Brian Blessed Interview
We had a chat with one of the nation's best-loved actors, Brian Blessed, who is preparing to perform some of Shakespeare's most dramatic speeches in Southern Pro Musica's Music and Shakespeare on Saturday 21 September.
Hello Brian! You’re no stranger to Guildford and Yvonne Arnaud. What do you like about our Theatre?
I think the whole of the Yvonne Arnaud has a wonderful ambiance. It’s got a lovely auditorium! I did my one man show with you in 2015 and packed the place out as I talked about one of my books. In 1994 I did Peter Pan the panto as Captain Hook! Val May was directing there for a while who gave me my first job at Nottingham Rep in the mid 50s. I think the Yvonne Arnaud theatre is the crème de la crème - it’s a beautiful theatre with lovely staff and a lovely stage! I’m really looking forward to returning. I also of course have connections with the Guildford Shakespeare Company who are doing of course awfully well and having huge success. I’m very well connected with them and Guilford as a whole with regards to Shakespeare!
On the 21st September you’ll be performing with Southern Pro Musica in Music and Music. Can you tell us a bit about the production?
I think it’s going to be a wonderful evening. What is also wonderful is that under 18s are free! There will be wonderful music with Tchaikovsky, Walton’s great Henry V, Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There’s also Romeo and Juliet. I’m doing all the words and helping to make all the Shakespeare coordinate with all the music with Jonathan Willocks, who is second to none as a conductor!
What are you looking forward to the most?
I look forward to working with an orchestra. I’ve done Henry V years ago at the Albert Hall – about ten years ago I believe. That was with the BBC Concert Orchestra and it was a wonderful event. Walton wrote the music for Laurence Olivier for Henry V. Of course, I was in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, the film, I was the great powerful Duke of Exeter covered in armour. Of course, Pat Doyle did the music for that, which is entirely different from Walton’s music yet still has the same spirit. I think Walton’s music is wonderful for Henry. We’re not doing the whole suite, but at least half of it! And then I’m doing words to Romeo and Juliet, John of Gaunt speech about England and then saying farewell to the audience as Prospero with his last speech, which is probably the loveliest speech ever written by Shakespeare, in which he says farewell to everybody. He talks about the future of the earth and the galaxies, it’s the most beautiful speech.
What is your favourite speech which features in Music and Shakespeare?
The John of Gaunt speech is quite wonderful! It’s a wonderful speech about England in which he says the most wonderful things about what Britain is. It’s quite astonishing. So is Henry V! The opening “O! For a muse of fire” is a simply wonderful beginning! But really, the end of our performance with Prospero’s speech is delightful…. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” It is simply beautiful. . That will end the occasion and I think the whole thing will be a great happening!