Shakespearean great treads the boards to collect honour
22 July 2011
Actor and director Greg Doran, described as “one of the great Shakespeareans of his generation”, will return to the city where he learnt his trade today [22 July].
The award-winning director, whose work is seen and admired internationally, is returning to the Wills Memorial Building to collect a Doctor of Letters honorary degree in recognition of outstanding achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the University’s mission.
Professor Martin White, Professor of Theatre and Foundation Chair of Drama, used to teach Greg and is delivering his oration during today’s final graduation ceremony.
He said: “I worked with him on a number of productions and found him to be an accomplished director, actor and stage designer, while Greg remembers finding the links between intellectual and practical approaches, between reading plays and making theatre that his degree course fostered stimulating.
“Now Greg is not only one of the RSC’s, but also this country’s leading directors, whose award-winning work has been seen and admired internationally.”
Greg’s passion for theatre developed at a young age when he attended the Catholic College in Preston.
A Shakespeare play was performed each year and Greg soon developed an appetite for the playwright’s work, on one occasion seeing three separate productions in one day at the age of 17.
He came to Bristol in 1977, aged 19, and during his studies founded his own theatre company called the Poor Players and even managed to secure £30,000 in sponsorship for a play he wanted to stage.
After a two year training course at the Old Vic, Greg joined the Nottingham Playhouse as an actor before becoming an assistant and then associate director.
He was invited to join the acting company at the RSC in 1987. While playing the role of Solanio in The Merchant of Venice, he met fellow actor Antony Sher, who was playing Shylock.
It was the beginning of their long-standing relationship, which has included many professional collaborations, and they were among the first couples to take advantage of the new Civil Partnership in 2005.
But, at Stratford, surrounded by actors of the very highest quality, Greg realised that there were lots of actors he would cast in a play before he’d cast himself.
He decided to shift direction within the RSC and accepted an invitation to become an Assistant Director.
He has since directed over half of Shakespeare’s 37 plays for the company in addition to a range of diverse work, including several West End hits.
In 2002, Greg was awarded the coveted Olivier Award for Special Achievement for creating two full seasons of neglected plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries at Stratford.
His list of achievements is endless but recent success has come in the form of Hamlet starring Dr Who actor David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.
The production took a modern day approach to the great Shakespearean tragedy and became a cultural phenomenon, being described as the “theatre event of 2008” and was latterly filmed for BBC2, attracting many viewers who were new to Shakespeare.
Professor White added: “Greg is passionate about broadening access to Shakespeare but abhors attempts to patronize audiences.
“So everyone, whether familiar or unfamiliar with Hamlet, was presented with a production that revealed the very qualities that make Greg a great director.
“He is, I think, an emotional intellectual, a man whose feelings and thoughts are closely aligned, and which he brought to the production in equal measure to create a mesmerizing piece of work that freshly minted the most famous play in the English language.”