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Greg Doran

On Forty Years of Directing Shakespeare

Shakespeare Unlimited Episode 212

On today’s episode, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s former Artistic Director takes a look back at four decades of staging Shakespeare. Greg Doran’s career as a Shakespearean director began in the late 1970s, when he was a teenager. By the time he stepped down as the Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company earlier this year, Doran had directed every play in the First Folio, capping off the feat with an acclaimed production of Cymbeline.

In between, Doran helmed era-defining productions of Shakespeare’s plays and worked with actors such as Judi Dench, David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, and Doran’s late husband Antony Sher.

Doran’s new memoir, My Shakespeare, tells the story of his life through the plays he has directed. It’s a portrait of an artist at work, shot through with commentary about the plays themselves and insights about working with actors. It’s also an intimate account of Doran’s deep artistic partnership with Tony Sher. Greg Doran is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Doran’s memoir, My Shakespeare: A Director’s Journey Through the First Folio, is available from Methuen Drama.

From our Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published June 20, 2023. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This episode was produced by Matt Frassica Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. Leonor Fernandez edits our transcripts. We had technical help from Melvin Rickarby in Stratford and Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

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MICHAEL WITMORE: On today’s episode, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s former Artistic Director takes a look back at four decades of staging Shakespeare.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger Director.

Greg Doran’s career as a Shakespearean director began in the late 1970s, when he was a teenager. By the time he stepped down as the Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company earlier this year, Doran had directed every play in the First Folio. He capped off this remarkable feat with a production of Cymbeline. His staging of that notoriously difficult play drew rave reviews.

In between, Doran helmed era-defining productions of Shakespeare’s plays, both the well-known and the relatively obscure. He even brought Shakespeare’s non-dramatic poetry to the stage, with a version of Venus and Adonis starring puppets. Along the way, he worked with actors such as Judi Dench, David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, and the late Antony Sher, to whom Doran was married.

Doran’s new memoir, My Shakespeare, tells the story of his life through the plays he has directed. It’s a portrait of an artist at work, shot through with commentary about the plays themselves, and insights about working with actors. It’s also an intimate account of Doran’s deep artistic partnership with Tony Sher.

Now that Doran has stepped down, he’s on tour—visiting as many First Folios as he can, all around the world. I look forward to showing him the Folger’s copies before too long.

Here’s Greg Doran, in conversation with Barbara Bogaev.


BARBARA BOGAEV: Greg, it is so nice to talk to you again. And congratulations on your great reviews for Cymbeline.

GREG DORAN: Thank you very much. It’s the most wonderful play. I think I had vastly underestimated it. I had no idea quite why it was the last one in the Folio. But I think it’s there now, not because it’s tragedy, but because it defies all categories.

BOGAEV: Oh, well, what a wonderful way to go out then. That’s good. Did you intend to save it for last?

DORAN: I didn’t really. In fact, of all the shows I’ve worked on in Stratford, Cymbeline was one of the first as an assistant director. I was assistant director in 1989 on a production, and the understudy run went so badly that I thought that was the end of my career at the RSC… so Cymbeline has book-ended it in a very strange way.

BOGAEV: Well, that’s great, because I want to talk about how your career almost ended before it started too. Why don’t we go all the way back to the beginning now, just for fun, or beginning-ish. It’s 1979 and you were directing Romeo and Juliet quite young. Why did Romeo faint?

DORAN: Well, this was—you see, we were a very ambitious young, theater company at university. In fact, we had got students from both drama schools and universities all over the country to be in this show. We were touring the UK.

Grandly, we had our opening gala night at the Mayfair Theater in London, just for one Sunday performance. For some reason, we had got in late, they hadn’t been able to fit the set on the stage. We hadn’t had time for a fight rehearsal or a technical rehearsal. It was—we were barely…

BOGAEV: My palms are getting sweaty just hearing this.

DORAN: It was a nightmare, but we did the show. I remember watching as Romeo exited downstage-left in a fury, having killed Tybalt. And he disappeared off downstage-left.

The next time he came on in the cell with Friar Lawrence, he seemed to be completely incoherent. And then when the nurse came in and said, you know, when the nurse says, “Where is Romeo?” And the Friar says, “There on the ground with his own tears made drunk.” I suddenly thought, “Oh my God. Romeo’s drunk. He’s just—the tension of the day has just got too much for him. And he’s hit the bottle.”

But in fact, exiting after the line, “Oh, I’m fortune’s fool,” he had crashed into the wall in the wing and passed out. So Friar Lawrence was basically holding him up for the performance.

BOGAEV: It’s like the Three Stooges.

DORAN: Oh, you couldn’t make it up. Then of course, the “two hours traffic” of the stage sort of started to drag closer to four. I thought, “That’s it. That’s the end of my—I’m not doing this anymore. It’s too difficult.”

BOGAEV: Well, it’s really funny that that’s your abiding memory, really, of your first Romeo and Juliet. But that you write in your book that you like to use the opening of Romeo and Juliet as an early exercise in rehearsals. Why?

DORAN: That’s right. So that, yeah, it’s a good icebreaker. It’s interesting that the prologue, the very famous prologue to Romeo and Juliet: “Two households, both alike in dignity”—which weirdly doesn’t appear in the Folio at all for some reason—but it’s a sonnet. Within that sonnet, it has pretty much everything you need to, sort of, know as a young actor about the clues that Shakespeare has written into the text.

So, I use it as part of what I call a “Shakespeare gym,” here in Strat, which is a regular part of rehearsal process, basically to, sort of, just get some basic facts down and give everybody a sense of being able to share.

I always say, you know, “No question is too stupid.” Because what you’re thinking, you know, somebody else on the other side of the circle is thinking at the same time. So, it’s a kind of sharing.

BOGAEV: And it’s so rich. You say it gets interesting when you get to, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.” What conversation comes out of that line?

DORAN: Well, we do a sort of… we do a paraphrase. We start just by going, “Okay, just put the line into your own words.” And nine times out of 10, whoever is paraphrasing, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,” says, “A pair of lovers, sort of, fated by the stars, commit suicide,” for take their life.

But, if you reverse the two lines, it becomes, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life from forth the fatal loins of these two foes.” It means they were born, they take their life from their parents. Not the other way around, which always astonishes people. Now Shakespeare may have put that in as a pun, you know? He’s kind of using “take their life” in both the senses of, “They take their own lives,” and, “They take their life from their parents.” But it’s how it’s heard that is interesting.

BOGAEV: Part of your job as artistic director is to bring in every play in a reasonable amount of time. So, you do the math and you realize that the prologue can’t last more than 33 seconds. Can you do it in 33 seconds?

DORAN: Would you like me to do it for you Barbara?

BOGAEV: Yeah. I’d love to hear

DORAN: Have you got a stopwatch?

BOGAEV: Always.

DORAN: Okay, here we go. I’m going to just try. So, this is the prologue, Romeo and Juliet spoken very fast. If you were to do the whole play in the “two hours traffic” of the stage, then you would have to do the prologue in 33 seconds. So here we go.

“Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Whose civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”

BOGAEV: Wow, I have 25:56.

DORAN: I missed out a line. Anyway, there you go.

BOGAEV: You’re not going to win any awards for that though.

DORAN: No, and we’d all be dead by the end of act one if we did it at that speed. But it’s the idea.

BOGAEV: I can see why you call it Shakespeare gym.

DORAN: Yes. It’s exhausting.

BOGAEV: Well, that’s wonderful to hear because you did start out as an actor, and your first Shakespeare role was Lady Anne in Richard III. You were, what, 14? This was a Catholic boys’ school, so that makes sense.

DORAN: It was. It was a Jesuit college in Preston, in Lancaster. They did an annual Shakespeare play, and I’d missed out on Ophelia, in form two. It went to Gags Ronson, may he rot in hell. The following year, I managed to land a Lady Anne. Yeah.

We all looked like the Osmonds, because this is the 1970s, but Richard looked like Marc Bolan and was a sort of sexy and, you know, had glitter about him. I just fell in love with him. When I had to—he had to kiss the ring, I nearly fainted, I have to say. Because you didn’t get… there wasn’t a lot of touch between the pupils of the Preston Catholic College in the mid-1970s.

I suppose what was great was that I never regarded Shakespeare as an exam question, for me, because of the Shakespeare plays. It was always an opportunity, and they were great fun and they were absorbing. You know, you were devouring the plays to see which part you wanted to play. I start… you know, the bug just bit very, very early for me, and I wanted to see every Shakespeare play.

We had a French student called Valleson who was staying with us, so we piled into the back of mum’s Mini and she drove us all the way down the M6 to Stratford. It was a matinee of As You Like It, with Eileen Atkins as Rosalind. There was an understudy on as Orlando—dunno what happened to him, his name’s David Suchet. It was absolutely wonderful. I came, sort of, floating out of the theater and apparently turned to my mum on back on our way back up to Preston and I said, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.” So, I guess I must have grown up.

BOGAEV: You write in the introduction to your book that this is the story of Shakespeare, is the watermark running through your life. You do that very well, and especially about your life. You talk about your longtime partner of 35 years, Tony Sher. I’m so sorry he passed two years ago. He was on the show in 2018—

DORAN: Oh, good.

BOGAEV: —Talking about his Year of Lear. You first worked with him in Merchant of Venice. He was Shylock. You played Solanio.

DORAN: I did.

BOGAEV: You write that, “As a young actor, being on stage with Tony was just a revelation.” And it sounds like he taught you a lot about being present on stage.

DORAN: Yeah, he did. In a very particular way one wet Wednesday matinee. The production was sort of set in its period in Venice, so all the Christians walked around with, sort of, handsome doublets and lots of lace and swords strapped to their thighs.

Tony had chosen to play Shylock as… One of the communities of the Jews in Venice at the time were the Levantine Jews. There were Ponentine Jews, the Jews who had fled the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition. So, there were different communities of Jews, but the Levantine Jews seemed to suggest the furthest away you could possibly get from these sophisticated Christians.

I spent much of my time with a stick beating Tony up. So, as I was, you know, phoning my performance in on this Wednesday matinee, he suddenly grabbed my stick. Now, if I’d been present, if I’d been really there, I wouldn’t have let him grab my stick, or I would’ve fought him off—

BOGAEV: Which is why he did it.

DORAN: Which is why he did it. So, he basically grabbed my stick and chased me around the stage.

BOGAEV: Did you know why, though? Did you know?

DORAN: Well, not at the time. I thought, “Well, we haven’t rehearsed this!” But I realized later on that he had—it was a little moment to say, “You’re not present, and you have to be, every single moment.” And it was disrespectful too, to not be present! In a way.

But he was… one of the great things about his performances and certainly being on stage with him; that he was present in a sort of volcanic way. You know, he was so immediately there in every single second of it. There was no Tony Sher winking behind, you know, Shylock’s fierce exterior.

When it came to the, “Hath not a Jew eyes,” speech, it was like being on stage with a hurricane.

BOGAEV: Did you have a set of rules about working together? I mean, did you very clearly compartmentalize your work and your private lives to lives to make that work?

DORAN: We had to, yeah. We had to, because we got it wrong. The first time I directed Tony was an opportunity that arose to direct him as Titus Andronicus at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, just at the end of Apartheid.

We’d get home in the evening and I would want to flop and have a gin-and-tonic and sit by the pool and listen to the Hadada, who were these marvelous ibis that settled in the trees.

And he would go, “Yeah, but what about that bit in Act three, scene three.” And, “Is that actor going to do that?” And, “Don’t you think we should cut a bit more of the…” et cetera.

I had said to him, “Look, Tony, I need to just chill. I’m home now. Just because you have access to your director doesn’t mean that I don’t have a right to have some downtime too.”

BOGAEV: You must have said that a lot.

DORAN: I did. And, ultimately, he wasn’t listening and would carry on. So, I threw a plate, I threw my dinner at him.

BOGAEV: Really?

DORAN: Yeah, I did. Yeah, a plate of peas, I think.

Anyway, we decided from that point on that we needed to have a set of ground rules so that when we were at home, you had to ask permission to talk about the play. You know, we sometimes didn’t talk for the evening as a result.

But it was an important thing, not only for us, but for the other actors in the company who wouldn’t think—didn’t want them to think, “Oh, well, the two of them are just cooking it up at home and, you know, we’ll never get a word in edgeways.”

BOGAEV: I want to talk about Macbeth, which starred Tony. Because you started rehearsals saying Macbeth three times and banning the phrase “the Scottish play,” which is just so wonderful to picture, I just imagine. What were your actors doing? Just gasping right and left?

DORAN: Well, I just think there’s a lot of nonsense talked about “the curse of Macbeth.” The curse of Macbeth, if there is one, is that it’s a very difficult play for the production to match up to the audiences’ or the readers’ expectations of the play when they’ve—the first flush of which they read it.

So we banned that and got down to sort of talking about what really made us afraid. Because fear, or all the words connected to fear, appear most in that play. The word “love” seems to appear least. We wanted to explore what really fear did to the human body.

I got everybody to tell me a moment when they had really experienced fear. What was interesting was what happened to their breath, and actually what happened to the breath of the people listening to them. Quite often it became held or it became short of breath, or it became very rapid breathing.

And I thought, “Well, we need to get the audience on the edge of their seats.” And with that sense of breathless, kind of, anticipation of, “What’s going to happen?”

BOGAEV: Once you got this emotional heart of it, it dictated this great design for the witches, which sounds wonderful. I wish I had experienced this. You weren’t able to use it though. Anyway, it was—you say, the biggest puzzle of Macbeth is what to do with the witches because it can hijack the play. Describe your concept that you came up with and what you did in previews.

DORAN: We began the play—this was in the Swan Theater where we opened—and we decided that we would go suddenly with a great kind of metal clunk to black.

Instead, because your eyes get accustomed and you suddenly realize the exit signs are there, and bits and pieces of light maybe from the musician’s gallery or whatever. So, we got rid of all those, and we were allowed, for a few moments, for the ushers to hold cards up in front of the of the exit sign. So there was really no light and it was quite astonishing how, with the effect that had on the audience.

Then, as the three witches—the three weird sisters, I should say—began speaking, you thought—you imagined that they, somehow, three women had appeared on the stage and had started to speak.

What you didn’t know was that in fact, we had flown in three loud speakers and the voices of the witches were being piped in from where they were, which was backstage.

But at the end, as they say, “Hover through the fog and filthy air,” we drew each of the speakers out over the heads of the audience, so it seemed like they were flying above you. It freaked the audience out.

BOGAEV: Because what you imagine in your mind’s eye is always worse than anything you would ever see.

DORAN: Yeah, exactly.

BOGAEV: Which is so… speaks to Macbeth as well.

DORAN: We had to cut it, in fact. Because it so freaked out the audience that by the time we got to the poor, you know, bleeding sergeant telling Duncan what had happened in the battle, the audience just couldn’t, wouldn’t calm down. So, after probably only three previews, I thought, “Well, we will just have the actors on stage and that’s fine.”

But, it started us off in a really strong way in terms of the play being only happening between you and the audience, between the stage and the audience. You were complicit in what you thought you saw.

We had a back wall that was made to look like the rest of the swan, but in fact was a fake brick wall. And when we got to the apparitions, some of the back of the—some of the sections of the wall had been painted on neoprene, which is like the… wetsuits are made out of, neoprene. So, the apparitions standing behind the wall could push their faces through what seemed as if it was meant to be solid brick.

BOGAEV: Yeah. You called this a “melting wall.”

DORAN: Yeah, it was.

BOGAEV: Just the stuff of horrors.

DORAN: Absolutely right. And so, in a way it worked because you had set up something, you had made the audience believe that that was a brick wall, and they had no reason to believe otherwise. Then suddenly it melted. Then, of course, the neoprene just went. Once they pulled their faces back out, the neoprene just went back entirely to its original position.

BOGAEV: Well, these are such great examples of how you unlock a play through really maybe an exercise or one inroad. You have another example of that in Othello, where you, in the book, you describe as—

DORAN: The crossroads.


DORAN: The crossroads. I remember seeing a production of Romeo and Juliet with Ian McKellen and Francesca Annis, so it was quite a long time ago. And as Romeo cradled Juliet in his arms thinking she had died in the tomb and was about to kill himself, suddenly, Francesca Annis stretched out, her arm behind Ian McKellen’s head, and you kind of went, “Oh, she’s going to wake up this time. It’s all going to be different and it’ll change.”

BOGAEV: For once.

DORAN: For once. Yeah, of course it doesn’t, but you know, it might have done. I think the problem sometimes with Shakespeare is that it’s so familiar to many of the audience, and certainly to many of the actors, that they can reach a point where a character has a series of options, and because they know—because they’ve read the rest of the play—they know that the character goes straight across those crossroads. They don’t stop to think about what the other options might be. I call those crossroads.

In Othello, Tony was playing Iago. A wonderful South African actor called Sello Maake kaNcube was playing Othello. It got the scene, the great kind of gulling scene where Iago is poisoning Othello’s mind about the faithfulness of his wife Desdemona. Basically Othello is kind of winning. He’s going to beat Iago into a pulp.

We had always seen Iago as being a great improviser, but here he’s really bouncing on his tightrope. He’s liable to fall off. So, he got to a point where it looked as though he had been defeated by Othello, and Othello wasn’t going to play ball. His strategy wasn’t going to work.

And, Tony, in rehearsal, who used to sweat a lot as an actor, always had a hanky nearby. At one point, at that point in fact, he pulled out a hanky from his pocket and wiped his brow. And then suddenly you realized that it was spotted with strawberries. It was the hanky that he had taken from Emilia that was the present that Othello had given to Desdemona.

And he has no idea what he’s going to do with this, but it was at that moment where the inspiration hit Tony that he would remind… he would ask Othello whether he’d ever seen such a hanky in his wife’s hand.

And it was electric, of course, because it felt as though that the whole play could change. Or that, you know, that in fact, that night Iago wasn’t going to manage to dupe Othello. And Tony was very brilliant at that.

But, so crossroads have become, for me, quite a key thing of looking in the text as to where things might be different. Things could go in a different way, and that the characters have choices, even though we know the choice that they make is dictated by the text.

BOGAEV: I want to skip, ahead now to what you say is your favorite play, Midsummer. Why?

DORAN: Mm-hmm. It’s the perfect play, isn’t it? He manages somehow to keep each of those four plots in the air. He keeps those plates spinning.

It is also… it has the most beautiful language and the most extraordinary imagination. Apart from it also being a gloriously funny play. So yeah, it’s a play I have always loved.

BOGAEV: You realize while you were rehearsing Midsummer that your father introduced you to Shakespeare through a recording of Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the play.

DORAN: That’s correct. He used to get these sets of symphonies and things, and in one of them was the incidental music, but with extracts from the play. I didn’t know the play at all and suddenly I was in this wood and somebody’s been turned into a donkey.

Puck, who was played by an actress with very high voice, which I thought sounded very like Mickey Mouse, said, “I’ll put a—go around about the earth in 40 minutes.” I thought, “Crikey, that’s amazing.”

My dad, who was a scientist, had told me that just before I was born, Sputnik had orbited the globe in an hour and a half. I thought, “Crikey, Puck is twice as fast as Sputnik.”

BOGAEV: You mentioned your father had dementia and that for years you couldn’t watch or even read Lear.

DORAN: No, I couldn’t. And I—in a way—I just don’t remember thinking… having experienced dad’s dementia, which was mild. He wasn’t a, sort of… he wasn’t raging across the heath, as it were, or being cruel. We had a very gentle experience of it really. Nevertheless, it was very hard cause he couldn’t comprehend where my mother had gone, for instance, and would keep on forgetting when we tried to tell him.

But when it came to 2016, and it the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Tony and I had—we’re thinking maybe that was the year where we should work together again. And he said, “What about Lear?” He said, “I know you find it a difficult play, but I don’t think Lear has dementia. I think you should read it again.”

BOGAEV: He also had experience with it in his family too.

DORAN: He did, yeah. With his mother

BOGAEV: And he said, with his father—and he said when he was here, it just didn’t seem like dementia from his experience or your experience, what Lear suffered from.

DORAN: And people don’t… dementia tends to be progressive, or Alzheimer’s particularly is progressive. Therefore, you rarely—you may have moments of lucidity, but you don’t recover. His contention was that Lear does recover and is blessed when Cordelia and the doctor—that marvelous scene where he wakes up, that is his recovery from dementia.

The ending of that particular play became important in terms of when Tony died, 18 months ago. People were very extraordinarily kind and generous in their responses and wanting to share their love of him. And, people would say, you know, “He’ll be there in the breeze and he’ll be there in the lapping of the waves on the beach,” et cetera. I kind of went, “That just doesn’t work for me. That’s not what happens.”

I remembered when Tony, as Lear, held the dead Cordelia in his arms and said, “Thou’lt come no more. Never, never, never, never, never.” I had wondered at the time why he repeated the word “never” quite so many times. Then, when Tony died, I understood. Because it’s trying to articulate the incomprehensible fact that he is never coming back through, never going to walk through that door. I will never, never, never see him again.

BOGAEV: Steeling yourself against the anodyne. “Oh, well they’ll be in the breeze.”

DORAN: Yeah. The kind of Hallmark card response to grief. You know, Shakespeare is great on grief. There’s a moment when the Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II says, you know, “For sorrow ends not when it seemeth done.”

There are many times when I kind of go, “I think people think I’m fine, but I’m still kind of screaming inside.” In a way that Shakespeare just seems to… he just seems to know that, doesn’t he? He’s just brilliant knowing us in every particle of our essence and 360 degrees of our human experience.

BOGAEV: Well, you write that the single most significant thing that you did was decide to work your way through the entire canon instead of cycling through the favorites as previous directors had done. Which I imagine, you faced some opposition about that, and you did it. Were you planning to resign before Tony’s final illness?

DORAN: I had always thought that by 2023, by this year, that the progress we were making, working our way through the entire canon in the Folio, was working well. And that we would have finished it by 2022. And then we would do something special in 2023 for the First Folio anniversary. Then it would… I’ll be 65 in November of this year, and he would’ve been 75. That felt like, you know, time, maybe, to spend more of our time together. It was 50 years since that production of As You Like It with Eileen Atkins.

And as I was also coming up to—which is what I have just done—my 50th RSC production, it felt as though this was the time to step down.

What I hadn’t anticipated would there be a global pandemic and that he would be diagnosed with cancer. So, “the best laid plans of mice and men,” but I nevertheless felt it was the right time to step aside.

There’s a line in Richard III, Richard says before the Battle of Bosworth, “I have not that alacrity of spirit nor joy of mind as I was willing to have.” And I felt that I just… my get-up-and-go had got-up-and-left. And, that it also felt like change was in the air, and that the world in those last two years had changed so completely. Not just for me personally, but there was a sense of people standing up and saying, “You’ve had your go. Other people need to have theirs.” Though I hope I had done a lot to embrace diversity and the more of the different voices, both being on our stages and directing on our stages, et cetera. Nevertheless, that change has to come from the top, and if the people at the top aren’t going to shift, then that’s a very difficult thing to implement. It felt for all those reasons like the right time to move on.

BOGAEV: Well, I have to let you move on. I have to let you go, but I know you have a trip planned to see some First Folios this year.

DORAN: I have.

BOGAEV: King Charles, I understand.

DORAN: Indeed, King Charles has agreed to show me the copy at Windsor, which will be the last of all the 50 copies in the UK that I have left to see.

Next month I’m off to Japan to see the 15 copies in Japan. Then going down to Sydney and Auckland and then across to Cape Town, where, obviously, I have Tony’s family there. Then in the autumn, I am starting up in Chicago and then starting in Ontario. Then, I’m basically working my way through a spine of the Ivy League universities, all of whom have at least one Folio.

Then ending up, as the finale of my Folio road show, at the Folger, I hope. Because, of course, you could not contemplate a survey of all the extant Folios of the world without coming to the Folger and seeing the 82 that the Folger has, and in what I believe is going to be a spectacular new space.

I never set out to see them all. I just thought I’d try to see as many as I could. But, yeah, it’s grown like topsy a bit.

BOGAEV: Well, we can’t wait. And I do have to thank you for the other big innovation you brought to the RSC, which is to film and live stream every production. That’s really enriched my life.

DORAN: Thanks, Barbara. It was great talking to you.


WITMORE: That was Greg Doran, talking to Barbara Bogaev.

Doran’s memoir, My Shakespeare: A Director’s Journey Through the First Folio, is out now from Methuen Drama.

This episode was produced by Matt Frassica. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer, with help from Leonor Fernandez. We had technical help from Melvin Rickarby in Stratford and Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

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Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. Our building in Washington, DC, has been under renovation for the past three years. But this fall, we’ll be opening our doors again. Come visit us on Capitol Hill, beginning November 17, 2023. Take in a performance in our Elizabethan Theatre and check out the world’s largest collection of First Folios — all 82, on display together for the very first time. You can find more about the Folger at our website,

Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.