Passion in Practice

Exploring Fresh Approaches to Acting Shakespeare


- Pericles: Recomposed -


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

Vancouver Masterclass – January 2015

Canada 2015


 Enquiries to

Original Pronvnciation

OP Pericles - Stockholm, Jan 2015
To be underscored by Max Richter, performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, at Daniel Harding’s Interplay Festival.
Quite a mouthful. And a world premiere in three different ways.
Details here.
OP & 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 Shakespeare 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, October 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 – the 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


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

November 2010, Day 3: Warm-up & stick work

November 2010, Day 3: Forum work – Launce

November 2010, Day 6: Speech work & Folio analysis

Introduction to Passion in Practice

Founder Ben Crystal describes the idea and reasoning behind establishing Passion in Practice.



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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