Billy Postlethwaite has lost his matches. There’s a hole in his pocket, he mumbles, shaking each leg in a little jig. Eventually, the box slips on to the rehearsal room floor. Snatching it up, he flicks back his mop of curls and grins. He doesn’t half look like his dad, especially when his eyes flash with mischief and grow ever wider. This happens when we talk about two great men of theatre: William Shakespeare and Peter William Postlethwaite.
For Billy, the pair are entwined. Most British kids encounter Shakespeare at school; not many find their dad reeling off soliloquies over their cereal. When Postlethwaite Sr was playing Prospero, Billy’s sister, Lily, ordered him to stop calling her Miranda at breakfast. In his memoir, he recalled becoming so obsessed with Macbeth that he answered innocuous questions from his children with tortured lines from the tragedy.
Billy - Scot - Watermill - Newbury - Berkshire
Now Billy is playing the murderous Scot at the Watermill in Newbury, Berkshire. The company are staying in cottages next to the theatre, which is a converted mill, and we walk over to the house of artistic director Paul Hart. Dogs greet us by the kitchen. Waddling outside are muscovy ducks, which don’t quack so won’t distract audiences.
A minute’s stroll from bed to rehearsals beats commuting, says Postlethwaite, who grew up in Shropshire and calls himself a “proper country bumpkin”. Looking out of the window, he says: “I swim in the river and in that pond by the old mill.” Hart responds: “I am worried you’re going to die of hypothermia.” The other actors join these early morning wake-up swims. “Lady Macbeth was the first one in,” cackles Postlethwaite. Is the water as cold as it looks? “Bloody freezing!”
Postlethwaite - Role - Date - Stage - Debut
This is Postlethwaite’s biggest Shakespearean role to date. His stage debut was as the lovesick Silvius in As You Like...
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