Shadow and Bone

Zoë plays Baghra, a stern teacher, in this major new fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels. Streaming now on Netflix.

Britannia

The third series of Sky Atlantic's epic drama about the Romans invading ancient Britain, starring Zoë as vengeful Queen Antedia. Streaming now on Sky, NOW and other services.

Social

Happy 23rd birthday, Shakespeare’s Globe!

12 June 2020 17:55

Today, 12 June, marks 23 years since the theatre Zoë’s dad founded, Shakespeare’s Globe in London, was officially opened by the Queen.

The Globe is celebrating its birthday on Twitter with photos from the opening ceremony. Zoë became the first person to speak on the stage when she recited the famous ‘O for a Muse of fire’ prologue to Henry V (filmed as part of the documentary above). In addition, the theatre is inviting you to share your memories of #ThisWoodenO.

I was fortunate to experience the magic of Shakespeare's Globe soon after it opened, when I was about 12, on a school trip. Most vivid are memories of standing on the stage with friends and looking around in awe. I still have the school project in which I wrote about Sam Wanamaker's tireless work to bring Shakespeare’s theatre back to the South Bank.

On The Globe’s blog, you can find out how the theatre was built and why it’s a building ‘so absolutely unlike any other’. Look out for the photo of Zoë’s dad watching oak logs being cut to create the beams.

Visit The Globe's Instagram profile to see gems from its archive, such as striking shots of the theatre taking shape on Bankside in the early 1990s.

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I’ve found a couple of treasures in my own (no doubt smaller!) archive to share with you on this special day, starting with this lovely photo from 1992. It shows Zoë and her dad in England’s Forest of Dean, which provided wood for the theatre’s iconic structure.

With construction well underway, Zoë was pictured in 1995 surveying the progress – wearing a costume reminiscent of dresses worn by Elizabeth I, who enjoyed Shakespeare’s plays and reigned for much of his life.

For obvious reasons, Shakespeare’s Globe is currently closed. However, you can take a virtual tour of the theatre and join online events through its website.

If you’d like to support this amazing place – a registered charity that receives no regular government subsidy – at an incredibly challenging time financially, socially and culturally, please consider making a donation to The Globe. There are plenty of other ways to support the theatre too while we wait for it to reopen.

Let’s hope that by the time The Globe turns 24, we’ll be able to enjoy inspiring performances, tours, workshops and more there once again.

Happy birthday, Shakespeare's Globe, and many happy returns!

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My Family video: Susan Harper’s best moments

12 June 2020 15:37

On Friday evenings, it’s always fun to visit the Harper family for some light relief, thanks to the BBC’s very welcome My Family reruns. Today, 12 June, UK fans can enjoy series one’s ‘The Awkward Phase’ (8 pm, BBC One), in which Susan and Ben’s kids become rebels without a cause.

To help you wind down at the end of a long week, here’s a brilliant video featuring some of Zoë’s zaniest moments from the popular comedy. My talented friend, Rachel, has created it to put a smile on other fans’ faces.

Plus some more amusing, never-before-seen outtakes have just been released by the makers of My Family and British Comedy Guide. Enjoy!

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News round-up: celebrating Ariadne Oliver; Shakespeare interview; and good causes

9 June 2020 21:53

In praise of Ariadne Oliver

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Hercule Poirot’s pal Ariadne Oliver, who was brilliantly brought to life on TV by Zoë, is being celebrated by the official Agatha Christie Instagram profile (thanks to fellow fan Leigh for pointing this out to me!).

Fans are being asked to describe Ariadne in a few words – ‘Fabulously scatter-brained’ is one of the best suggestions I’ve seen so far!

It’s no surprise that the crime novelist, who's partly based on Christie herself, is a popular choice of guest for imaginary dinner parties...

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If you love all things Ariadne, why not (re)discover the Poirot novel Dead Man’s Folly, in which she plays a key role? The book, which features a murder hunt game that takes a sinister turn, is the June choice in the Read Christie 2020 challenge.

What’s more, watching the TV version (there’s a couple of clips below to whet your appetite), in which Zoë stars alongside David Suchet, is a great way to spend an evening. It was filmed at Christie’s holiday home, Greenway, in Devon.


Living the Shakespearean Life

Another suggestion to keep you entertained during the lockdown is to dive into Living the Shakespearean Life: True Stories by the academic John Boe. It's a collection of inspiring interviews with actors, directors and scholars connected to Shakespeare, including Zoë.

While the book was published in 2019 (and very recently came to my attention), Boe’s interview with Zoë took place much earlier – in summer 2010 at London’s Apollo Theatre, where she was starring in the award-winning revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons with David Suchet (such a wonderful, golden time).

She was in fact the first person the author spoke to for the book, as he explains in the introduction to the interview. ‘Her graciousness and encouragement made me want to continue the project,’ Boe emphasises.

Alluding to its title, Zoë remarks in the book that ‘I lived a Shakespearean life for all the time that my father was totally obsessed by The Globe.’ Sam Wanamaker had a lifelong enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s work, and building the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatre on London’s South Bank took him 27 years.

‘My father certainly battled for The Globe’, Zoë makes clear – and Living the Shakespearean Life is dedicated to him.

Discussing her own love of the plays, Zoë explains: ‘the beauty of Shakespeare is that once you get involved in it, like my year at Stratford [with the Royal Shakespeare Company], you understand it like music; there is a secret in Shakespeare’s language, like music has a secret, and somebody who knows the secret can play them and make music.’

The result is ‘just beautiful’.

Environmental Justice Foundation campaign

Zoë has been raising awareness on Twitter about the Environmental Justice Foundation’s petition to shut down wildlife markets globally forever.

The organisation, which strives to protect people and the planet, points out that ‘COVID-19 and other zoonotic diseases ­– where the illness jumps from animals to humans – have been linked to cruelty-ridden wildlife markets, where rare and endangered animals like pangolins, tigers and bears are kept and sold.’

If you’d like to find out more, check out the campaign video (please be aware it contains some upsetting footage of animals). You may also be interested in donating to the EJF to help the campaign reach more people.

Freedom from Torture petition

Another good cause Zoë has recently given her support to is Freedom from Torture’s urgent petition to raise the UK’s asylum allowance, so that people on asylum support aren’t struggling to live on just £5 per day.

‘No one should have to choose between medicine, food, or protection at a time like this,’ asserts the charity.

Scenesaver in the spotlight

Zoë is helping to champion a new website, Scenesaver, which gives actors the chance to showcase their work and theatre fans plenty of Off-West End and international fringe theatre performances to watch at home.

It’s a great way to enjoy and support theatre during the lockdown.

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Zoë talks about lockdown life and The Globe’s future

7 June 2020 22:51

This week has given fans not one but two opportunities to find out how Zoë is getting on during the lockdown – and when she might be able to return to acting.

Sky News interview

On 4 June, Sky News presenter Adam Boulton interviewed her via video link (you can watch most of their chat above).

We heard how Zoë passes the time while her work, such as the third series of Sky’s epic historical drama Britannia, is on hold. ‘I do everything that I do when I’m supposed to be learning my lines!’ she laughed.

Normally she doesn’t watch herself on TV, but Zoë has made an exception for the BBC’s My Family reruns – ‘it’s fascinating to see it’, she said, and realise that the popular sitcom’s jokes are still funny after 20 years.

More My Family outtakes

Incidentally, the makers of My Family have treated us to more highly amusing outtakes following last week’s first batch of bloopers.

Observer interview

Appearing in the show was a novel experience for Zoë, as she explained in a lovely interview with the Observer newspaper, published on 7 June. ‘The reason I did My Family was I’d never been in a sitcom before.’

She praises the show’s ‘clean, sharp and witty’ writing, and adds that ‘the American humour was – is – my kind of humour because I grew up with it’.

Filming on Britannia’s third series had only just begun when the pandemic took hold. Zoë has been informed that ‘we might be able start again, but with single cameras and so on’, when it’s safe to do so.

Zoë looks forward to the day when theatres reopen. ‘I miss sitting in an audience and hearing that silence when something powerful is going on.’

How we can support Shakespeare’s Globe

As reported by BBC News, the pandemic has put Shakespeare’s Globe, the theatre Zoë’s dad founded, under considerable financial pressure. The Globe doesn’t receive annual funding from Arts Council England. The longer it remains closed to the public, the more it’ll struggle to survive – 95% of its revenue comes from ticket sales, tours, workshops, etc.

Zoë is in no doubt that Sam Wanamaker would’ve ‘put up a good fight’ to save the theatre he worked so hard to build if he’d been around today. If you can spare anything, please consider joining me in donating to Shakespeare’s Globe to help it weather this stormy period.

In The Globe’s words, ‘We need your support more than ever before.’

The theatre is a vital part of the arts and culture scene. As Zoë remarked on Sky News, the permanent closure of this ‘very special place’ would be unthinkable – ‘it has to stay’. So please support The Globe if you can.

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Enjoy these never-before-seen My Family outtakes

29 May 2020 17:08

The makers of My Family have a special treat to help us celebrate the hit sitcom’s 20th anniversary. Here's a very enjoyable compilation of never-before-seen outtakes, featuring Zoë, Robert Lindsay (who introduces them) and several of their castmates.

It was revealed during the recent My Family cast reunion on The One Show that fans would soon be able to enjoy laughs from behind the scenes. If you missed the reunion interview with Zoe, Robert Lindsay and Kris Marshall, you can catch up below.

While the outtakes are all from My Family's later series, UK viewers can go right back to the beginning on Friday nights at 8 pm, thanks to BBC One’s series one reruns. In this week’s classic episode, ‘Farewell to Alarms’, the Harpers’ lives are turned upside down by the world’s most temperamental burglar alarm.

For even more laughs (let's face it, we're all in need of light relief right now), you can watch every series of My Family on the BBC iPlayer.

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