Brutus and Other Heroines

Playing Shakespeare's Roles for Women

Harriet Walter

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'A part we have played is like a person we once met, grew to know, became intimately enmeshed with and finally moved away from. Some of these characters remain friends, others are like ex-lovers with whom we no longer have anything in common. All of them bring something out in us that will never go back in the box.'

In a varied and distinguished career, Harriet Walter has played almost all of Shakespeare's heroines, notably Ophelia, Helena, Portia, Viola, Imogen, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice and Cleopatra, mostly for the Royal Shakespeare Company. But where, she asks, does an actress go after playing Cleopatra's magnificent death? Why didn't Shakespeare write more - and more powerful - roles for mature women?

For Walter, the solution was to ignore the dictates of centuries of tradition, and to begin playing the mature male characters. Her Brutus in an all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse was widely acclaimed, and was soon followed by Henry IV. What, she asks, can an actress bring to these roles - and is there any fundamental difference in the way they must be played?

In Brutus and Other Heroines, Walter discusses each of these roles - both male and female - from the inside, explaining the particular choices she made in preparing and performing each character. Her extraordinarily perceptive and intimate accounts illuminate each play as a whole, offering a treasure trove of valuable insights for theatregoers, scholars and anyone interested in how the plays work on stage. Aspiring actors, too, will discover the many possibilities open to them in playing these magnificent roles.

The book is an exploration of the Shakespearean canon through the eyes of a self-identified 'feminist actor' - but, above all, a remarkable account of an acting career unconstrained by tradition or expectations. It concludes with an affectionate rebuke to her beloved Will: 'I cannot imagine a world without you. I just wish you had put more women at the centre of your world/stage... I would love you to come back and do some rewrites.'

Harriet Walter is a leading actor on stage and screen.

On stage, she has played many Shakespearean characters including Ophelia, Helena, Portia, Viola, Imogen, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice and Cleopatra (most of them for the RSC). She has also played Brutus, Henry IV and Prospero in all-female productions at the Donmar Warehouse.

She has played many other great classical stage roles, including the Duchess of Malfi (RSC), Hedda Gabler (Chichester and tour), Nina in Thomas Kilroy's Irish version of Chekhov's The Seagull with Anna Massey and Alan Rickman (Royal Court), Masha in Three Sisters (RSC; Olivier Award), Anna Petrovna in Ivanov with Ralph Fiennes (Almeida), Hester in The Deep Blue Sea (Theatre Royal Bath and tour), and Elizabeth I in Schiller's Mary Stuart (Donmar Warehouse, West End, and Broadway; Evening Standard Award and Tony Award nomination). She has also performed in several contemporary classics including Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine (Royal Court), Harold Pinter's Old Times (West End), Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour (National), and as Linda in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman with Antony Sher (RSC, Stratford and West End).

She has created roles in new plays including Arcadia by Tom Stoppard and Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 (National), Timberlake Wertenbaker's Three Birds Alighting on a Field (Royal Court), Stephen Lowe's adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Joint Stock), Moira Buffini's Dinner (National and West End), Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes, Stephen Poliakoff's Sweet Panic, Tamsin Oglesby's US and Them (Hampstead), and Clara Brennan's Boa opposite her husband, Guy Paul (Trafalgar Studios).

Her films include The Sense of an Ending, Mindhorn, Denial, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Suite Française, Man Up, The Wedding Video, Young Victoria, Babel, Villa des Roses (British Independent Film Award nomination), Sense and Sensibility and Louis Malle's Milou en Mai. Her television work ranges from The Imitation Game by Ian McEwan and The Cherry Orchard (both directed by Richard Eyre), The Price (Channel 4 and RTÉ), Harriet Vane in the BBC's Lord Peter Wimsey series and The Men's Room, via guest appearances in Inspector Morse, Waking the Dead, Spooks, Poirot, Midsomer Murders and New Tricks, to more recent appearances as D.I. Natalie Chandler in Law and Order: UK, Little Dorrit, Downton Abbey, Black Sails, Call the Midwife and as Clementine Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown.

She has written several books, including Brutus and Other Heroines and Other People's Shoes (both published by Nick Hern Books), Macbeth (Faber and Faber's 'Actors on Shakespeare' series) and Facing It: Reflections on Images of Older Women (Facing It Publications).

She is an Honorary Associate Artist of the RSC, an Honorary D.Litt at Birmingham University, and was awarded a CBE in 2000 and a Damehood in 2011.


Format ePUB i
Kopierschutz Ja i
Family Sharing Nein i
Text-to-Speech Nein i
Seitenzahl 224 (Printausgabe)
Erscheinungsdatum 27.10.2016
Sprache Englisch
EAN 9781780018164
Verlag Nick Hern Books
Dateigröße 2174 KB


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