Drama at the Inns!

On Sunday 2 November, Middle Temple Hall will host an exclusive play-in-a-day reading from Shakespeare’s Globe.

The performance of little-known Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards is part of the Globe’s Read Not Dead project – an ongoing quest to perform every surviving play from the stages of Elizabethan London. Those stages would have included the great halls of the Inns of Court, and it is part of the project’s aim to take these rare plays back to their historical context.

Iain Christie is an Associate Member of the media and entertainment law chambers 5RB and a Bencher of the Inner Temple. As a barrister and trained actor he combines both practices and was involved in the Globe’s previous visits to Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn in January this year, performing alongside Globe actors and his fellow Benchers. He sees much more in the partnership than the pleasure of performance.

“The relationship between the law and the theatre in London is almost as old as the Inns of Court themselves,” he says. “The first recorded performance of Twelfth Night took place in Middle Temple Hall in 1602, an event which was celebrated on its 400th anniversary with a production of the play in the same venue by actors from Shakespeare’s Globe. 

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High court judge Sir Michael Burton takes part in a staged reading of Supposes by George Gascoigne (1573) at Gray’s Inn, as part of Shakespeare’s Globe’s project Read Not Dead.

“But the relationship between the two professions extends beyond the use of legal venues to stage historic plays and the pleasure of lawyers entertaining their colleagues in after dinner revels. It applies also to the comparative skills employed by both professions. Modern training courses for young lawyers increasingly engage professional actors to teach presentation skills which focus on breathing, posture, presence, and vocal projection. 

“I am interested in how law students can use the drama-school techniques of narrative and improvisation in their work. Storytelling is a core aspect of the craft of both the advocate and actor, as is being able to think on your feet. The advocate must always remember that his objective is to connect emotionally with the person he is trying to persuade. Drama and psychology based methodology can assist with this.     

“But the transference of skills does not only travel in one direction. When I was at drama school I was struck by the similarity between the process of textual analysis in rehearsals and preparation for trial. The first thing an actor might do is to read the script over and extract all the information about his character. This assists the creation of a consistent back-story, so that the performance is grounded in a continuing reality.

Barrister

“This process reminded me of the way in which a barrister reads a brief again and again extracting all the points that support his case, those that will be made against him, and the facts from which he will build a case theory for the version of events he wishes the judge or jury to believe.

“However, whenever someone comments that in becoming an actor I am really just doing the same job I remind them that, while advocacy may at times be entertaining, a lawyer is engaged in a serious business. He is not there to put on a performance. Any advocate who plays to the gallery will be given a hard time in court.”

Read Not Dead: The Most Excellent Comedy of Two the Most Faithfullest Friends, Damon and Pithias – Sunday 2 November, 4.00pm at Middle Temple Hall.

Further readings:

  • Love’s Victory by John Ford – Sunday 15 February 2015 at Gray’s Inn;
  • The Troublesome Reign of King John of England – Sunday 1 March 2015  at Inner Temple.

More information and tickets are available at shakespearesglobe.com/readnotdead

Inns of Court bar
A staged reading of Supposes by George Gascoigne (1573) at Gray’s Inn, presented as part of Shakespeare’s Globe’s Read not Dead.