The three primary performers on this album are Judi Dench, her late brother (and another well known Shakespearean actor), Jeffery Dench, and David Suchet (Agatha Christie's Poirot), but there are also several readings performed by Emilia Fox (Silent Witness, Merlin) and Oliver Dench. Also, to help set the scene, select pieces are accompanied by musical scores performed by Jackie Williams.
With the exception of "I would there were no age" from The Winter's Tale, all of the tracks are monologues or speeches performed by a single actor. In the case of the only excerpt from The Winter's Tale, the roles of the Shepherd and Clown are played by Jeffery and Oliver Dench.
The album starts off with "All the world's a stage" speech from As You Like It, also performed by Jeffery Dench, a fitting start given that the Exits & Entrances gets its very name from this specific piece. Jeffrey's other tracks includes Romeo's famous "But soft what light" monologue, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Oberon's "Pray thee, give it me" speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream and the album's closing track, The Tempest's "Now my charms" speech.
While Judi Dench only performs scenes from two plays, she does do four of the five sonnets found in this album. The sonnets included in Exits & Entrances: A Celebration of Shakespeare are 18, 29, 30, 87 and 116. However, most people might be able to better identify them from their first lines, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?," "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes," "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought," "Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing," and "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" respectively. The one Judi doesn't perform, #18, is spoken by Jeffery.
As for Judi's other performances, she covers Cleopatra's "I dreamt there was an emperor Antony" speech and Titania's "These are the forgeries of jealousy" segment from A Midsummer Night's Dream, both of which are excellently done.
Suchet's first performance on the album is the "The barge she sat in" speech where we hear about Antony's first impressions of Cleopatra. He also portrays Richard III's famous "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, as well as three pieces from Henry V, "Once more into the breach," "O for a muse of fire," and "Now entertain conjecture," and while it would have been great to hear him perform the St. Crispin's Day Speech (my personal favorite), all three of the ones included do a great job of showing how strong a leader Henry is. Suchet's last contribution to this album is The Merchant of Venice's "He hath disgraced me" speech from Shylock, another personal favorite.
Rounding out the album is Oliver Dench's performance of "Come unto these, full fathom five" speech from The Tempest and Emilia Fox's recitation of "The quality of mercy" from The Merchant of Venice, "Farewell god knows" from Romeo & Juliet, "There is a willow" from Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream's "How happy some o'er."
While it would have been nice to hear just a few more performances, like Puck's final speech to the audience in A Midsummer Night's Dream, what Exits & Entrances: A Celebration of Shakespeare has is all spectacular and expertly performed, and it couldn't have been easy to narrow the possible pieces down to just these 24 tracks. Any Shakespeare fan would be proud to add this album to their listening library.
|Track||Work||Start of Speech/soliloquy/Sonnet|
|01||As You Like It||All The World's A Stage|
|02||Sonnet 116||Let Me Not To The Marriage|
|03||Antony & Cleopatra||The Barge She Sat In|
|04||Sonnet 87||Farewell Thou Art Too Dear|
|05||Romeo & Juliet||But Soft What Light|
|06||Henry V||Once More Unto The Breach|
|07||The Merchant Of Venice||The Quality Of Mercy|
|08||Sonnet 30||When To The Sessions|
|09||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Pray Thee Give It Me|
|10||The Tempest||Come Unto These, Full Fathom Five|
|11||Romeo & Juliet||Farewell God Knows|
|12||Sonnet 18||Shall I Compare Thee|
|13||Richard III||Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent|
|14||A Midsummer Night's Dream||These Are The Forgeries|
|15||The Merchant Of Venice||He Hath Disgraced Me|
|16||Hamlet||There Is A Willow|
|17||Henry V||O For A Muse Of Fire|
|18||Hamlet||To Be Or Not To Be|
|19||A Midsummer Night's Dream||How Happy Some O'er|
|20||Henry V||Now Entertain Conjecture|
|21||The Winter's Tale||I Would There Were No Age|
|22||Antony & Cleopatra||I Dreamt There Was An Emperor|
|23||Sonnet 29||When In Disgrace|
|24||The Tempest||Now My Charms|