We spoke to Steven Arnold, better known as Ashley Peacock in Coronation Street, about his role in Doing Shakespeare, a new production from the Northern Theatre Company
What is Doing Shakespeare about?
Due to a miscommunication, six actors have each learned a different Shakespeare play but rather than call the show off, they decide to go ahead and somehow create a story that features all of the characters…but things don’t go to plan!
Who is your character, and which Shakespeare play is he trying to put on?
I play Ebon who is playing Hamlet. Ebon is the unpopular member of the group who thinks he is better than the rest. They all play jokes on him and can be pretty harsh. He wants to put himself to the ultimate test of great acting by playing Hamlet but generally lacks the skill to pull this off…but carries on regardless
Are the other characters in Doing Shakespeare similar to any classic Corrie characters from over the years? Any Gail Platt’s or Jack Duckworth’s? If so, who?
There is a battle axe character called Terri who is like the old school northern alpha females like Vera Duckworth or Ena Sharples. She has some brilliant one livers and put-downs. Tom, the self-appointed leader of the group is very like Roy Cropper, he is playing King Lear but again lacks any of the skills needed!
Doing Shakespeare began as a Zoom piece – did you get into any streamed theatre content during lockdown, and what would you recommend?
I am not a very technical person and much prefer a good old-fashioned phone call than an email! I Know Northern Comedy Theatre did some pioneering work on Zoom in the lockdown so I am thrilled to work with them. I am planning to watch Squid Games on Netflix as I have heard good things about it!
The show features a group of amateur actors, all trying to put on a Shakespeare – have you ever done any amateur theatre when you were younger, and does this compare?
I kind of went straight into professional work from young age but in amdram there are stock characters: The organiser, the person who can’t learn the lines, the ego-maniac, the person who is just there for the friendship and cup of tea. These people are all in this play but what comes through is their desire to be on stage, even though they may lack the skills needed. It takes a good actor to play a bad actor!
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
We have missed live performance; we have missed laughter. I hope the audience have a laugh. If you like Shakespeare, you will probably find some in-jokes but it still works with no knowledge of The Bard at all! I hope they enjoy themselves after what has been such a hard time for us all. David Spicer’s script is brilliantly crafted and clever and Shakespeare boffins and sceptics will love it equally, I think!
Doing Shakespeare is a new production from the Northern Theatre Company playing at Bridewell Playhouse 1 – 13 November. More info and tickets here