Passion in Practice

Exploring Fresh Approaches to Acting Shakespeare


Exploring Original Pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe, July 2015

Following their sell-out staged reading of Macbeth in Original Pronunciation at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe in July 2014 the Passion in Practice Ensemble return, this time with Henry V.


The Exploring Original Pronunciation events consist of


Original Pronunciation: Past, Present & Future – Professor David Crystal OBE

Thursday 16 July – 7pm  

In this performance lecture, Professor David Crystal, accompanied by Ben Crystal’s Passion in Practice Shakespeare Ensemble, will explore what French, Irish, Scots, and Welsh versions of Original Pronunciation might have sounded like. They will explore how the King and commoner might have been separated if there are no “posh” and “plebeian” accents to choose from.



Read Not Dead Event
Sunday 26 July – 4pm

Henry V will get its contemporary world premiere in Original Pronunciation in a staged reading by Ben Crystal’s Passion in Practice Ensemble, in this the 600th anniversary year of the Battle of Agincourt.

This is the second exploration of Original Pronunciation in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse following last year’s popular Macbeth.


HENRY V – The Loft, Tanner Street


macbeth-49 tanner street-0495

Fresh from a staged reading at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe; Ben Crystal brings his Passion in Practice Shakespeare Ensemble back to the Loft at Tanner Street.

Join us for the full production performance of Henry V in Original Pronunciation.

Monday 3rd August – Gala Night

Drinks and Canapés will be served
Post-show Q&A with the creative team.

Tuesday 4th – Wednesday 5th August  8pm

Standard performance nights
Concession rate £10.00 -  (Student / Senior / Unemployed, ID must be presented with ticket on entry)
Discount Code concession 

Original Pronvnciation

Pericles: Recomposed, Jan 2015


At the beginning of 2014 Ben brought his Ensemble together to raise a scratch 24 hr rehearsed reading of The Tragedy of Pericles, Prince of Tyre in Original Pronunciation, at the Jerwood Space in London, using a CD of Max Richter’s Four Seasons: Recomposed to underscore parts of the play.

Here is a sneak-peak of, a year later, the co-production of Pericles: Recomposed with Daniel Harding’s Interplay Festival at the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, January 29th 2015.

Bringing together his Shakespeare Ensemble from the UK, Europe, India, and the US, the company had two days of rehearsal before being joined by a Chamber orchestra, three hours before the performance.

Featured artists:
Ben Crystal, Actor
Nathan Markiewicz, Dramaturg
David Crystal, Linguist
Actors from the Passion in Practice Shakespeare Ensemble
The Trondheim Soloists
Daniel Hope, violinist

Music: Max Richter’s Four Seasons: Recomposed –

Recording c/o
Deutsche Grammophone
Daniel Hope
Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin
André de Ridder

Original Pronunciation and the Folger Library, Dec 2014

Ben & David Crystal, here discussing OP with  Rebecca Sheir at the Folger Library, DC:
Speak the Speech, I Pray You Podcast

OP Macbeth by candle light – The 24hr projects, Dec 2014

A write-up of our December project, c/o The Shakespeare Standard, Macbeth at Tanner Street

 macbeth-49 tanner street-0495


Following their sell-out staged reading at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at nearby Shakespeare’s Globe in July 2014, Tanner St opens up its Loft space to Ben Crystal’s Passion in Practice Ensemble, as they re-stage their 24 hour, cue-script rehearsed production of Macbeth.
Spread across Europe, the Ensemble gather in London, are taken through their text individually, and find beautiful spaces to raise their productions in 24hrs – without having rehearsed their scenes together, speaking the words to each other for the first time in front of their audiences, relying on instinct, stage-craft and quick-thinking. 
Ahead of taking their OP Pericles to Stockholm to be underscored by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, an exclusive, limited attendance, full production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for two nights only, and the world contemporary premiere of Macbeth in OP – the reconstruction of the accent Shakespeare’s actors would have used (Watch a 10 minute intro to OP here)
There will be a collection for those homeless in London during winter at the end of the performance


OP King Lear Live! – Cheltenham Festival, Oct 2014

Ben took 4 members of the Ensemble to explore scenes of King Lear in OP with the Cheltenham Festival Audience.
They explored Act 2 Scene 2-Scene 4, covering the stocking of Kent, Edgar’s flight, and Lear’s discovery of Kent in the stocks.
Fool - Sean Garratt
Kent - Adam Webb
Gloucester / Edgar - Warren Rusher
Cornwall / Regan - Aslam Husain
Lear (voice) – Ben Crystal
Lear (puppeteers) – Ben, Aslam, Warren, Adam
puppet designed by Sean, using a backpack, two umbrellas, marigolds, wooly hat, the crown from the OP Macbeth, and two party poppers.


Exploring Original Pronunciation – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, July 2014



In 2004, Shakespeare’s Globe reconstructed the accent of Shakespeare’s day, and presented an acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet in original pronunciation, or OP.  It was the first time the sound had been heard on a London stage for 400 years.

Since then, plays, poems, and songs from Shakespeare’s time have been performed in theatres around the world in OP, staging contemporary world premieres of Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Julius Caesar, revealing these works in a fresh, new light.

As part of the Globe’s Shakespeare 450 celebrations, this series provides an opportunity to hear extracts from Shakespeare – and some of his contemporaries – as you’ve never heard them before, in the glorious Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and the city where the sounds first originated.

From play-extracts, sonnets, and songs (some familiar, some less so) to a full reading of Macbeth, the events will be presented by David Crystal, Master of Pronunciation for the Globe in 2004-5, directed by Ben Crystal, curator of the British Library’s CD of Original Pronunciation, and featuring Ben’s Shakespeare Ensemble, the foremost developers of OP practice since the Globe’s first experiments a decade ago.

July 10th – Original Pronunciation in Words

July 17th - Original Pronunciation in Song

July 20th – Read Not Dead: Macbeth in Original Pronunciation


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Original Pronunciation media

We train our actors to speak in their own natural voice and regional accent, though we also work in Original Pronunciation, the accent Shakespeare’s actors spoke in.

Having learnt the accent from his father’s 2004-5 work at Shakespeare’s Globe, Ben began to explore the practical applications of the accent – how it makes for more personal, grounded, and meatier Shakespeare performance. In 2010, Ben was asked by the British Library to record the opening speech of Richard III for their Evolving English Exhibition.

R3 @ BL


Knowing the listener would be using headphones while reading the original Quarto edition, Ben found himself whispering the speech into the microphone. Have a listen and get inside Richard’s head. Note how the OP makes the rhythm canter on ‘Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature’.

Listen to Ben’s Richard III in OP

Then in the summer of 2011 the British Library invited him back to curate a CD of Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation, he trained and directed a number of our Passion in Practice actors (with the linguistic tutelage of his father, David Crystal).



Hamlet - To be, or not to be… - in Original Pronunciation

In 2011, Ben went to Reno as Artist in Residence for the University of Nevada, formed, and led an ensemble of students and semi-professionals in a production of Hamlet. In October 2014, in aid of a Kickstarter project to help fund a film of the OP Hamlet in Reno, 2011, Aslam, Warren, & Ben took the last moments of sun to record a speech in OP…

British Library – Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation CD
In September 2013 a documentary of Ben and David discussing OP at Shakespeare’s Globe went viral, the interest in OP surged, and so Ben has provided us with these three excerpts from the CD to share with you all:

Ben’s Richard II, from Act 5

The opening Court scene from King Lear
with Hilton McRae, Natalie Thomas, and Suzan Sylvester

Desdemona’s Willow song, from Othello
with Natalie Thomas and Joan Walker)

The full CD, featuring sonnets, speeches and scenes from the canon, can be bought to Download here:
Shakespeare’s Original Pronuncation

We run Original Pronunciation workshops around the world, and recently in London, New York, and San Francisco.

Contact us for more info






The Passion in Practice Ensemble aims to mimic the working relationship Shakespeare’s actor would have had.

Ben has been slowly forming a rolling Ensemble over few years. Looking out for like-minded actors with different skill-sets to form a semi-permanent Company as multi-talented as Shakespeare’s own, trained in the textual & physical methodologies we explore in our Workshops, and then bringing members of that Ensemble together to put our mutual passion into practice, in a series of bold experiments and productions.
Here below, examples of our recent experiments…

Pericles cue-script performance 2014

Pericles cue-script performance 2014


Pericles – 24hr Projects – Jan 2014

In January 2014 we ran an experiment: to what extent can we follow the rehearsal method of the Elizabethans?

To that end, we Cue-script rehearsed a staged reading of Pericles in 24hours, using Original Pronunciation, dance, song and a lot of little lights.

Read a blog on the weekend by our own Will Sutton here:


June 2013 – Shakespeare’s Chorus

In June 2013, Ben brought back many of the original Passion in Practice actors, and some new faces, to explore music, metre, the ensemble, and the Chorus figure.

Working mainly from Pericles, they were joined by the folk duo The Askew Sisters, who provided live music accompaniment for the work…

September 2013

In September 2013, we played the weekend in MovingEast in London, introducing our work to actors new to the Company, focusing on Stick work, Metre, Music, and the Sonnets…

Music: Max Richter – Four Seasons Recomposed[/one_half]

June 2013

In June 2013, Ben brought back many of the original Passion in Practice actors, and some new faces, to explore music, metre, the ensemble, and the Chorus figure.

Working mainly from Pericles, they were joined by the folk duo The Askew Sisters, who provided live music accompaniment for the work.

November 2010

On the last day of the November 2010 workshop we decided to bring a RED camera in to explore acting Shakespeare on Film. Without notice, each actor was asked to perform something of Shakespeare’s writing that they knew off by heart. These videos are the result.

Watch below or head to the Passion in Practice Channel on Vimeo

Produced by Adam Donneky
Filmed by Adam Etherington
With Ed Bowen-Carpenter & Hannah Richards


All photographs are copyright of Scott Wishart



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Shakespeare in Schools

***If you’d like to book a School visit, please click here to contact us***

_MG_9118 ”Your Shakespeare magic that swept through the school never diminished until everyone left for the summer.” Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston

 Whether it be a preparatory class, or even a single session, before we ask our schoolchildren to take his works seriously – we should teach them to play with Shakespeare.

Artistic Director Ben Crystal, writing in the Telegraph

“We really can’t thank you enough for how you opened the world of Shakespeare to the students – there has been such a positive buzz from the classes – Year 9 ASKED!! to write reviews of their session for homework! And even more children have come to ask for copies of your book. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful – what a memory!” Ormiston Bushfield Academy

“The workshop was really interesting as I learned many things.  I don’t like Shakespeare very much because I find the language difficult, but Ben totally changed this!  It felt like he was teaching us from the heart, and that really clarified things.  To sum it up, it was brilliant!” Year 9 student, Lycée International, St Germain-en-Laye


The format and length of session (hour, half a day, full day) can be tailored to suit, and the talk can be adjusted to fit the texts the students are studying or working on. We always get one or two (or all) the students up on their feet at some point, and there’s always time for questions.


“Highly Recommended” — Shakespeare on Toast reviewed in The School Librarian

“Witty, entertaining, highly engaging: Ben Crystal made
Shakespeare alive and we all became his audience in the Globe. The
session was too short: we want more.” — Susi Devlin, Sydenham High School, London

“It’s a pleasure to promote this introduction to Shakespeare by Ben Crystal, the actor and writer who also does workshops for schools.”
Carel Press – Exciting Resources for Education

“Many girls I know didn’t look at Shakespeare and after your visit you have inspired them to perform even one word dramatically! You got them to play with and act out words. You got girls to be creative and step out of their comfort zone, whilst teaching them about Shakespeare.” – Year 7 representative, Hayesfield Girls’ School, Bath

Giving a workshop at the National Theatre, for the William Poel Festival

“Ben’s knowledge comes across naturally and without pretension… Certainly most teachers at GCSE and A level (or equivalent) will find it useful.” — Shakespeare on Toast reviewed in The National Association of Teaching English

“Active without dumbing down, Ben’s workshops at our school soon had students comfortable with Shakespeare’s language and iambic pentameter. They quickly got the hang of using the rhythm to work out what they could be doing as actors to dramatise the scene, because Ben has the gift of explaining complex ideas succinctly.

He makes the sessions fun, getting students actively involved, guiding their interpretations by helping them ‘put on the Elizabethan hat’. I was amazed by how rapidly students progressed from stumbling over a reading of a scene to performances that pulsed with tension, fear and suppressed excitement – they really brought the scenes alive, using the rhythm as the ‘actors manual’ Shakespeare intended. A real education!” — Edna Hobbs, Lytchett Minster School, Dorset

“We began by discussing iambic pentameter — Crystal explained that it is not simply a metrical system, but indeed a tool Shakespeare uses to thread silent stage directions throughout his works. Using a few lines from Act 2, Scene 2 of Macbeth, and with a couple of volunteers (Tommy and Erin, two of the other bloggers), Crystal showed how actors can interpret the unwritten cues.”
Kelsey Sharpe, UCLA


***If you’d like to book a School visit, please click here to contact us***


Passion in Practice was founded in 2010 by Ben Crystal.

Passion in Practice is the R&D / Workshop wing of his Company, built from members of these Passion in Practice Workshops. Here, we share ideas that his Ensemble develop in rehearsal, providing regular verse-speaking, monologue, and ensemble workshops around the world.

We spread ideas about how to play Shakespeare as simply as possible, without any great conceptual frame placed between participants and the play, and seek to bring honesty and great passion to equal the work.

We are writer led, allowing the text to guide our performances. Using the versions closest to Shakespeare and respecting the verse, and physical disciplines Ben learnt from Complicité, we look for new paths up to the scope and scale of Shakespeare’s words.

Working with cue-scripts, learning the silent stage directions Shakespeare wrote into his scripts, creating an ensemble core of returning actors, as physically able as they are vocally, turning a rehearsal process into a second-nature place where we hone a craft, exploring the benefits of original staging practices, attempting to do justice to the emotional core of the language, and emulating the working relationship Shakespeare’s actors had, seeing what their methodologies and working dynamic can teach us -

We want to explore afresh to what extent we can let Shakespeare direct us, establish the benchmark for a new-old, fresh style of Shakespeare performance, accessible to all ages and backgrounds, and pave the way for the next generation of Shakespeare lovers.



Recent approaches have often had far too much to do with sounding and looking beautiful, rather than playing direct from the heart. Conceptual ideas have taken the lead and once-clear truths hidden under layers of conceit. People leave productions feeling indifferent, only remembering the show from seeing a ticket stub the next morning.

Shakespeare, as a cathartic writer from a classical tradition, should leave people feeling exhilarated, emotionally exhausted, and touched in some way – but certainly not indifferent.

As Olivier did in the 50s and Branagh did in the 80s, we want to breathe life back into Shakespeare, bringing a fresh approach to these wonderful plays, and challenging peoples’ expectations of what coming to see a Shakespeare play is like.


Ignoring all the emendations that have been made over the centuries by non-theatre practitioners we began with the idea that the Folio text is the closest to the author’s intentions and was written to be understood by actors.

How far could we follow the text exactly as it was printed – irrespective of compositors’ mistakes – and what directions and new ideas could we find from such a strict approach?


For further information about the project, the actors involved so far, or to get involved in similar workshops in the future please get in touch.

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