All The World’s a Stage

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

29/05/2009 - 27/06/2009

The Compleate Workes Project

Production Details

"Let us on your imaginary forces, work…"  

Celebrated New Zealand actor Ray Henwood is delighted to present his solo show All The World’s A Stage opening at Circa Two, 29 May.

Ray has a huge interest in and love of Shakespeare and has performed in many of his plays. For some years he had thought it would  be a good idea to put together famous ‘hits’ for those who don’t know Shakespeare – to give them a taste, and for those who do, a chance to re-visit the old favourites. When he heard that the entire works of Shakespeare were to be performed this year throughout New Zealand he seized the opportunity to fulfil a dream.

Ray will take you on a personal journey through the astonishing art of the undisputed ‘World Champion of Everything’: Comedy, Tragedy, Drama, Horror, History, Suspense, Romance….

Inspired by Sir John Gielgud’s Ages of Man, he has selected extracts from the plays and poems which show Shakespeare’s genius for making us laugh, cry and hold our breath with excitement.  He offers Romeo, Shylock, Prospero, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Falstaff and a host of other enchanting characters sure to surprise and thrill.

Ray is no stranger to solo shows having performed to great acclaim in Playing Burton, Nogood Boyo and The Carer. He says working alone on stage brings huge but exciting challenges and he is looking forward to presenting this new solo work in the intimate Circa Two space.

All the World’s A Stage is being performed as part of Compleate Workes, 2009, coordinated by the Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ, with Dawn Sanders at the helm.  Compleate Workes is a celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Peter Hambleton brings his considerable skill to Direct this production.

SEASON: 29 May – 27 June
Performance times:
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 4.30pm
After-show Q & A  Wednesday 3 May
$20 Specials: Preview Thursday 28 May 7.30pm, Sunday 31 May  4.30.
Tickets: $18 – $35

Bookings: Circa 801 7992 or 

Set Design:  Philip Markham 
Lighting Design:  Jennifer Lal 

Stage Management / Technical Operation:  Dushka Blakely
Text Management:  Dushka Blakely
Publicity:  Colleen McColl
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Toolbox creative
Set Construction:  John Hodgkins, Iain Cooper
Photography Stephen A'Court
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office Linda Wilson


1hr 30 mins, no interval

Henwood the hero

Review by Lynn Freeman 10th Jun 2009

Ray Henwood’s voice feels like it was crafted to deliver Shakespeare’s words. 

The rich Welshness and precision, and his genuine love of the Bard’s works, his understanding of the complex emotions behind the seemingly simplest of phrases. And a long life on the stage where this man in his time has played many Shakespearean parts.

It’s more than a mix of performances though, with Henwood interspersing a few stories of his own, some parodies (notably Terry Pratchett’s introduction from The Wyrd Sisters), observations and historical facts.

Best of all is when he talks about his own experiences playing Shakespearean roles, notably King Hal. And his portrayal of Lear’s death scene is one of the most affecting performances I’ve seen from this hugely experienced actor.

The structure works extremely well, starting with Shakespeare’s portrayal of youth, often in love or lust, fuelled by passions and hormones. Through to wise and sometimes not so wise middle age, and then old age. And the full cast of characters, heroes and villains (and the villainess), lovable rogues, lovers and soldiers, and of course the Monarchs.

Peter Hambleton, another renowned Shakespeare fan, gives his actor room and permission to move, with the spring in his step of a young lover, with the straight back of a King, with the shuffle of defeat.

The sonnets have a place here too and the selected ones, pretty much the Bard’s greatest hits, are read with great beauty and understanding.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Henwood joins illustrious group

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 03rd Jun 2009

Solo Shakespeare recitals are not new to this country. Actors as varied and as famous as Ellen Terry, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit and Jonathan Elsom have performed their selections from the plays and poems; to be accurate, Donald Wolfit was supported by three other actors but it seemed like a solo performance.

And now Ray Henwood joins this illustrious company with a lively, beautifully spoken, and carefully constructed performance that makes the description ‘a solo Shakespearean recital’ seem ponderous and something to be sat through because it’s good for you.

While at times All the World’s a Stage is like Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits (it starts with ‘O for a Muse of Fire’ and ends with the epilogue from The Tempest) the often over-familiar passages from the plays, as well as the three most famous sonnets, come across freshly painted.

The scenes from the plays are given brief introductions which are enlivened by anecdotes, quotations, and comments by authors as varied as P.G. Wodehouse, Wayne and Schuster, Terry Pratchett and Bernard Levin. He also adds his occasional personal comments such as his favourite line from Henry V and Goneril and Regan giving ‘Tui billboard’ speeches in King Lear.

He also points us to things we may have overlooked such as the Machiavellian duplicity of the noble Brutus, the supposed tragic hero of Julius Caesar, or that the portrait of Shylock is no more race specific than Iago is sergeant-major specific.

In some of the extracts he plays two or more characters – Hal and Falstaff, Lear and Cordelia, Antonio and Shylock. All are quickly established and clearly defined. However, it is his nimbleness of speech and the warm timbre of his voice that win us over. A single word like ‘quintessence’ is subtly highlighted further revealing Hamlet’s despair and in the big speeches there is a mounting excitement as in the Chorus’s opening speech from Henry V.

One anomaly: we are invited to imagine Othello being performed in sunlight at the Globe but then we are shown Iago dramatically side lit as in a film noir as he plots Othello’s downfall. Nevertheless, Peter Hambleton’s sleek direction lets Ray Henwood perform Shakespeare, if not by lightening, then by the clear light of day. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Delectable tastings from the larder of the Bard

Review by John Smythe 30th May 2009

Only when it was over did I realise what an epic undertaking this had been, especially for an actor now stepping out beyond three score years and ten.   

Ray Henwood’s lightness of being in repose; his mellifluous voice, ever-ready to deepen, sharpen, soften or fly; his nimble physicality and infectious delight in what he is up to, all conspire to make it look easy.

Clad in black with morning coat – "but the trappings and the suits of woe"?[1] – he holds much within that he’s about to show. With personable style he invites us to sample his personal selection of very different and always delectable tastings from the larder of the Bard and adds the odd condiment for good measure.

By my count his non-stop but astutely modulated ‘around the Bard trip in 90 minutes’, directed by Peter Hambleton, is structured from 36 components that comprise 26 roles in 13 plays, five sonnets and four more recent takes on Shakespeare’s work. Plus Henwood adds his own enlightening observations.

All is played out on a quarter of a chess board against a white gauze drape flanked by ropes (denoting "this unworthy scaffold"[2]?). Hanging crystals glint in the darkness on either side ("the brightest heaven of invention"[3]? "This brave o’erhanging firmament"[4]?). A throne lurks to be used sparingly, usually as anything but. This eminently tourable set design is by Philip Markham.

Despite Henwood’s opening exhortation, via the Prologue to Henry V, to let him on our "imaginary forces work" so that our "thoughts" piece out his "imperfections" to "make imaginary puissance", and his reminding us that daylight was the only means of illumination within the Globe’s "wooden O", Jennifer Lal’s lighting design (operated by Dushka Blakely) varies the visual texture to excellent effect.

Indeed "th’ accomplishment of many years" – both Shakespeare’s and Henwood’s – is wondrously turned "into an hour glass" in which whole lives, ages and worlds are imagined, true human experiences are shared, and stimulating insights and wisdoms are offered.

After awakening us, via Bernard Levin, to how much Shakespeare’s linguistic inventions have enriched our daily conversation – an astounding litany! – Henwood embarks at the younger end of the mostly male character spectrum, happily embodying lovelorn Lorenzo (The Merchant of Venice), manic Mercutio (Romeo & Juliet) and religious zealot and moral hypocrite Angelo, Measure for Measure

He counter-points youthful Harry Percy Hotspur with the old sot Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, taking the low-life-loving prince through to the sober and responsible Henry V. In Henry V, with the king in disguise to remind himself what’s what in the real world, we also meet Pistol, Fluellen and Williams. On we go through the lightness and darkness of human existence via Hamlet, Julius Caesar and Brutus, Iago and Othello, Angelo and Shylock then Salerio and Shylock (The Merchant of Venice).

And so to old age, through an aged Henry IV (Henry IV Part 2), King Lear and Prospero (The Tempest). En route we have also found the poetry in The Tempest‘s grotesque Caliban, the satire inherent in Polonius (Hamlet) and been reminded what powerful women can do through Lady Macbeth and Lear’s oldest daughter Goneril.

The ease with which tragedy is seeded is exemplified in the collision between Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, and his arrogant expectations as a father and king. It is a mark of Henwood’s great talent that, on the home straight of his epic journey, he can – like the Player King so admired by Hamlet – draw us into the disenfranchised and deranged old man’s tragic finale using but a bundle of gauze as his dead daughter’s body.

Two ‘sonnet breaks’ vary the fare – 18, 116 & 130 on the theme of love; 73 & 138 with more mature perspectives – and parody adds comic relief via Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Wryd Sisters, revisiting the tellers of Macbeth’s (mis)fortune, and Wayne & Schuster’s ‘Dragnet’ take on the assassination of ‘Big Julie’.  

Jaques’ famous speech from As You Like It, which gives this show its title, all but wraps the evening up. The final words are those of The Tempest‘s epilogue, spoken by the actor who has just played Prospero, and widely seen as Shakespeare’s own farewell speech before his retirement to Stratford on Avon.

While Ray Henwood may well deserve to retire with this impressive solo show as his valediction, we can only hope it is anything but. And given his expressed desire to still be working at 93 like Sir John Gielgud (whose own Ages of Man solo show inspired this very different one), it won’t be.

As Circa’s contribution to the Compleate Workes Project, All The World’s a Stage has opened as high school students from around the country converge on Wellington for the national finals of the University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival. Excellent timing – for a start. And it certainly deserves to travel far and wide and be seen by many.

Treat yourselves.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 

[1] Hamlet, Act I, sc ii

[2] Henry V, Prologue

[3] Ibid

[4] Hamlet, Act II, sc ii


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