LIKE many people, actor Roger Morlidge’s first experience of Shakespeare was in a school classroom and far from enjoyable.
But now the stage and screen star is delighted to be appearing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) production of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, as well as sharing the Bard’s work with younger generations.
Currently being staged at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, people living in Roger’s home town of Bolton will also have the chance to watch the comedy at a screening at Cineworld, Eagley Brook Way, next Wednesday.
Roger, a former Bolton School pupil, said: “I did The Scottish play for O Level and I absolutely hated it because it was an academic thing.
“You sit behind a desk with the text.
“It’s a play, it wasn’t written as a great piece of literature.
“It was written as entertainment. It was the 16th/ 17th century equivalent of Eastenders.
“It’s stories about human beings who are in dreadful situations.
“There’s an academic barrier that’s put in and it shouldn’t be a piece of literature, it should be a play.
“It was something I only really began to enjoy when I was at drama school.
“We had a wonderful Shakespeare teacher who really opened my eyes to it.
“Now I’m at the RSC doing it and teaching it to students who are here.
“It’s just great to get kids on side and interested and asking questions.“
Roger’s own acting career started within Bolton’s amateur theatre scene and he regularly performed at the United Reformed Church.
He has been giving groups of about 20 students, aged 16 to 25, an insight into the rehearsal process, the play and his character Launce — a clownish servant with a dog called Crab.
The part sees him sharing the stage with a pooch called Mossup, who has been keeping the actor on his toes, especially when she does things like bark ahead of time in order to get a treat.
Roger said: “It’s been a real eye opener.
“We had a lot of rehearsals with the dog.
“It was never a question of teaching the dog how to do things but me learning to handle the dog.
“It’s very treat led.
“It’s very clever, the dog has realised it’s getting fed for doing certain things.
“It’s worked out, the quicker it does certain things, the quicker it gets fed.”
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, which sees the friendship of two men put to the test when they both fall in love with the same woman, is widely regarded by academics as one of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays.
Roger, whose film credits include Shakespeare In Love and East Is East, said: “You can tell that it’s quite an immature play.
“Act three, the end of the play, it’s quite bizarre in that everything gets wrapped up in half a page.
“You sit there going, what, really?
“It has its problems like that.
“That’s one of the reasons it’s very rarely done.
“It’s considered to be a badly written play.
“But we have found with it, it’s kind of a teen angst play.
“It’s quite juvenile and I think it’s a great play for young people to see because it’s about the kind of stuff they worry about — image, status, will people fall in love with me?
“It’s touching a nerve with a lot of young people which is fantastic.”
Roger now lives in Cheshire but regularly visits his parents, who live in Chorley Old Road, and is hoping to have time to call to Bolton to see the Octagon Theatre’s first play of the new season.
Roger, who has a radio play project in the pipeline with Bolton actress Maxine Peake, called My Week with Keith, said: “I’m hoping to come and see Journey’s End as it’s my favourite play.”
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona runs until September 4, with a screening at Cineworld Bolton, on Wednesday, September 3, as part of Live from Stratford-upon-Avon.