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This (if you hadn't guessed by now) is a page all about reading. My favourite author is, rather predictably I suppose, Shakespeare, and if I could only keep one book it would be the Riverside edition of the complete works. Even more predictably, Hamlet is my favourite play. I first read it at A-level, and have been pretty much obsessed ever since. Some film productions of it worth seeing are Ken Branagh's full text version (brilliant), Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (beautiful and only slightly surpassed by Kens), and although not strictly a film of the play, In the Bleak Midwinter, directed by (yes, that man again) Ken Branagh. The worst production of Hamlet I ever saw was by a student company called (I think) the European Touring Group at the ADC theatre, Cambridge. It was a bit of an insult to a great play and made me wonder if student 'actors', particularly those in Cambridge, should try to play Hamlet, a play which demands such subtlety from its actors. This particular production had scaffolding on the stage which didn't seem to serve much purpose, other than 'shock' value. Hmmmmmm..... You can read my favourite speech from Hamlet below:


I have of late - but wherefore I know not - lost all my mirth, forgone all custon of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er-hanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire - why, it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

One of the most beautiful performances I've heard of that speech is by Richard E. Grant at the end of the film 'Withnail and I'.

Other books which I think are definitely worth recommending: