Passion in Practice

Exploring Fresh Approaches to Acting Shakespeare


Passion in Practice was founded in 2010 by Ben Crystal.

As Shakespeare on Toast is now the Education & Schools wing, 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?


Actors are missing out by not experiencing these gems of knowledge you were feeding us and teaching us. It’s inspirational.

John Hogg (2013 participant)


Vancouver Masterclass

 Enquiries to

We also offer workshops & private tuition throughout the year. If you’re interested in private tuition on a speech, scene, an audition or just to brush up, please contact us




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


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

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


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


Jan 2014 – 24hr Shakespeare
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…

Original Pronunciation

The 24hr Projects - Macbeth - by candle-light, in Original Pronunciation


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)


Tickets Available here


December 6 & 7th
Run-time: 2hrs


There will be a collection for those homeless in London during winter at the end of the performance


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).

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 workshops in Original Pronunciation in London and New York.

Contact us for more info


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.

Thank you! I have received your message.