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Bond's take on Shakespeare

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Will Gompertz | 09:54 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Shakespeare was a greedy, weak, devious individual who only thought of himself at the great expense of the rest of the community in Stratford-upon-Avon. Well that's the view Edward Bond took in his play Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death which opens at Chichester Festival Theatre tomorrow.

Patrick StewartIt portrays our greatest playwright in very poor light. Bond's story sees William Shakespeare fearful about the possibility of losing the land he has bought on the proceeds from his plays. The land is now Shakespeare's only source of income - he has lost his writing mojo. A big local landowner wants to drive Shakespeare's tenants off the land, thereby leaving the embittered Bard with diddly squat. What to do? Sell out to the developer or fight for his tenants?

Shakespeare now finds himself in the same situation as one of his most famous characters, King Lear. To add further ironic spice to the play the producers have cast Patrick Stewart, the great Shakespearian actor and spokesman for his work, as the miserly Shakespeare in this unflattering story of a selfish playwright at the end of his days.

And it's worth noting Edward Bond if you're not familiar with him or his work. He has a reputation. In this clip he says he is "basically a comic writer". That's not his reputation.


  • Comment number 1.

    Patrick Stewart a 'great Shakespearian actor'? You must have missed his Malvolio at Chichester a couple of years back.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well even if one didn't. I doubt one performance would sully a reputation earned.

  • Comment number 3.

    As well as being a genius I don't think it is too great a leap of the imagination to suspect that Shakespeare probably had some faults. It is perfectly acceptable for Edward Bono to imagine what would happen to the great man if the income he had worked so hard for was put at risk, even if there is no basis in fact for the story. It is an interesting idea that I am looking forward to seeing next month. It’s not as if Shakespeare himself did not take the odd liberty with historical facts for dramatic effect and entertainment.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it's a perfectly legitimate assumption that Shakespeare would have had to worry about money, even if he didn't lose his "mojo", given the time in which he was writing, the comparative lack of income from publication and the unquenchable desire for new plays from the theatre going audience that prevented one from making as much as it would today.
    I've been lucky enough to see a production of 'The Sea', another Edward Bond play, before and greatly enjoyed the writing style and the elements of dark comedy in it.
    Not quite sure what the apparent plot of this play really has to do with 'King Lear' however, Lear's reasons for giving up his position and land are very different to this fictional Shakespeare's and it is not his decision that causes him problems but the consequences of it.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is puerlie, worthless hack drivel about Shakespeare and his achievements. I have respect for Bond's work - read several of his plays - but feel that Gomp's comments lack the erudition that the BBC's well-renowned arts commentary deserves.

    Please sack this lightweight forthwith.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jowint, Patrick Stewart is one of the few of the finest Shakespearean actors alive, who has received several awards for his acting, most recently for his second portrayal of Claudius. Malvolio is a notoriously hard part to play, and many, many, established Shakespearean actors have been unsatisfied with their portrayal of this character, including Sir Antony Sher. To discredit the entire reputation of an actor for one performance is merely ignorant. If you wish to argue Stewart's worth of being a 'great Shakespearean actor', I'm sure the RSC will be happy to take you to town.


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