“Timeless sounds for our time…” Michael Attenborough, Artistic Director Almeida Theatre, London
On the face of it, Shakespeare and modern popular music would appear to be poles apart, with the lovers of one unlikely to be devotees of the other. Give it a moment’s thought and you realise that this is not a law of nature. What could be more natural than a creative, contemporary artist looking for inspiration from the writer who was voted the “Man of the Millennium”?
“Although it would be impossible to single out one particular theme as the most important of Shakespeare’s works, if you had to chose one theme that showed us more about the ‘human condition’ than any other, what would it be, and why?”
This is the question composer, singer and songwriter Tim Arnold asked of renowned Shakespearean actors Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Derek Jacobi, Pete Postlethwaite, Richard Briers, Janet Suzman and Emma Thompson when researching ideas for his new album.
“Sonnet 155 is not about Shakespeare; it’s a response provoked by Shakespeare”
Arnold was previously signed to Sony as singer and songwriter for 90s Britpop Jocasta, and since then he has released 10 solo albums. He had the idea to create music that would inspire people to discover Shakespeare; people who may not necessarily go to see, or even appreciate, his plays but perhaps would listen to music that reflected the essence of Shakespeare.
In early 2007, Arnold wrote over 30 individual letters to Shakespearean actors in the hope they would provide further inspiration and help ‘turn ideas into songs’. Replies to his letters poured in…
With the gentle help of those who have devoted their lives to working on and in Shakespeare’s plays, Arnold formed the basis of what would eventually become the album Sonnet 155.
The result is a collection of songs about today and tomorrow inspired by Arnold’s own personal experience and the creativity of a man writing 400 years ago.
“Sonnet 155 is not about Shakespeare; it’s a response provoked by Shakespeare” – Tim Arnold
The recent staging of Sonnet 155 at the Almeida Theatre, London (2, 9 May 2010) was a celebration of Arnold’s work and included contributions from the actors who sparked the inspiration for his album – with Shakespeare as the ultimate instrument.
The Almeida Theatre
The Almeida is a 325-seat theatre in the heart of Islington, North London. Producing a diverse range of British and international drama with some of the world’s best artists, the Almeida has developed a reputation as a local theatre with a global profile.
Richard Briers (Endgame (West End), Coriolanus, Uncle Vanya, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles (BBC TV); Benedict Cumberbatch – BBC’s new Sherlock; Lisa Dillon – Private Lives (West End), When The Rain Stops Falling (Almeida), Cranford (BBC TV); Paul McGann – Mourning Becomes Her (National Theatre), Helen (The Globe), Withnail and I; Hattie Morahan The Real Thing (Old Vic), Sense & Sensibility.
Vocals, Guitars & Piano Tim Arnold Lead Guitar and Acoustic Guitar Geoff Laurens Bass, Piano & Glockenspiel Jonathan Noyce Drums Darrin Mooney Cello Nicholas Holland Violin Anna Phoebe Vocals Hannah Pedley Vocals Jai Ramage
Director Deborah Bruce Text William Shakespeare Music and Lyrics Tim Arnold Producer Andrew Mark Sewell Production Company B7 Productions Category Theatre Duration 1 x 70’ Genre Music/Drama