Within a couple of years I was watching as many productions as I could convince my mum to take me to. I remember seeing Alan Rickman and then Kenneth Branagh play Hamlet within a few months of each other and being struck by how wildly different they were. The next milestone for me was Robert Stephens's King Lear. I watched him hobble on stage from the upstage right wing, carrying Cordelia as if it was the last thing he would ever do and the only thing that mattered. It broke my heart.
Shakespeare is simply the best playwright we have ever produced – the most wonderful storyteller, the most exquisite poet. When Dominic Dromgoole asked me to come to the Globe to direct As You Like It I hesitated, because I thought you had to be part of a special club to direct Shakespeare. I soon realised that's simply not true: you don't have to be an English scholar or an expert of any kind. Shakespeare tells such universal stories that all you have to be is a mother, or a father, or a lover, or a child, or a politician (or a monarch) to understand the worlds he creates. He speaks for us all. He understands the beating of the human heart so well that it's there not only in his language but in the very rhythm of his poetry.
For some actors, performing Shakespeare comes naturally: I've just directed Tom Hiddleston in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Henry V, and his deft delivery of the poetry makes it perfectly accessible to the listener. But whether it's on screen, on stage or on the page, Shakespeare's words stick in the mind forever. They can move us to tears, teach us to be bigger than we thought we could be, sum up that feeling of catching your breath when you fall in love, and help us to find our place in that universal world which is Shakespeare's and ours: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."
The Hollow Crown, a series of four of Shakespeare's history plays, begins on 30 June on BBC2 with Richard II. Henry V airs on 21 July