Judi Dench talks Shakespeare and faith in Warwick

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Dame Judi Dench spoke of her love of Shakespeare, her faith and links with St Mary’s church when she opened a major exhibition in Warwick.

The renowned stage and screen actor was invited to launch the Shakespeare 400 Festival - a celebration of history, heritage and faith, on Thursday.

The evening opened the display of a Shakespeare First Folio which contains 36 plays and dates back to 1623, and a first edition of the King James Bible.

The two iconic texts will be on display in the church until June in what Dame Judi said was “very exciting”.

She said: “I love Warwickshire, and to be able to see the First Folio and King James Bible here is just quite overwhelming. I think that these are the two most beautiful examples of the English language that have ever been.

“To think that book was published in 1623 is incredible. I just wanted to get in and turn the pages.

I think for everyone in Warwick and further afield to have two of these texts to see is wonderful and a great privilege

Judi Dench

“I was meant to be here and I am thrilled to be here. I think for everyone in Warwick and further afield to have two of these texts to see is wonderful and a great privilege.”

She also spoke of the huge impact Shakespeare’s words have on life today, and how a passion for those words have helped shape her own life and career.

“Because I’ve done so many of the plays I find very often there’s something I think you think of which is so apt for an occasion.

“Shakespeare says something in just a few words when it would take us a paragraph or a chapter.”

“I have always have a love for the stage and was always dressing up and performing plays. When I was just seven or eight years old, my brothers were performing and I was taken and I was completely hooked.

“My parents were very enthusiastic and they took me to see Cuckoo in the Nest, I laughed so much I made myself sick and my mother had to take me home. “She took me back the next day to see what happened, that is what you need if you have a passion. Always follow it up.”

Dame Judi, who has played almost all of Shakespeare’s characters in her long career, said she also has “wonderful connections” with Warwick, St Mary’s church and Stratford where will this weekend be celebrating the 400th year since the writer’s death.

The actor will star in a live performance on stage on Saturday, and events in Stratford will continue across the weekend.

She also spoke about her own Christian faith and Quaker worship, and how it inspires her work and life. Dame Judi said: “Becoming a Quaker gave me a kind of quiet inside.

“I don’t think I’ve got a quiet inside but it’s given me the impression I have.”

The Shakespeare 400 festival at St Mary’s church is now open until June 30, with the texts on display each day and poetry evenings, lectures and film screenings.

Visit St Mary’s church to find out more about what is on when, and to book tickets.

Judi Dench with Rev. Vaughan Roberts at St Mary's

Judi Dench with Rev. Vaughan Roberts at St Mary's