Art & Events Caro Meets

Alexandra Evans: Shakespeare In Quarantine

By | Published on Friday 24 April 2020

We’ve been focusing a lot of late on companies employing the latest technologies and platforms in a bid to get culture to people during lockdown. But it’s also great to hear that the COVID-19 situation has led to some new creative endeavours employing more traditional (albeit still online) media.

For example, the current situation has inspired actress Alexandra Evans and director Jimmy Walters to start a new podcast focused on the works of Shakespeare, which I suspect will be very much of interest to our theatre-loving readers.

Obviously I am a Shakespeare fan, so my interest was immediately piqued by this: I arranged a quick chat with Alexandra to find out more.

CM: Firstly, tell us about what to expect in the way of content from ‘Shakespeare In Quarantine’?
AE: Hopefully a fun and refreshing look on Shakespeare’s plays. Something a bit more modern and a less stuffy/traditional look at them.

CM: Can you tell us about the guests appearing on the show and how you’re going about recruiting them? Who can we expect to hear from?
AE: All of our guests are either actors, directors, producers etc… that have worked on the particular play we are podding about that week.

We have some very exciting people coming on to talk to us, our next guest is Paapa Essiedu who was the first black actor to play ‘Hamlet’ at the RSC – and no prizes for what play we will be talking about! – and you’ll just have to listen to the rest of the episodes to find out who else we have on. 

CM: Who is this aimed at? Would you say it’s suitable for all ages? Is it accessible for those with little previous knowledge of the bard?
AE: I would say it’s for anyone really. We aren’t claiming to be experts, just enthusiasts! If we get something wrong and a listener can tell us something we might have missed that’s great! Please tweet us to correct us so we can learn too.

We are just really enjoying looking at the plays again and talking about them and hoping that people who may have been intimidated by Shakespeare in the past can see that it is really accessible and for everyone.

You can come with a little knowledge or none at all and hopefully go away feeling excited by it. There’s a few swears in it – but apart from that I would say any age can listen. Just depends how strict you are with terms like “basic bitch”!

CM: Why did you decide to engage in this project together? What made you want to do a podcast? 
AE: Jimmy called me after the first week of lockdown and said he was so bored and he couldn’t imagine this going on for another three weeks and then some. We are both people who need to have something to do or focus on and I’m a huge reader.

I’d already got through three books so this just seemed like a good idea and lovely if people wanted to come along for the ride with us. Originally Jimmy suggested a video platform – but no one wants to see us in our PJs! A podcast just felt like two friends talking on the phone – which we do a lot anyway. 

CM: Do you think you will continue doing it after the lockdown is over?
AE: I hope so! There are a lot of plays and fingers crossed lockdown doesn’t last as long as the number of plays per week – otherwise it’ll be over a year and no one wants that! Hopefully people will still want to listen to us when they are on their commutes to work.

CM: Do you think a trend for more take-up of online cultural events is likely to continue after the lockdown?
AE: I’m not sure. I think people will be itching for real human contact and interaction post lockdown. The first night back at the pub will be one to remember I’m sure.

Seeing your friends and catching up in person is so important and there’s only so much a virtual simulation can give you. It’s amazing to have all the virtual platforms available to us, as we would all feel so much more isolated without them, but there’s nothing better than sitting with your mates and giving them a hug.

I’d always rather be in a real theatre or cinema or music venue than watching it from my sofa at home.

CM: What would you have been doing if we had not been hit by the COVID crisis? 
AE: Hopefully I’d have been working on some nice projects. I was ‘heavily pencilled’ for a few things and waiting for confirmation before this all happened. Who knows though, as an actor you never know what next week has in store for you. I’m just trying to treat it like would any other time I’m not a working actor – walking my dog, growing veggies in the garden and having a gin and tonic when it’s sunny. Staying at home and doing my bit to keep safe is all I can do to, so I might as well try and enjoy it.

CM: How are you keeping sane?   
AE: I’m reading a lot. I grow all my own vegetables, so spring is a nice time of year to be focusing on that. I have a whole Instagram account dedicated to my gardening obsession. My husband is also an actor who had a play cancelled due to COVID-19, so we are doing lots of nice things together – mainly taking it in turns playing the full ‘Nathan Drake Uncharted’ collection – it’s free on PS4 at the moment. Tonight we are going to stay up late and watch the Lyrid meteor shower.

The ‘Shakespeare In Quarantine’ podcast is available in all the usual podcast places. Follow the Twitter feed here for updates.

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