Actor and director Ronan Leahy introduces his new project, Shakespeare at Solstice...

As someone who has been working in professional theatre for the past thirty years, predominantly as an actor, I have had the privilege of witnessing the development and evolution of Irish drama and its place on the world stage. Through working with many of Ireland's leading companies and directors and touring extensively both nationally and internationally, I have gained a vast and varied experience of performance styles and disciplines.

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In 2018, in pursuit of my ambition to broaden my engagement with the theatre making process, I undertook a master’s degree in Theatre Directing at The Lir (The National Academy of Dramatic Art). For the final part of the course, I served an internship with The Toneelgroep Amsterdam under world renowned director, Ivo Van Hove.

Last year, I was offered an artist’s residency with The Solstice Arts Centre in Navan. Although the building was closed to the public, due to Covid, I wanted to make and offer a theatrical experience for audiences. Acting work had stopped for me and I needed to find a way to stay sharp and focused as a performer. The only definite ideas I had then were that whatever I did it would involve Shakespeare, and be a serial of sorts.

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I became hooked on William Shakespeare after a school trip to Stratford Upon Avon in 1986 to see Sinead Cusack and Jonathan Pryce in a production of Macbeth, directed by Adrian Noble. It was an incredibly visceral experience for me and initiated an investigation into Shakespeare’s life and work which continues today.

I am currently working on a project especially commissioned by the Solstice Arts Centre, titled Shakespeare at Solstice. I started with a question: Could I vlog Shakespeare on social media and get people who are unfamiliar with his poetry interested in his language? This led me to taking a deep dive into the sonnets, which some experts speculate were written during one particular outbreak of bubonic plague when theatres in London closed for the year.

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The English word 'sonnet' comes from the Italian word sonetto, meaning 'a little song’. Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Never before Imprinted, published in 1609, contains 154 such little songs that I believe offer us greater insights into the man than all of his plays combined.

I have chosen a number of my favourites which I would like to share with audiences online, once a month, over the course of the year. I am approaching each like a little play in which the character is trying to communicate an idea to you, the viewer. Taking inspiration from Jaques’ line in As You Like It, "All the world’s a stage…", I am looking to perform on alternative stages - beaches, beds, forests, fields, streets and trains.

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Learning the new skill of smartphone filmmaking and has brought some rough and ready results which I’ve chosen to include as part of the process. An actor prepares, the outtakes!

I hope you enjoy watching...

Keep up with Ronan Leahy's Shakespeare at Solstice project here.