British ambassador to perform in upcoming English-language production of Twelfth Night

Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night with Jan Thompson, photo: archive of the theatre company

The Prague Shakespeare Company is now rehearsing a new production of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night to premiere at Divadlo Kolowrat in March. The production is already garnering plenty of attention, not least because one of the main roles will be performed by Great Britain’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, Jan Thompson.

The Prague Shakespeare Company,  photo: archive of the theatre company
I spoke to the theatre company founder Guy Roberts, about the production and the many talented people involved.

“The director of the play is from the United States. Her name is Rebecca Greene Udden and she has run her own theatre in Texas for over 30 years. So she is providing a wealth of experience and the American tradition of playing. Overall, the production is truly international with Czech, Slovak, British actors all bringing different acting traditions and ways of thinking about Shakespeare. And of course, Her Excellency Jan Thompson is playing Olivia. We are having a great time with it so far. It’s worth mentioning, also, that the while the show is in English, we have Czech surtitles by Martin Hilský, so everyone will be able to enjoy it.”

We’ll discuss the ambassador in just a moment but let me ask you first: what elements of Twelfth Night are fascinating for you as the company’s artistic director?

Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night with Jan Thompson,  photo: archive of the theatre company
“In many ways I think it is the summation of Shakespeare’s great comedies. It is the last great comedy he wrote, it comes after As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing, and there is really a sort of beautiful melancholy infused in all of the comedy. You have mistaken identities and shipwrecks and servants who think they are masters… you have all these elements of a more standard comedy but it is done in such an elevated, sophisticated way that it plays on many different levels. Once Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night he really got it so perfect he never went back to that form of comedy again.”

How did Jan Thompson get involved? I read that she is a fan of amateur theatre but how did it come about?

“She had been to several of our productions at Divaldo Kolowart and she let us know that, if we would consider it, she wanted to try acting and wanted to audition. So she auditioned for the role, just like anyone else (that was one of the things she insisted on – no special treatment) and she got the part. We tried to warn her about acting, that it’s not a glamorous life, but she has had a lot of fun in rehearsal and we are so happy she is a part of the project.”

“I think that is what makes her a great ambassador: this willingness to take a risk. I think it is very brave of her. What the ambassador brings to the role is this connection with a woman who lives in privileged circles but at the same time is very down-to-earth. So we are just having a great time and there is lots of laughing in rehearsals.”