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Salisbury Journal, 14th March 2012, Lesley Bates

When it comes to discussing Shakespeare, Michael pennington has a wealth of experience to call on.

His first encounter with the Bard came when as a perfectly average 11-year-old Tottenham Hotspur supporter, he was dragged along to a performance of Macbeth by well-meaning parents.

Before the witches had left the stage to meet Macbeth upon the heath, he was hooked and the love never left him through early days in Shakespeare productions to the years with the Royal Shakespeare Company on to the present day.

In 1986, with director Michael Bogdanov, he founded the English Shakespeare Company. Over four decades he has performed, directed, lectured and written about Shakespeare, notching up by his estimation some 20,000 hours in the company of the man he describes as Sweet William.

Another two hours were added to the tally at Salisbury Playhouse when he presented Sweet William on Thursday night.

Just one man and a chair in a pool of light to illuminate the life of an Elizabethan poet and playwright calling on a canon of characters from kings and princes to country yokels and bellows-menders.

He gave us young boys (Mamillius in The Winter’s Tale) and gloating queens (Margaret in Henry VI, Part 3), as well as melancholy princes (Hamlet), Roman generals (Antony and Coriolanus), senile justices (Shallow) and a host of others.

Sonnets, soliloquies and seminal speeches took us on a journey from Shakespeare’s childhood in Stratford to London and royal patronage before the return to Warwickshire.

It was entertaining, insightful, scholarly yet accessible, and beautifully spoken. But above all it was drenched in love and respect.

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