Q & A with actor Claire Redcliffe
By Isabel Dunn
As part of the Ransom Center’s Poetry on the Plaza series, Claire Redcliffe from the touring Actors from the London Stage will present a dramatic reading of “Perchance to Dream,” an exploration of sleep and dreaming in poetry, at noon on Wednesday, October 14 on the Ransom Center plaza.
The Actors from the London Stage (AFTLS) is one of the oldest and most renowned touring Shakespeare companies in the world. During a tour, the company performs at eight to ten universities, and leads student workshops at each. This year, the company is performing Shakespeare’s delightful comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A London-based actress and graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Claire Redcliffe has acted professionally since she left drama school at 21. She is a long-time performer of Shakespeare. Last year, Redcliffe gave a dazzling performance as Hero/Leonata/Sexton/Watch in the AFTLS production of Much Ado About Nothing. This fall she is returning as Titania/Hermia/Snug/Philostrate/Starveling in Midsummer. In anticipation of her visit to the Ransom Center, we asked Redcliffe a bit about her career and her loves of acting, Shakespeare, and poetry.
When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I wanted to be a ballet dancer up until the age of 15, but then I played Cecily in a school production of The Importance of Being Earnest and realized I preferred talking on stage rather than just moving!
Do you enjoy reciting poetry? If so, why?
I enjoy rhythm. It feels natural to me. I think it may have something to do with my dance background.
What role does poetry play in Shakespeare’s texts?
Shakespeare was a playwright and poet. He writes in iambic pentameter mainly which has a very definite rhythm, making the verse easier to learn and understand.
How does Shakespeare direct actors through the text?
There are lots of clues in the text. For example, if there is a line with almost all strong stresses, this character may be angry or anxious to get a point across. If there is a half line, the character may be shaken by something or unsure what to say next.
How does preparing to recite a poem compare to preparing to portray a character in a play?
You don’t have another actual person to interact with and therefore affect. You have to find the arguments within yourself.
How do you think performing a play contributes to the written work?
Plays were written to be performed. Characters immediately come to life when taken off the page.
While in residence at universities, AFTLS company members lead student workshops. What do you like about leading these workshops? In particular, what do you like about introducing Shakespeare performance to students that are non-actors?
I love hearing lines of Shakespeare being rediscovered again and again. I like to see the non-actors surprise themselves when they speak iambic pentameter out loud for the first time and understand it completely.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a student who is struggling with Shakespeare or poetry? How do you tackle challenging texts?
Stick to the verse, breathe at the end of the line, and all will become clear.
What is your favorite Shakespeare line or couplet?
“Take him and cut him out in little stars / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night,” Juliet, from Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.
What is your favorite poem?
“Ode To A Nightingale,” by John Keats.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit Texas?
So much! Winedale, Barton Springs. The live music and watching the Longhorns.
Performances of the AFTLS production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be held at the B. Iden Payne Theatre (inside the Winship Theatre Building) on UT Campus, Wednesday, October 14 – Friday, October 16, and at the Winedale Theatre Barn (near Round Top, Texas) Saturday, October 17.
The acting company members will be in residency at UT Austin from October 12-19. Click here for more information about other programs happening before and during their residency week.