Arts review of 2016: including THAT sketch

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Prince Charles on stage during the Hamlet sketch with Dame Judi Dench, Tim Minchin, Dame Harriet Walter, David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear and Sir Ian McKellen.

Among all the amazing concerts, performances and exhibitions that were put on to mark the 400 years since Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the undoubted highlight was the Shakespeare Live! show, broadcast around the world by the BBC.

Attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who is President of the RSC, and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, the show was broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 23rd April.

It featured performances of some of the greatest dramatic scenes ever written, played by some of our greatest actors, as well as songs, comedy, dances and music celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy. The show was conceived and directed by Gregory Doran and hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and memorably featured the Hamlet sketch, starring Prince Charles, pictured.

Herald arts was lucky enough to be asked to attend the event, and we spoke to a number of those taking part, including Dames Judi Dench, Harriet Walter and Helen Mirren, as well as exclusive interviews with Al Murray and David Suchet.

Speaking to us at a meet and greet with Prince Charles afterwards, Helen Mirren told us about the atmophere: “We were all so terrified but we were so pleased to see each other, because we all so rarely get to see each other at the same time. So in between being terrified we are being so supportive of each other — ‘Darling, you were wonderful’, a lot of that going on. And also gossiping. A funny mixture of being at a party and being terrified.”

RSC Artistic Director, Greg Doran, explained to Herald arts how he had got Prince Charles to take part in the Hamlet sketch: “Charles has been our president at the RSC for 25 years and we wanted something to mark that and when I told him about the show, and because he is a fan of Shakespeare and the RSC, I took my courage in my hands and said how about being in it, and he jumped at it.

“I knew that he would be game and up for it and just wanted to make it appropriate and fun — he read [the script] and loved it. I must say it helped that I had the genius Tim Minchin assist with the writing.”

For a full review of arts in and around Stratford in 2016, see this week’s Herald newspaper.