Interviews - Astrid Bellamy
What was your first exposure to Shakespeare?
I grew up in Cambridge, and when I was a child my family took me to see an open-air production of "Romeo and Juliet", put on by the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. It was set in one of the college gardens on a summer’s evening against the backdrop of the university buildings, and I remember it had a very magical atmosphere – even if as a child, the Shakespearean language was hard to understand!
Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play, and if so, why?
"The Merchant of Venice" is my favourite. I became familiar with it when I worked on a monologue from Portia for a Shakespeare class at the Actors Centre (in London). I was inspired by everything about the play; it was romantic, full of Shakespearean drama, and I loved the role of Portia: her femininity, her love for Bassanio, and the determination to do things her way. The class was taught by Jonathan Broadbent, a Shakespearean actor and teacher, and his passion for Shakespeare and the work we were doing was infectious. Since then, it’s been my favourite Shakespeare play.
Staying with Shakespeare, is there any Shakespeare role (which you haven't played) that you would love to do?
I would love to play Cleopatra. As a woman and as a feminist, I’m drawn to the fact that, despite being the main female character in a play written in the Elizabethan era (where woman belonged to either their father or their husband), Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt, financially independent and a fiercely strong woman, not to be defeated by the patriarchal society she exists in. Cleopatra is also a hugely complex and ambiguous character. There are so many different elements to her: she is charismatic, volatile and passionate, but also tender, and her emotions change suddenly from one thing to another. To be able to inhabit Cleopatra’s character and grasp the complexity of her psyche would be a wonderful challenge as an actor, and I imagine hugely rewarding.