might turn out to be quite interesting”.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.