Shakespeare's Globe

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In this first interview, Eve talks about her past acting experience, including a run of male roles at school before finally having the opportunity to play the female at Oxford University. Eve reminisces upon playing Beatrice in her twenties and how she is now embarking on the role once again but at a very different stage of her life.

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Time: 14 minutes, 14 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Welcome to the Globe Education podcast. I'm talking to Eve Best, who is playing Beatrice in this season’s Much Ado About Nothing. What was your first experience of Shakespeare at school?

Eve Best:

We used to read around the class. I think it was in primary school, and I think it was Julius Caesar. In the lesson, the teacher would change who was reading every scene, so you might get a good part in one scene and then you might be playing a servant. I remember loving those classes very much. In the sixth form, where I took English A-level, when I had to read King Lear for the first time. I remember reading it on my own, and I started to cry. It was the first time, I think, I had cried as a result of reading something, let alone reading an ancient piece of writing. My reaction was very extreme, and I guess that was when I knew that this was good stuff. I'm trying to think ... Oh yes, I was in As You Like It at school, that was the first time I was actually in a fully staged Shakespeare play. I was 17. I was very frustrated, I was at an all girls school, and I didn't get to play Rosalind, I got to play Orlando, because I was tall. I was always playing boys, in the school play my entire career was boys. Until I got to Oxford, when I was allowed to play girls. At school I did a really good line in boys. I played George in Our Town, Nigel in Salad Days and then Orlando in As You Like It.

PS:

But that wasn't enough to put you off?

EB:

Not at all. In fact the boys’ parts are often the best. I've just recently, in a workshop, read the part of Macbeth, with a man playing Lady Macbeth and I realised what a fantastic part Macbeth is. I suddenly thought, this is where all the meat is, playing the blokes.

PS:

Did you go to university before drama school?

EB:

Yes. After school I went to Oxford to read English. I did quite a lot of Shakespeare there. I probably did more plays than writing essays actually, I had some very, very tolerant tutors. It was great at Oxford, because there were lots of possibilities to just put on plays with friends. We did Antony and Cleopatra, and an hour long Hamlet at the Edinburgh Festival – which I cut down, with my boyfriend at the time, to one hour, which was rather good I think. Also Macbeth, in a garden, and I was getting to play the girls at last. It was great! I did A Midsummer Night’s Dream – we went to Russia with A Midsummer Night's Dream.

PS:

That is fairly grand student drama; going on tour to Russia.

EB:

It was amazing. It was fantastic. At Oxford there was the Oxford University Drama Society, OUDS, and they had arranged, not exactly a tour, because we only went to one place in Russia, Perm. Apparently, this is where permafrost comes from. It is right in the middle of Siberia. It takes about two days to get there by train, and is really remote, and pretty grim. It is, apparently, where Chekhov envisaged the Three Sisters being set. When you are there, you really want to get out. There is not very much there. It was just after the Wall had come down. And we were 19 or something, turning up in this pretty bleak country, hardly any food on the shelves, communism had just come to an end, doing A Midsummer Night's Dream, prancing around, talking about fairies. But they loved it. They absolutely loved it. It was a particularly special time. So I had a lot of experience, relatively, at University. And then, when I left, one of the first things I did, was Much Ado About Nothing, with a group of friends – we did it at Southwark Playhouse. It was great fun, but it is really, really nice to be having another go at it.

PS:

You played Beatrice then?

EB:

I played Beatrice.

PS:

Did you go on to drama school, or did you just cut that out?

EB:

I did go on to drama school. I left Oxford, tried to get a job, tried to get an agent, failed at both. Well, I did get some jobs actually, I got some nice jobs. I worked at the Gate, in Notting Hill; I worked at the Battersea Arts Centre, and we did Much Ado at Southwark Playhouse. It was very difficult. As you know, acting is a very tough profession. Particularly tough to get into in those early years. I was writing to agents and found it very hard to get them to come and see me. At one point, I think it was after a play at the Gate, and there was nothing on the cards for me, and I was getting frustrated, and waitressing. I thought, I have got to be doing it. It's a frustrating and odd thing about being an actor. You can't do it on your own . You can't practice it in the bath by yourself. Not like musicians or painters, who can keep doing it. In acting, by definition, you need another person and I thought I just want to be doing it. I don't mind too much where, but I just need to be acting and active, and taking action. It can be very disempowering just sitting by the phone waiting for somebody to ring and say "yes, you may now do something with your life". It felt at the time terribly frustrating, and also it seems to me to be clear that it is a very difficult world, and it seemed to me to be a good idea to get as many stamps in one's passport, and as many arrows in your quiver, as you can possibly get, because, my God, you need them. To get as much help, and to spend as much time actually getting better at it as I possibly could. So I went to RADA for three years. It was great, a very great time.

PS:

If we move on to think about this production of Much Ado About Nothing, you said that you have already been in it once, so you started out with some ideas?

EB:

[Laughs.] I can't remember very much about that production, except it was a lot of fun, and we had a great time doing it. I wore a lovely red dress, but… I think when I started out this time that I thought I just have to chalk that up to experience and start again. Partly because I am completely different. Playing Beatrice when you're 22 as I think I was to, playing when you're 39, which is what I am now, there is a big difference of life experience. The words are going to mean something different in the mouth of somebody of a different age, and a different stage of life.

PS:

You're going to be an older Beatrice?

EB:

Yes, I inevitably am, because I am. When I was 22, I just played her as a 22-year-old. I think that is what is wonderful about these parts. You can play them at any age. I just did a workshop in New York, at the Actors Studio, where one of the groups did a scene from Romeo and Juliet with a 20-year-old Romeo and Juliet was 80. She was absolutely devastating, and wonderful, and beautiful, and sexy, and delightful. As a twosome they worked terribly well, it was a little extraordinary, but it was also beautiful. Peggy Ashcroft famously played Juliet when she was 60. I think these parts are so broad, so enormous, that they can encompass everything. It is just exciting to have a chance to have another go, because I certainly didn't think I got it right.

PS:

You have worked here before?

EB:

Yes. I loved it so much, I am very happy to be back. It's like coming home actually.

PS:

What was the first day like?

EB:

It was quite emotional. I am very happy to be back, and it is exactly 10 years ago that I was here. It was a particularly special production, and a special time, a wonderful time with wonderful people will stop it was really nice to see so many familiar faces – like Wills [Technical Manager], and Sian [Williams, Choreographer], and Giles [Block, text work] and Glyn [Macdonald, movement work], and all these fantastic people that I love so much, still working here. A lot of the stewards are still the same. And that fantastic stage. And of course also very different. We are rehearsing in this amazing new building. It feels like it has grown a lot, that it has got bigger in scope and outreach. One thing that is very striking, but I don't remember, is the amount of people milling about. All the time. So many people. Crowds and crowds. I don't remember quite so many. And the bar is so fancy – I can't believe it. We used to have this little shack at the back of that Wills and some of his friends had knocked up, called Caliban’s Cabin, and it was some rough bits of all would. We used to club together to buy one bottle of dodgy wine, and some beers, from a kitty. And I think there was a pool table at one point. And some broken old chairs, and a bunch of raggedy actors just sitting there after the show, in this make-do pub. And now there is this incredible bar, with this huge table, and it is amazing. I'm rather miss the scruffy other one though. Paul: 2006 was last year. It must have been good to be able to wind down in that quiet space. It was very nice, without the feeling that you had to go out and chat to everybody.

PS:

And in your mind it was always a nice warm summer’s evening?

EB:

Of course. It never rained, ever. It did rain. I remember doing shows in the rain actually, that was always a little bit depressing. You felt very sorry for the groundlings. There weren't very many groundlings whenever it rained. But I don't remember it that often.

PS:

Have there been any highpoints and low points of the week so far?

EB:

Highpoints have been getting to go on stage again, and doing some work with Glyn Macdonald who is the movement teacher – guru, genius, woman – which was just very exciting; she is so brilliant. The space itself is very magical. So that was very, very nice to go back there. The low points have been teething problems of coming back to London, because I am not based here. So things like getting my cards blocked at the bank, and going to the dentist, and dealing with the fact that my plumbing is all screwed up in my place, so I've got to get the plumbers out to fix the hot water. That's been a nightmare. So it has been rather a relief to come to work.

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