An article from the Guardian
with some potentially interesting quotes from Emma Rice (newly appointed artistic director at the Globe):'One audience member tried to punch an actor': the battle to shake up Shakespearehttp://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/sep/28/experimental-shakespeare-improbable-theatre-tempest-improv
For Kneehigh’s Emma Rice, soon to take over at the Globe, it’s all about storytelling. When she staged Cymbeline – “an impenetrable text” – they changed the script freely. Imogen’s alter-ego became Ian, not Fidele. “It’s not the text that’s leading,” says artistic director Emma Rice, “but it is the story.”
The response was, at times, vitriolic. Critics pooh-poohed it. They weren’t alone. “Late in the run, one audience member tried to punch an actor.” There is, she believes, a level of protectionism. (Witness, too, the recent fuss over moving “To be or not to be” in Hamlet at the Barbican.) “It’s guarded by the few people that have dedicated their lives to understanding it’s [sic] richness, but 99% of people who come and watch a play have not made that pact. If we’re to keep telling stories, we have to change them.”
As one of those people who has dedicated her life to understanding Shakespeare, I suppose (that sounds so silly), I don't think I'm protective
of Shakespeare, as such - but it's sort of like historical drama about real people: most of the "innovations" made in the guise of "freshening up" the story are not as interesting or dramatically satisfying as the original, and often feel like they've just been pasted on top and don't spring naturally from the material. (grumble mutter Tilbury speech in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
(Just as an aside: haven't directors been moving "To be or not to be" around for ages? Did they put it someplace really weird
at the Barbican? Like in a shoe or something?)
...Also, is the name "Fidele" particularly impenetrable? (I recognize that this is only a small example, and probably not one that Emma Rice actually gave.) I mean, I don't know what the name "Ian" means, either, but if you tell me that's a character's name, I will accept it and move on. I also don't know anyone named Posthumus Leonatus, either, so… At a certain point, Shakespeare is just not our contemporary - and that's okay, I think. It's okay that parts of Shakespeare are strange to us, as long as the company putting on the play creates a world for us in which they make sense. (This is actually why I think a lot of modernized Shakespeare doesn't quite work, even though there might be a lot of good things about the production; the director hasn't really given us a reason that cellphones and duels over honor exist in the same place - even though there's no reason that they couldn't
; but you have to make it feel natural somehow.)
Then there's this bit:
It’s telling that these alternative companies are often shunted towards Shakespeare’s lighter, fanciful fare: the Tempest’s magic, Comedy of Errors’s anarchy, Cymbeline’s fairytale. It’s mostly a case of matchmaking – suit the play to the players – but it’s problematic too, a case of pigeonholing artists.Shunted
Why are Hamlet and Othello the preserve of big-name actors and mainstream directors? What might an alternative approach to the Histories look like? It’s almost patronising. Do what you will with Twelfth Night, but keep your hands off Titus Andronicus.
“Nick Hytner asked us to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the National,” remembers Simon McBurney. “I thought ‘Fuck that.’ Everybody wants to see Complicite’s fairies. I decided to take a really political play instead.” He ended up directing Measure for Measure and, shortly after 9/11, putting Paul Rhys’s Claudio into a high-security prison in an orange jumpsuit.
. Shakespeare's lighter, fanciful fare.
Because comedies are just for lesser artists and chumps, of course. (Also, oooooh, an orange jumpsuit! Bring me my smelling salts!) And I would
say this, but Twelfth Night
is actually really hard to get right. I have seen a lot of dismal productions of this play, precisely because everyone thinks it's just an easy lark, and forgets that it's a play about a miracle. /the same Twelfth Night
rant that I give all the time
(I have still never seen a live professional production of Midsummer
, because my life makes no sense, but I think it has the same problems, based on the filmed versions I've seen: people think it's easy because it's got fairies and kids perform in it or get taken to see it, and they completely forget that it needs to have an actual heart to work properly. Playing all the lovers as actually interchangeable ciphers, or not letting us sympathize with what is for Hermia and Helena real pain, or playing Titania in love with Bottom so broadly that her love doesn't resemble any real emotion, just kills the play for me; I can't laugh at it when I don't care about it. I think people think that it should be the opposite - if the emotions are real, then they won't be funny - but for me, at least, comedy doesn't work when there aren't people involved. /shoddily disguised dissertation rant )