In 1979 Trevor Nunn, then artistic director of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, devised a two-part television workshop to consider the art and technique of acting in Shakespeare's plays. He was joined by RSC co-founder and Associate Director John Barton and a group of the leading actors of the day, including Alan Howard, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jane Lapotaire, David Suchet, Michael Pennington and Terry Hands. The programs were co-produced with London Weekend Television and broadcast on consecutive Sunday evenings as part of the South Bank Show series, collectively titled "Word of Mouth." Four years later Mr. Barton greatly expanded the series with nine additional installments, which he hosted. To the roster of actors were added Tony Church, Sinead Cusak, Mike Gwilym, Susan Fleetwood, Sheila Hancock, Lisa Harrow, Ben Kingsley, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Richard Pasco, Norman Rodway and Donald Sinden. Three episodes featured extended turns by leading lights Judi Dench, Roger Rees and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. The entire series was simply filmed on a small sound stage with rehearsal props and costumes. An invited audience attended, scattered about on folding chairs. Much of the action consists of Mr. Barton directly addressing the viewer, outlining a particular point which the actors then attempt under Barton's coaching. Lively discussions of the seemingly endless permutations of the bard's output are a particular delight.
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