Ever pioneers in pushing the boundaries of theatrical enterprise (to wit, the durational readings of The Iliad and The Odyssey), the Almeida Theatre has launched Figures of Speech, a major new digital film project interrogating the vitality of speech, rhetoric, and what visionary leadership sounds like. Conceived by Rupert Goold and directed by Anthony Almeida, Figures of Speech will, deep breath, “place history’s greatest speeches centre stage through a series of films read by a network of actors and young leaders released online, building a tapestry of dynamic voices and ideas from across the world as a dramatic response to social crisis”.
The first suite of films, being released on a day-by-day basis from today, features speeches delivered by American politician Harvey Milk spoken by Ian McKellen; Nelson Mandela spoken by Lucian Msamati; Virginia Woolf spoken by Fiona Shaw; AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser spoken by Nicola Walker; and Labour Party Politician Neil Kinnock spoken by Ashley Walters. And throughout the year, the Almeida will release more of these films, accompanied by additional material exploring the speeches, the context within which they were first delivered and the choice to revive them in 2017.
The site will feature guest-authored articles and filmed reactions from each speech’s performer alongside an audience made up of people from local communities that have direct connections to the themes explored. To complement each speech, inspiring young leaders aged 15 – 25 from across London have been invited to respond to Figures of Speech and deliver a speech of their own, crafted through an Almeida Participation programme, inviting previously unheard voices to share the platform.
Which I’m sure you’ll agree sounds rather quite exciting indeed, a fresh way at looking at politics and leadership in these tumultuous times, and exploring something of the changing nature of what it means to be an orator in the 21st century. And as a treat for you – yes, you! – you can find snippets of some of the forthcoming films below.
All Figures of Speech material is available at speech.almeida.co.uk