Michelle is featured in an interview by Shahesta Shaitly on what Shakespeare means to her. The article also includes a breathtaking and very moving image of Michelle. I’m not sure if this is her as Lady Percy, or just a shot taken by photographer Murdo MacLeod (any word, please let me know!).
Othello was my first Shakespearean discovery. I was obsessed with drama at school, and I studied the play for my English GCSE. Desdemona is the part that everyone wants, but Iago’s wife Emilia is the one I’ve always been drawn to.
You have to try to abandon your own opinion. That’s the thing with Shakespeare: everyone has their own view on how the roles should be played.
I remember seeing Michelle Fairley play Emilia at the Donmar with Ewan McGregor. She was perfect because she played it exactly as I’d imagined when I first read it at 15.
Shakespeare’s work is like a good song: you never really forget the main lines. “To thine own self be true” from Hamlet is the line that will always be with me.
Anyone who’s ever played Ophelia should all get together for a big group hug. I played Ophelia with John Simm at Sheffield and I began to suffer terrible insomnia in the same way that Hamlet does. It’s such a tough part and Ophelia is a huge leap, especially in the end, when she descends into her madness.
Shakespeare and his work will always be relevant. He wrote those pieces hundreds of years ago and we haven’t really changed as humans, have we? We have to deal with love, honour and adultery now – people were the same then, too – that’s what’s so wonderful and powerful.
You can find a connection with any Shakespeare role you play.
Shakespeare is renewed each time you see it or read it. I’ve seen Midsummer Night’s Dream so many times, and each time it’s a little different, or a different line leaps out at me. It’s like re-reading a good book over and over, always noticing something you hadn’t seen the time before – and that’s rare.
Playing Isabella in Measure for Measure pushed me to my limits. Janet Suzman was directing and she was very hard on me. I went through phases of not liking her at the time, but I loved her for it in the end.
If Shakespeare was around today I would ask him out to dinner. The only thing I don’t like about him is the way he did his hair.
Henry IV: Part 1 airs on BBC2 on July 7th!