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Comedian Joe Lycett is limbering up for a Shakespearean performance: “It is all ‘knock knock’ jokes really, so I don’t know quite what I will do yet,” he said this weekend ahead of a virtual audio production of Macbeth, where he will play the drunken porter, the play’s only “comic relief”.
The host of BBC One’s The Great British Sewing Bee is one of the first stars of an initiative designed to bring plays to life for pupils now unable to go the theatre. Called ReadThrough, it has already gained some illustrious supporters in the shape of Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and Emma Thompson and on 11 February, it gives its first reading.
The plays, all works set on the curriculum and not just Shakespeare, will go out for free to comprehensive schools in more disadvantaged areas, thanks to initial funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
“I’m going to go through the jokes line by line with my friend, the literary expert Sarah Churchwell, who is very clever, so that I know what Shakespeare meant before I then go on to break them,” said Lycett.
The helpful idea for the service came to friends of Lycett from his drama school days. They joined together on Zoom to help the son of another friend to get to grips with Shakespeare. “He was struggling a bit with the language, as I did at school. We realised it really matters if you hear it read properly. That is when it really makes sense,” said Lycett.
The cast of Moya Productions believes the idea is especially valuable now, when live theatre is impossible, but Lycett hopes it will carry on when venues reopen.
“It will be a great leveller, going out to children in schools where it is harder to arrange trips to the theatre. I know that if I had not heard actors when I was growing up, I would never have understood what a play really was.”
Lycett, 32, had finished work on a new series of the Sewing Bee during lockdown but is keen to get back into clubs with his live act.
“I have started writing down my new set during the pandemic, which is not something I would normally do. I usually rely on a sheet with just a few key words on it and then I learn it, almost like dance moves.
“So I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between the written word and performance.”
And Lycett is keen to try more acting. “I would be up for it, although I have not done much so far,” he said. “I am much more scared of it than I am of stand-up, which is the opposite of what most people feel.”
To reserve a place for a school, email seatsplease@wearereadthrough and, for more information, visit wearereadthrough.com
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Heard the one about the TV stars bringing plays to schools online? | William Shakespeare