Judi Dench as Isabella and Alec McCowen as Richard II

Judi Dench as Isabella and Alec McCowen as Richard II

Judi Dench is one of the finest actresses working today. She is a familiar face from television and film, winning awards for her roles as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown and as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. Her most recent appearances as M in the James Bond films have introduced her to a whole new audience.

However, it was as a classical stage actress that Dench first made her mark, in seasons with the Old Vic (having been cast as Ophelia in 1957, straight out of drama school), and at Stratford-upon-Avon with the then newly formed RSC. The range of her playing ability is extraordinary. She can play innocence, mischief, seduction, fury, anguish, or despair all with absolute truth. She can fill a theatre with the power of her performance, or turn a cinematic scene with the flicker of an eyelid.

Here she is seen as another queen, Isabella, in the 1960 Old Vic production of Richard II, with Alec McCowen (in the foreground) as the king. She put her distinctive voice to good use in their farewell scene which was 'poignantly played'.