‘I had a tough time with Shakespeare’

Hamlet is being performed at the Portsmouth City Museum and Gardens from June 7-9. Michael Benz plays the starring role.

Hamlet is being performed at the Portsmouth City Museum and Gardens from June 7-9. Michael Benz plays the starring role.

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Michael Benz didn’t get on with Shakespeare at school. It may not seem that surprising, until you learn he’s playing the starring role in Shakespeare’s Globe’s national tour of Hamlet, which, in collaboration with the New Theatre Royal, premieres at the Portsmouth City Museum and Gardens from June 7-9.

He says: ‘Growing up I had a tough time understanding Shakespeare. I was really lost. It wasn’t until I heard it out loud that I fully understood it.

‘My first job was with The Globe and it just went from there. I was very lucky. I think that a lot of young people want to do classical work but it’s just not available.’

The RADA graduate began working for The Globe after leaving drama school, with his first job as Paulina in The Winter’s Tale. It was an easy decision to make.

He says: ‘When I went to drama school I think there was so much classical training there and I graduated from there with this intention of doing as much classical work as I could.

‘There was something about the language that I just really enjoyed. I like figuring it out and making it accessible.’

The touring part of performing is something Michael really loves, even if the typically British weather can make it difficult to be performing outdoors.

He says: ‘I love touring. I think it’s the most wonderful way to see the country and it keeps you on your toes because you have to adapt the show to the space. You have to adapt it to the audience.

‘But the elements give you what they give you! When the skies open and it pours down you just have to keep going. I think there’s a real sense of comradeship that happens with the audience when that kind of thing happens.’

He adds: ‘I remember one time in Bristol and it poured down with torrential rain. It was like a monsoon. Another time the sun was so bright I could hardly open my eyes because I was squinting!’

He plays the lead role of Hamlet in the production, who is left mourning the death of his father, and consequently his mother marries his uncle.

Speaking about his character, Michael says: ‘He’s such a complicated character. I think the first thing that I try and remember to start with is that he’s in mourning for his father and when you’re in grief it overshadows everything.’

n Tickets cost £14 to £16, or £40 for a family, from the New Theatre Royal on (023) 9264 9000 or go to newtheatreroyal.com.

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