Successful MA and PhD students from the Shakespeare Institute and fellow-graduands from throughout the School of English, Drama, American and Canadian Studies were joined for the July 10 degree ceremony on the Edgbaston campus by Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Mr Doran received an honorary Doctorate of Letters, in recognition of a theatrical career which has seen him graduate from playing minor roles such as Solanio in The Merchant of Venice and Don Mathias in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta (RSC, 1987) to directing by now well over half of the Shakespeare canon, among works by many other playwrights including (a particular favourite) Shakespeare's apprentice John Fletcher. Mr Doran's productions have included exceptionally powerful and engaging interpretations of Titus Andronicus, The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Othello, Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (each of them featuring his civil partner Sir Antony Sher), brilliant renditions of Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra (both featuring Dame Harriet Walter), and the most successful Hamlet of recent years (with Patrick Stewart as Claudius and David Tennant as the Prince, 2008). In his speech conferring the degree, Professor Russell Jackson - an admirer of Mr Doran's work since his salad days - also cited his fine RSC production of All's Well That Ends Well, in which Dame Judi Dench played the Countess of Rousillion.
Under Mr Doran's artistic directorship the RSC has worked ever more closely with the Shakespeare Institute, of which he was made an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in 2013, and with which a new formal collaboration, centred on the RSC's research and development department at the Other Place studio theatre, begins in 2016. In 2013, for instance, the Institute hosted and organized a week-long series of workshops by which directors, actors and academics collaborated in choosing non-Shakespearean plays for revival at the RSC's Swan Theatre (the first beneficiary of which, John Ford's Love's Sacrifice, is currently in repertory). Institute PhD students have worked with Mr Doran on researching and preparing his edited acting texts for rehearsal, and continue to do so; other Institute PhD students are also involved this summer in workshops, organized around rehearsals for Mr Doran's forthcoming *Henry V*, with the Chinese translators who are preparing a new RSC-sponsored acting version of the Complete Works in Mandarin. The RSC and the University of Birmingham are co-hosts of the impending 2016 World Shakespeare Congress, together with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare's Globe and King's College, London.
Given that the Shakespeare Institute was founded in part as a result of conversations between Sir Barry Jackson, artistic director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre from 1947-8, and the Institute's first Director, Professor Allardyce Nicoll, it is only fitting that Mr Doran enjoys a cordial relationship with the Institute's current Director, Professor Michael Dobson, who has written about many of Mr Doran's productions and has supplied programme notes for others. It is rumoured that the two drank champagne together within two hours of Professor Dobson's appointment in 2011.