Ben Crystal

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Ben Crystal
Ben Crystal.jpg
Born1977 (age 45–46)
Ascot, England, United Kingdom
OccupationActor, author, producer
ParentsDavid Crystal
Hilary Crystal

Ben Crystal (born 1977) is an English actor, author, and producer, best known for his work on performing and promoting William Shakespeare and adapting original practices.

Background and career[edit]

Crystal was born in Ascot, Berkshire, the son of linguist David Crystal,[1] and grew up in Wokingham and Holyhead, North Wales. He studied English and linguistics at Lancaster University between 1995 and 1998, before training as an actor.

Acting and curation[edit]

His acting career included an appearance in the 2006 summer season at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, playing a role in Titus Andronicus.[2]

He has curated Shakespeare explorations for Shakespeare's Globe, the Savannah Music Festival, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

He created the Passion in Practice Shakespeare Ensemble in 2010 and curated it through 2016.[3]

In 2013, as curator, producer and creative director of CDs released by the British Library, he produced recordings of Shakespeare's speeches and sonnets in the original pronunciation.[4][5] In 2016, he curated the British Library's Shakespeare Birthday celebrations.

In 2014 (Passion in Practice) were awarded one of the inaugural Owle Schreame Awards for innovation in historical theatre for their work on Original Shakespearean Pronunciation in performance.[6]

He has been the curator of the Shakespeare Ensemble since 2018. In the summer of 2018 he invited artists to North Wales to raise an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in five days. The Dreame Project was free for all, used 16th century lute music, 5 metre tall Bunraku puppets, a deck of clowns, & the audience and Ensemble shared a locally foraged organic meal at the end.

In their 2019 tour of Japan, they raised 3 plays in 7 days. Using modern reworking of Elizabethan rehearsal practices they reimagined the pieces with every pass, and welcomed resonances from modern Kabuki practices.

In 2020 the Shakespeare Ensemble explored collaboration at distance and interrogated the digital arts with their 2020 experimental virtual theatrical promenade, What You Will. It was lauded as "the next iteration of digital theatre" as the promenade theatre style allowed the viewer to decide their narrative route.[7] 2020 also saw Ben Crystal take an involvement in the online series The Show Must Go Online, providing the introduction to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and playing the titular role in Timon of Athens.[8][9]

Original pronunciation[edit]

He has worked with his father David Crystal as advisors on the production of plays in the original pronunciation at the Globe Theatre[10] and they explored original pronunciation in the newly finished Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe over 2014–2016.

Following on from his father's work, he has frequently explored original pronunciation.[11]

Crystal recorded the opening speech from Richard III for the British Library's Evolving English exhibition in 2010–11.[12]

He has also acted in other productions in the original pronunciation with other companies, for example playing the title roles in Hamlet,[13] and Richard II,[14] and produced works through ensembles he has started or is involved in.[15][16][17]

In 2014, he produced an Original Pronunciation production of Macbeth at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.[18] He continued with this project at the Wanamaker with Henry V in 2015 and Dr. Faustus in 2016. In 2015, his company the Crystal Ensemble performed Pericles at Daniel Harding's Interplay Festival in the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra's Berwaldhallen in Stockholm, with Crystal in the lead role.[19] They performed again at the Savannah Music Festival.

Writing and talks[edit]

Crystal's book Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard, was shortlisted for the 2010 Educational Writers Award.[20] Since its publication, he has given workshops and talks on Shakespeare work.[21]

Crystal has also co-written several books with his father. They starting writing Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion after finding that A Shakespeare glossary by Charles Talbut Onions has a number of omissions.[22][23] Other works include The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of Shakespeare, the latter being shortlisted for the Educational Writer of the Year Award in 2016.[24]

In 2014, to celebrate the 450th birthday of Shakespeare, the British Council and the English-Speaking Union welcomed Crystal to give a talk, "Speaking the Bright and Beautiful English of Shakespeare",[25] which he offered again at York in 2019.[26]

In 2017, Crystal gave a TED talk, "Original Practice - Shakespeare's Craft".[27]


  • Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion (2002) with David Crystal[23]
  • The Shakespeare Miscellany (2005) with David Crystal
  • Shakespeare on Toast (2008)[28] -shortlisted for the 2010 Educational Writer of the Year Award
  • Sorry, I'm British! (2010) with Adam Russ and Ed McLachlan
  • Springboard Shakespeare: King Lear (2013)[29]
  • Springboard Shakespeare: Macbeth (2013)[29]
  • Springboard Shakespeare: Hamlet (2013)[29]
  • Springboard Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013)[29]
  • You Said Potato (2014) with David Crystal[30]
  • The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of Shakespeare (2016) with David Crystal - Shortlisted for the Educational Writer of the Year Award, 2016


  1. ^ "About". ben crystal.
  2. ^ Benedict, David (4 June 2006). "Titus Andronicus". Retrieved 4 June 2006.
  3. ^ Ben Crystal takes Shakespeare forwards and backwards, Shakespeare Magazine
  4. ^ Cooper, Charlie (17 March 2012). "'Tuh beh oar nat tuh beh?' That was the question". The Independent.
  5. ^ "The British Library releases the first ever audio CD of Shakespeare spoken in the original pronunciation". British Library.
  6. ^ Loxton, Howard The Owle Schreame Awards for Innovation in Classical Theatre: Passion in Practice, "British Theatre Guide", 19 September (2014)
  7. ^ Allred, Gemma. "Taking Promenade Theatre Online: Shakespeare Ensemble's What You Will". Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  8. ^ "‘A roaring success’: The Show Must Go Online’s Shakespeare series makes an impressive start" My Theatre Mates Retrieved 02 October 2020
  9. ^ "The Show Must Go Online’s Timon of Athens Cast Announced" Theatre Weekly Retrieved 02 October 2020
  10. ^ "Shakespeare, William: Elizabethan English pronunciation". Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  11. ^ "One of the most admired all-rounders in the Shakespeare world, Ben Crystal reckons we should "speak the speech" the way the Bard did. And that means "from the gut and the groin…"". Shakespeare Magazine. 9 March 2015.
  12. ^ Howse, Christopher. "Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, British Library, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  13. ^ "Shakespeare comes to life on campus with "Hamlet" starting Next Week". This is Reno. 22 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Richard II". Prague Shakespeare Company. 30 July 2017.
  15. ^ Woodall, Louie (2 February 2015). "Review: Crystal Ensemble's Pericles in OP: Shakespeare in Stockholm". The Shakespeare Standard.
  16. ^ "Ensemble & History". Passion in Practice.
  17. ^ "About: The Shakespeare Ensemble". The Shakespeare Ensemble.
  18. ^ "An Evening with Ben Crystal and Shakespeare's original pronunciation". Theatre Santa Fe. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  19. ^ Woodall, Louie. "Review: Crystal Ensemble's Pericles in OP | Shakespeare in Stockholm". The Shakespeare Standard. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  20. ^ "TWO Icon titles on shortlist for 2010 Educational Writers Award". Icon Books. 19 November 2010.
  21. ^ Poole, Steven (31 January 2009). "Shakespeare on Toast review". London: Guardian newspaper.
  22. ^ Crystal, Ben; Crystal, David (21 August 2004). "Bard words". The Guardian.
  23. ^ a b Byatt, AS (22 June 2002). "Reading while you're wonder-wounded". The Guardian.
  24. ^ Eyre, Charlotte (7 December 2016). "Maths book wins 2016 educational writers prize". The Bookseller.
  25. ^ Crystal, Ben. "21:05 0:00 / 1:28:34 Speaking the Bright & Beautiful English of Shakespeare". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  26. ^ Crystal, Ben. "Speaking the bright and beautiful English of Shakespeare". University of York. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  27. ^ Crystal, Ben (9 November 2017). "Original Practice - Shakespeare's Craft". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  28. ^ Guest, Katy (26 September 2008). "Shakespeare on Toast, by Ben Crystal". The Independent.
  29. ^ a b c d Elkin, Susan (7 July 2013). "Review: Springboard Shakespeare: King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, By Ben Crystal A guide to Shakespeare's work that should be in every theatre". The Independent.
  30. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (21 October 2014). "Here's How 600 People Around the World Say the Word 'Potato'". Time.

External links[edit]