'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.'
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