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Judi Dench's Exits & Entrances: A Celebration Of Shakespeare

Judi Dench's Exits & Entrances: A Celebration of Shakespeare brings several well-known and celebrated speeches and soliloquies from Shakespeare's plays and sonnets together in a series of powerful performances that is sure to please any fan of The Bard.

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.

TrackWorkStart of Speech/soliloquy/Sonnet
01As You Like ItAll The World's A Stage
02Sonnet 116Let Me Not To The Marriage
03Antony & CleopatraThe Barge She Sat In
04Sonnet 87Farewell Thou Art Too Dear
05Romeo & JulietBut Soft What Light
06Henry VOnce More Unto The Breach
07The Merchant Of VeniceThe Quality Of Mercy
08Sonnet 30When To The Sessions
09A Midsummer Night's DreamPray Thee Give It Me
10The TempestCome Unto These, Full Fathom Five
11Romeo & JulietFarewell God Knows
12Sonnet 18Shall I Compare Thee
13Richard IIINow Is The Winter Of Our Discontent
14A Midsummer Night's DreamThese Are The Forgeries
15The Merchant Of VeniceHe Hath Disgraced Me
16HamletThere Is A Willow
17Henry VO For A Muse Of Fire
18HamletTo Be Or Not To Be
19A Midsummer Night's DreamHow Happy Some O'er
20Henry VNow Entertain Conjecture
21The Winter's TaleI Would There Were No Age
22Antony & CleopatraI Dreamt There Was An Emperor
23Sonnet 29When In Disgrace
24The TempestNow My Charms

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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