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Patrick Stewart On Stage

By Kneale Faragher
Posted at July 5, 2001 - 10:51 AM GMT

From 22 June - 7 July 2001 Patrick Stewart (Jean Luc Picard) is on stage in the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, England. Kneale Faragher went along to watch the Trek star in action.

It is the first time in 7 years he has performed on the British stage. It is a one man show entitled 'Shylock: Shakespeare's Alien.' Basically, he comes on stage in front of around 350 people and talks about this one character from Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' - Shylock - whom he first played at the age of 23.

He talks about the character, explains situations and dialogue and then actually acts all of Shylock's dialogue. I don't think Patrick likes bringing Star Trek up whenever he is doing other unrelated things - which I can quite honestly understand - although he did one make one exception, he said that he was an 'alien' too - like Shylock - and no he wasn't from Outer Space.

The show is very funny and very entertaining! He comes onto the stage and says "Hello everyone, I'm Patrick Stewart" One woman in the audience (obviously a Star Trek fan) said "We KNOW who you are!" So from the start it got off to a lot of laughs and fun. All the way through people shouted out and he laughed, and explained things.

At the end (after an interval) there was a 30 minute Question and Answer session. The first 15/20 mins were for questions about the play, but after this a lot more hands went up when it went over to "any questions" - although not that many Star Trek questions came up. One woman said that she had saw him in a play at the age of 14 - and that he was an up and coming star then!

He was asked was he the main influence of putting so much Shakespeare into the Next Generation. Stewart explained that it was basically him and Gene Roddenberry. The writers would be writing a particular episode - maybe about honour, and they would contact Patrick and ask what would be a good play or quote to use.

The actor explained that the Shakespeare book in his ready room on the Enterprise-D actually had photos of him in it when he was a Royal Shakespeare actor, and he said sometimes he would lift the glass up and put it on a page where there was a photo of him. He said that out of all the 178 episodes he was sure there was at least one where the photo of him was on film!

When asked what he was going to be doing in the near future, he said he was doing his current one man "show" as a favour to Jude Kelly - who was in charge when Patrick played Othello in Washington DC as a little project he could do until... wait for it.. he does a play!

In the same theatre he is in the play 'Johnson Over Jordan' By J.B Priestley. It is directed by Jude Kelly, with Stewart as Robert Jonson. Here is the preview:

"Described by Priestley as an 'adventure of the theatre,' 'Johnson Over Jordan' is a journey through the past and present life of Robert Johnson, recently deceased.

In order to reach the Inn at the End of the World and begin his final voyage, Robert must first negotiate not only the bureaucracy of the Central Offices of Universal Assurance and Global Loan and Finance Corporation but also the bright lights, strong drink and beautiful girls at the Jungle Hot Spot night club. Johnson Over Jordan is an ambitious, dreamlike piece of theatre and, ultimately, a deeply moving account of a very ordinary man's life.

Born in Bradford in 1894, J B Priestley was an astonishingly profilic novelist, playwright, screenwriter, biographer, critic and essayist and an important social and political commentator. Johnson Over Jordan was originally produced in 1939 with a score by Benjamin Britten with Ralph Richardson as Robert Johnson. This is its first major revival since the 1940s and launches a season at the Playhouse celebrating Priestley's life and work."

It is playing in August and September. Obviously you can still book tickets for the one man show too - I really recommend it. It was actually awe inspiring - he makes Shakespeare sound so interesting.

And - wait for it - after this he said "I'm due back on the Enterprise bridge right almost straight after the play!" - to huge applause! I've never seen people applaud one man so much!

I also managed to get Stewart's autograph. We waited an hour or two for him to come out the main entrance and when he did a lookout came first; from the theatre - he has no security. When the coast was clear he came out, coat up, hat down. We went over and he looked around to see if there were any more people. There wasn't so he said "quickly, quickly!"

And now he has a beard!

You can find more details of Stewart's appearance in the play here at the West Yorkshire Playhouse web site. Tickets for this range from £7.00 - £24.50; this and booking information can be found on the above web site.

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Kneale Faragher very kindly wrote the above report and sent it to us at the Trek Nation. Huge thanks go out to him for this! You can contact Kneale at k.faragher@lancaster.ac.uk.

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