The Shakespeare performance that just keeps playing on

The cast of musicians in Play On take a bow.
Ivan Karczewski

The cast of musicians in Play On take a bow.

It's Shakespeare but not as you have ever heard him before.

The album, Play On, which was conceived and composed by Auckland composer and musician Paul McLaney features a New Zealand cast of singers including Esther Stephens, Julia Deans, Maisey Rika, Ria Hall, Laughton Kora and Mara TK,performing some of the bard's best loved soliloquies.

"My ambition in setting these speeches to music is to make them accessible to an audience who might ordinarily think Shakespeare is not for them and to perhaps illuminate other aspects to those who cherish them already," McLaney says. "Music is such a powerful midwife to thought and my hope is that by performing Shakespeare's great moments in this context we might foster new understanding."

The original concert was an extended part of the Pop-up Globe season, which was a full-scale temporary working replica of Shakespeare's theatre that "popped up" in Auckland last year, sold 100,000 tickets, was extended twice due to popular demand, then disappeared.

Following on from the show's success, McLaney and the cast undertook a series of recording sessions and the result is Play On, 11 tracks setting some of Shakespeare's most famous words to music for the first time.

To celebrate this world first, the show will travel to the Christchurch Arts Festival, the Taranaki Arts Festival, the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season and the Nelson Arts Festival.

"The idea was borne of a conversation I had with Ian Mune while I was touring the Diamond Side album [his second solo album recorded in 2007]," McLaney says. "He suggested that there was something 'madrigal-esque' about my guitar style, and had I ever looked at the songs or sonnets of Shakespeare. The conversation moved very quickly to the idea of bypassing those and looking at something that hadn't been done; the great soliloquies."

Tour dates:

Taranaki International Arts Festival, Friday August 25.

Christchurch Arts Festival, Wednesday August 30.

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Auckland Live International Cabaret Season, Saturday September 16 and Sunday 17.

Nelson Arts Festival, Saturday October 14.

 - Sunday Star Times

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