Joely's gushing goes from Bard to worse in praise of Will
Joely Richardson On Shakespeare's Women BBC4
BBC4's new series sees six actors go in search of 'the greatest playwright who ever lived'.
Not Ernie Wise – Shakespeare.
Joely Richardson, still smarting from being overlooked for the role of Kat Slater in EastEnders, was first up, looking at the Bard's great comic heroines – Viola from Twelfth Night, Rosalind from As You Like It, Olive from On The Buses.
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Richardson, rated a 10 on the Gielgud Scale of insufferable luvvies, is a fan of Viola's speech at the start of the play.
"What country, friends, is this?" she asks as she's washed up on a foreign shore. To which the reply comes "England, love. It's Fleetwood."
"To me," says Richardson, right, "this play speaks of all our hopes and dreams – the chance to start again – the prospect of a whole new world." I felt the same about Eldorado.
Shakespeare knew a thing or two about female characters.
Aged 18 he had a shotgun wedding to a woman eight years his elder who was three months pregnant. If he was around now he'd be chief storyliner on Emmerdale.
"He created fascinating, interesting, mischievous, funny female characters," noted an expert, "and there's no-one like them in dramatic history."
Err, Sue Ellen in Dallas?
Twins, noted the scholar, also offered Shakespeare great comic potential.
"No other writer was as interested in twins," he said, "possibly because he had twins of his own."
It's strange to think England's greatest writer would have liked Jedward. However, if female twins popped up, there were no professional actresses in Shakespeare's time (Helen Mirren was just starting out) and so women were always played by men, made easier by the scribe's love of cross-dressing trickery.
"If you have a boy playing a girl dressing up as a boy it becomes easier," noted the expert, who'd seen it done at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference.
"Men who impersonate women have tremendous theatrical opportunity," agreed Germaine Greer. True. Just look at that bloke who plays Gail in Coronation Street.
Greer, though, finds men dressing as women offensive.
"If they were wearing a black face there'd be hell to pay," she said. "If they're wearing my face it's okay."
Although comparing 'blacking up' to a bloke going to a fancy dress party as Lady Gaga is surely taking things a little far.
Richardson, meanwhile, was back in full-on luvvie mode.
"I've always found it incredibly exciting to be in theatres," she gushed, "whether they're empty or filled."
Good news, darling – there's a cleaning job at the Scunthorpe Alhambra.
"We enter the theatre like Viola washed up on the shore, ready to pretend," she continued. "Then we encounter something real."
That'll be the price of the sweets.