Real life Shakespeare in love actors are reunited at Stafford Castle (2022)

He is the former Eastenders star who is delighting audiences at Stafford Castle in a stunning modern production of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice from Gatehouse Theatre.

And Linal Haft will have an extra special reason to shine in his role as Jewish money lender Shylock which runs until July 13.

The 75 year-old's wife Buster Skeggs is coming to see the show - and in a romantic twist that even Shakespeare could not have pre-empted - the happy couple will be reunited in a production of the very same play in which they first met half a century ago.

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Linal and Buster first set eyes on each other in 1969 when they were both cast in a production of The Merchant of Venice in Sydney.

The couple tied the knot in Perth in 1971, and now live in London, but spend three months a year in Oz - escaping the English weather and visiting their son Sam who has a film acting school and was in Peter Rabbit.

Linal's acting 50 year acting career has gone from strength to strength since those early days in Australia.

His long list of credits span stage and screen, and include turns alongside Will Young in the musical Cabaret and as scheming Harry Gold in EastEnders in 2010 - with a series of shocking storylines, including killing a cat.

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Buster is in for a treat when she sits in the audience this weekend as the latest Stafford Gatehouse Theatre production has received glowing reviews – with Linal having been singled out for ‘show-stealing’ performances.

It's no mean feat - as the cast for the outdoor production have been braving gnats, drizzle and record sunshine as they follow up last year's critically-acclaimed Macbeth.

It's the first time The Merchant of Venice has played in 29 years of the annual Stafford Festival Shakespeare, produced by the Gatehouse Theatre.

The thrilling new production of Shakespeare's controversial masterpiece is transported to 1950s New York where communities are divided by wealth and religion.

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A 'magical' play at Stafford Castle

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“The Merchant of Venice is an exciting play and it’s a play that’s very relevant to today’s world on the religious side of it,” Linal said.

“It’s got romance and there’s the thriller side to it.

"There’s danger, excitement all the themes that people have always wanted from plays.

"They can laugh, cry, gnash their teeth, be touched, and it’s all performed by a really wonderful cast of people.

“The setting is fantastic too. I’ve played in the outdoors before and it’s quite a different experience when you’re exposed to the elements.

"The audience are covered if it is going to rain, but the actors aren’t.

"It’s quite novel in rehearsals when the rain permeates everything and on a clammy evening you’re batting away mozzies.

“In the evening performances you are starting in the light and by the time you get to the romantic elements, it’s getting dark, so the audience go through that process of early evening and into the night, it’s quite magical.”

Linal has already been praised for his performances as the Jewish money lender – bringing his own life experiences to bear in playing one of Shakespeare’s most complex characters.

The Merchant of Venice runs until July 13 at Stafford Castle. For more information and tickets click here

From EastEnders to Stafford Castle - after growing up in Leeds and over coming bullies

Real life Shakespeare in love actors are reunited at Stafford Castle (4)

Growing up in Leeds, he was bullied at school because of his Jewish background before emigrating to Australia as a 19-year-old ‘ten pound Pom’ – the term for British citizens who paid the fee for assisted migration after the Second World War.

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He found acceptance – and the stage.

As well as his stints with Will Young and Eastenders, Linal's acting career has seen him acting alongside friend Jeff Goldblum in comedy theatre show The Prisoner of Second Avenue.

Linal and his wife swapped texts with Jeff after his Glastonbury 2019 appearance with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra in the Hollywood actor’s new life as a jazz virtuoso.

Shakespearian credits include treading the boards with Mia Farrow in A Midsummer Nights Dream at Leicester Haymarket.

Linal has some special memories of Albert Square.

“EastEnders was an experience and a half," Linal said.

"It’s a way of life being in a series like that, people have been in it a long, long time. I don’t have any negative thoughts about that at all.

“I watched the first episode of Coronation Street in 1960 and it was cracking, but what’s happening now is everyone is dying off in dramatic ways.

“The natural drama of life itself with the occasional catastrophe is good, but now there is so much commercialism with so much competition to chase ratings you have to be cruder, ruder and more violent than so and so next door to pull in the ratings.”

Real life Shakespeare in love actors are reunited at Stafford Castle (5)

With his bullet-headed look, Linal has a reputation for playing tough, controlling characters – but his current role as Shylock is far more than a simple baddie.

As a schoolboy in Leeds, Linal was chased and punched for his Jewish background and he credits Shakespeare for taking an even-handed look at anti-Semitism.

“A lot of people, Jewish people in particular, think this is an anti-Semitic play, but it's not, it’s a play about anti-Semitism,” he said.

“In today’s climate, anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head all over the world, not that it ever went away.

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"Though there’s the New York twist, Shakespeare set the play in Venice, where Jews lived in ghettos and had to wear a marking to denote that they were lower than dogs.

“They were only allowed to practice usury, or money lending.

“It’s interesting how Shakespeare balanced out the way Shylock treats and is treated by the Christian people in the play, being spat on, kicked and abused.

"In the original play he’s called by his name Shylock about seventeen times and the word Jew is used 58 times.

“He’s also called the Devil eight times, more than any other character in Shakespeare’s plays.

“With that, and the way he’s been treated, he explodes with revenge. After all these awful things that happen to him, he wants his pound of flesh.”

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Linal credits Shakespeare for underpinning The Merchant of Venice with a sense of humanity.

“Shakespeare was trying to say we should put away all this aggro with each other because of cultural or religious differences,” he said.

“I have always said that Jewish people are not a race in the same way that Catholics or Christians are not a race, there’s only one race, the human race.

“There’s only one religion – and that’s all of us.”

Shakespeare in love - a real life drama

Real life Shakespeare in love actors are reunited at Stafford Castle (7)

Linal and Buster first met when he was a young actor in Australia, doubling up as the Prince of Morocco and Tubal in a rough and ready staging of the play.

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Cupid’s arrow struck, with his wife-to-be playing Jessica.

“The Merchant of Venice has always been in the back of my head somewhere, as I met my wife in the performance in Australia,” Linal said.

“She was a bit of a cracker, not just in terms of her performance but in the way she looked.

"Me being a ten-pound Pom and going out to Australia and meeting the woman I would spend the rest of my life with was a pretty good investment.

“With her being in the audience, it feels like things have come full circle.”

Meet some more of our talented cast for this year's #StaffordShakespeare The Merchant of Venice...
Shylock: Linal Haft
Portia: Jessica Hardwick
Lorenzo: James Macnaughton

— Gatehouse Theatre (@Staff_Gatehouse) June 5, 2019

Stafford Shakespeare Festival has been running since 1991, with The Merchant of Venice being staged for the first time at the annual event by the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre.

Linal said: “It’s been a remarkable experience being part of a terrific cast.

“Predominantly, compared to me, they are young and they are full of energy and commitment.

“That for me, really, truthfully, is a joy. I think the audience are getting that, judging by the reaction at the end of the play. It’s lovely to hear the audience cheer and applaud, so they’re obviously with it.”

Intrigue and drama in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare's classic follows privileged heiress Portia as she seeks a husband by unconventional means. A suitor merely has to solve a puzzle to win her hand in marriage.

Spendthrift Bassanio longs to be considered by Portia but if his close friend Antonio can no longer lend him money, who else can he turn to, and at what cost?

In the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre production the action has been transported to 1950s New York, a city where communities are divided by wealth and religion.

The Merchant of Venice is a compelling story of money, love and prejudice that gave the world the line 'all that glisters is not gold'.

The Merchant of Venice runs until July 13 at Stafford Castle.


For more information and tickets click here


What did Voltaire say about Shakespeare? ›

Voltaire (1694-1778), stuck as he was in the ways of classical literature, found Shakespeare's works to be "grotesque" and "contrary to good taste." But he also admitted that the English playwright was, at times, "sublime."

Did Gwyneth Paltrow cut her hair for Shakespeare in Love? ›

Power of prosthetics and make-up: Actor transformations for the big screen, in pictures. Gwyneth Paltrow sported a goatee and cropped hair for her role the 1999 film Shakespeare in Love. In the film Paltrow's charater poses as a male actor so she can audition for a part in Shakespeare's play.

Is the story of Shakespeare in Love True? ›

The film depicts a fictional love affair involving playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) while Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet. Several characters are based on historical figures, and many of the characters, lines, and plot devices allude to Shakespeare's plays.

What is the story of Shakespeare in Love? ›

What are the 3 main ideas that Voltaire is most famous? ›

Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state.

What is Voltaire most famous for? ›

His most famous works included the fictitious Lettres philosophiques (1734) and the satirical novel Candide (1759). The former—a series of essays on English government and society—was a landmark in the history of thought. Today it is considered one of the great monuments of French literature.

What happened to Viola at the end of Shakespeare in Love? ›

We get tears and a journey when Viola must leave with Lord Wessex, her husband, to America. Before she leaves, she inspires Will to write Twelfth Night in which he imagines her ship wrecks, killing everyone (especially Wessex who he probably fantasizes being eaten by sharks as well), but Viola survives.

How old was Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love? ›

Gwyneth Paltrow, who turns 50 today, starred in "Shakespeare in Love" when she was only 26. Paltrow won the Oscar for best actress for her role as Viola De Lesseps.

What words did Shakespeare invent? ›

Words Shakespeare Invented
16 more rows

Who are the characters in Shakespeare in Love? ›

Shakespeare in Love

Why the accuracy of Shakespeare in Love is unimportant? ›

In "Shakespeare in Love," Barnes said, the actors' accents are wrong ("not broad enough"); their demeanor too restrained ("not country enough"); and the director's eye, not accurate enough. Barnes points out that, during the 16th century, no one would have been drinking from a glass beaker.

What did Shakespeare in Love beat for best picture? ›

Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan was the turning point that implemented this sea change. When the Weinstein-produced comedy first screened for Academy voters in December 1998, the movie was met by a reportedly cool reception, signaling the film would have a small impact on the year's Oscar race.

What is the conflict of Shakespeare in Love? ›

The conflict in Romeo and Juliet is supposed to be an 'ancient grudge' between the two families. Romeo and Juliet are from different families from one another but they still fall in love. The problem is that if any person from the opposite family were to go near each other, a fight is bound to occur.

Where does Shakespeare in Love take place? ›

Shakespeare in Love', a fast-moving romantic comedy set in London in 1593 follows the trials and tribulations of Will Shakespeare, a struggling young playwright, suffering from a dreadful bout of writer's block.

What is the bet in Shakespeare in Love? ›

At court, Shakespeare manages to goad Wessex into betting the grand sum of fifty pounds that a play cannot capture the nature of true love. If Romeo and Juliet is a success, Shakespeare as playwright will win the money. The Queen, who enjoys Shakespeare's plays, agrees to be a witness to the wager.

Is Deism a religion? ›

Deism, an unorthodox religious attitude that found expression among a group of English writers beginning with Edward Herbert (later 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury) in the first half of the 17th century and ending with Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, in the middle of the 18th century.

How did Voltaire impact the world today? ›

Voltaire's beliefs on freedom and reason is what ultimately led to the French Revolution, the United States Bill of Rights, and the decrease in the power of the Catholic Church, which have all affected modern western society.

What was Voltaire's theory? ›

Voltaire believed above all in the efficacy of reason. He believed social progress could be achieved through reason and that no authority—religious or political or otherwise—should be immune to challenge by reason. He emphasized in his work the importance of tolerance, especially religious tolerance.

What were Voltaire's beliefs about religion? ›

Voltaire was very outspoken when it came to organized religion. He lived in a historical period called the Enlightenment, when church and state began to separate. While he never openly declared himself to be a non-believer, he advocated a religious perspective known as deism.

What happened at the end of Shakespeare in Love? ›

In the final scene, following the first performance of Romeo and Juliet, which the Queen herself, no less, has judged to be the first play to show "the very truth and nature of love," Will and Viola say their farewells before her enforced departure for the tobacco plantations of Virginia, where Wessex intends to make ...

Who does Viola marry in Shakespeare in Love? ›

As the actors mourn the demise of their play and their employment, Richard Burbage (Martin Clunes), proprietor of the rival Curtain Theatre, offers to stage the play. Rehearsals continue, with Shakespeare now playing Romeo, and the play is set to premiere on the same day that Viola is to marry Wessex.

Where was the final scene of Shakespeare in Love? ›

We have been talking to Holkham for a few months and we can show them how the problem has been solved elsewhere." The final scenes for the 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, were filmed at the beach.

Who Won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love? ›

The film ended up winning seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (for Gwyneth Paltrow), and Best Supporting Actress for Dame Judi Dench.

What light is light if Sylvia? ›

What light is light, if Silvia be not seen? What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by? She dreams on him that has forgot her love, You dote on her that cares not for your love.

Who was John Webster in Shakespeare in Love? ›

In the film Shakespeare in Love (1998), John Webster makes a cameo as a young street urchin who enjoys feeding live mice to cats. When asked by Shakespeare what he thought of Titus Andronicus, Webster replies: 'I like it when they cut their heads off.

What was the first word in English? ›

According to a 2009 study by researchers at Reading University, the oldest words in the English language include “I“, “we“, “who“, “two” and “three“, all of which date back tens of thousands of years.

What was the first word ever? ›

Also according to Wiki answers,the first word ever uttered was “Aa,” which meant “Hey!” This was said by an australopithecine in Ethiopia more than a million years ago.

Is Shakespeare popular in France? ›

Shakespeare for a variety of reasons had never caught on in France, and even when his plays were performed in France in the 19th century, they were drastically altered to fit in with French tastes with for example Romeo and Juliet having a happy ending.

Who is the Shakespeare of French? ›

Molière was considered the patron of French actors who died (1673) seven years before “La maison de Molière” was rechristened the “Comédie-Française”.

Did Shakespeare use French? ›

Shakespeare uses a surprising amount of French in his plays, especially in Henry the Fifth. But that plain use of French is not the only way in which French is part of Shakespeare's language. The vast majority of Shakespeare's vocabulary comes from French.

Is Shakespeare popular in China? ›

But Shakespeare doesn't really need the hard sell in China. Statistically, his works are more popular there than in his home country. Of 1,043 people in China surveyed by the British Council last year, 68 per cent said they liked Shakespeare, compared with 59 per cent in Britain and 55 per cent in Hong Kong.

Why was Shakespeare a genius? ›

Shakespeare (1564-1616) was no doubt a genius. Although he never attended university, his genius inspired him to write plays of such magnificent beauty and universal ideas that they are still performed the world over in thousands of productions and a great variety of interpretations.

What word did Shakespeare invent? ›

Words Shakespeare Invented
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When was Shakespeare translated into French? ›

The first translation in French of Shakespeare's complete works was published in France by Pierre-Antoine de la Place (1745-48). It is available at the SBT and is in beautiful condition.

What is Moliere famous for? ›

He is the author of enduring plays such as Tartuffe and Le Misanthrope. Many of his plays contained scandalous material. They were met with public outcry and were suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Is French iambic? ›

There are two parts to this question: why does English use iambic meter while French doesn't, and why does English have 10 syllables in each line of iambic pentameter, while French has 12 syllables per line in an alexandrine.

What two languages did Shakespeare? ›

He had to speak French fluently, and it is hard to imagine the author of the plays did not also know how to read and write Latin, speak modern Italian dialect, and know Greek as well.

Why did Shakespeare use Italy as a setting? ›

'It contained both warring city-states and sophisticated political entities like the Venetian Republic. By setting his plays in Italy, Shakespeare could deal with issues – including political assassinations such as the one in Julius Caesar – that would have landed him in trouble if he'd set them in England.


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