WHILE most children were watching cartoons and listening to the Beatles, English-born Richard Piper was immersing himself in the world of William Shakespeare.
Influenced by his father’s love for the English poet, Piper, now an Australian, turned his love into a career.
For the past 20 years he has written and performed in numerous Shakespeare plays.
Now Piper is bringing his latest creation, Shakespeare’s Secret to Geelong – but with a twist.
Piper has left behind the production’s passage readings, transforming Shakespeare’s work into a live, on-stage band performance complete with guitars, mandolins, banjo, double bass and “practically every conceivable acoustic instrument imaginable”.
He described the show as a band of acoustic musicians and actors performing the songs of Shakespeare woven with scenes, speeches and sonnets from his plays.
Piper, alongside Paul Norton and Gerry Hale, wanted to assemble an eclectic range of performing artists to “breathe new life” into the Bard’s lyrics after composing music for many Shakespeare productions around Australia.
Piper said a musical performance was the perfect choice.
“What I wanted to do was put a show on of Shakespeare’s songs in a folk rock format that’s fun and entertaining, not just exclusively for traditional Shakespeare fans,” he said.
“What audiences get is Shakespeare in the form of a music gig.
“Guest actors play parts and have speeches and we’ve had a lot of fanatic reactions from people because we put a different spin on it.”
Experienced on the stage, Piper recently spent two years playing the role of the father in Billy Elliot the musical.
But he conceded that Shakespeare was his true love.
“I just think you can’t beat a great story and, ultimately, Shakespeare’s stories are absolute thrilling, otherwise they wouldn’t survive,” he said.
“I’ve always loved Macbeth, Richard the Third and the fact everyone in the world knows Romeo and Juliet.
“I have a secret fantasy that Shakespeare had his own band hiding at home in the back room to entertain him and I think we’re like that band.
“I hope he would be proud.”
Piper and band will perform Shakespeare’s Secret as a Geelong Art Gallery Foundation fundraising event on August 21.