The Royal Shakespeare Company's Macbeth came to a New York movie screen yesterday, and the effect was not quite as electric as the Julius Caesar of three weeks ago. The good news, perversely, is that the problem lies not in the medium, but the performance. Although some of the acting and staging worked well, the overall impression was somewhat heavy and lacked subtlety, particularly from the supporting cast. The reason this seems like good news to me, is that the filmed-play-in-a-cinema medium seems sufficiently good to allow viewers/watchers to make such judgements. So bravo to the whole concept of filmed plays shown in movie theaters — yet another stage on which Shakespeare's works can shine!
It's well known that in Shakespeare's era, young men played female roles (see here, here, and here). So the circle seems to be coming around on the issue of gender roles on stage with a new production by Michelle Terry (artistic director at The Globe) where gender will play no role in making casting decisions — Ms. Terry will herself play the role of Hamlet. It's an interesting discussion, made perhaps more fraught by today's our own era's uneasy discussions about gender roles and stereotyping.
Henry V seems to get staged much more in England, no doubt as a result of its note of defiance against great odds that came in useful not just at Agincourt, but during the early stages of World War II. This lukewarm review of The Public's production (by their Mobile Unit) praises the casting, but criticizes the staging. Still, good to see Henry V performed in the US.
The Globe (on London's south bank) and Stratford are two of the best known Shakespeare playhouses, but now a third is being build in one of England's poorest neighborhoods, as part of a revitalization plan. The 350-seat Shakespeare North Playhouse will be up and running in Prescott by 2020, and builds on a historical precedent: a playhouse was built there in 1593, though there is no evidence (yet) that Shakespeare ever visited it. Even better for this wonderful story: the replica globe will be build using materials and props built for Shakespeare in Love. Oh, and the title? The original playhouse was built with money provided by the Earls of Derby, and they also sponsored a troupe, called Lord Strange's Men.
Hard on the heels of a favorable review of the latest RSC version of Macbeth, an altogether less kind review, which suggests that success in staging Macbeth is comparatively hard, as opposed to -- say -- Hamlet. An interesting comparison, and a thought provoking review. Two Macbeths currently in production — one at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the other at The National Theatre — get reviewed, and neither fares well
It's always interesting — and sometimes instructive — to see how a story changes when it makes the jump from one medium to another. In this case, The Austin Playhouse is putting on an adaptation for stage of the movie Shakespeare in Love (most recently tainted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal). The review is brief, and gives the adaptation and the performers a solid thumbs up, but acknowledges that it breaks no new ground. A safe, and probably enjoyable evening of theater — just as Shakespeare would have wanted it!
The first reviews are coming out for Theater for a New Audience's The Winter's Tale, and this one from The New York Times is strongly favorable. Beyond its careful parsing of the production and performance, New York Times writer Jesse Green picks out some Shakespeare linguistic gems (the neologism bed-swerver for unfaithful wife) and also casually uses the word Hoyden — which apparently means a boisterous girl.
Well-reviewed in London, we were able to at last see the National Theatre's Julius Caesar performance beamed from London to a movie theater in Manhattan. As a quick comment on the experience — and not to offend ardent theatergoers — a friend of the blog commented that the advantage of watching a "live" play on a screen in a movie theater seems similar to the advantage of seeing a sports game on TV - multiple camera angles, perfect sound, and a greater sense that one is seeing absolutely everything to advantage. The long and the short of it is that watching Julius Caesar via The National Theatre Live program provided an excellent experience, and we recommend it to anyone who might be curious.
A three minute interview with director Erin Arbus. She discusses her vision of what Shakespeare may have been thinking and attempting to do with this play, written after his great tragedies had come out. Redemption? Forgiveness. memorialization on the fifteenth anniversary of his son Hamnet's death? Interesting and thoughtful.
The Winter's Tale, though of one Shakespeare's more obscure and less performed plays, also claims the dubious honor of "the gaudiest stage direction" in the canon: "Exit, pursued by bear". That's a pity, because the play is memorable for more than just that - for example, the bringing back to life of a dead character through the animation of a statue. The play is also sometimes characterized as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", that is a play whose type is hard to categorize. It starts off as a dark drama filled with jealousy, fear, recrimination, and child abandonment, and yet works it's way into a "happily ever after" ending. Tragicomedy? Whatever the type, director Arin Arbus with the Theater for a New Audience, has put up an enjoyable version of the play, and well worth seeing if you are in Brooklyn and have an evening to spare!
After the last few days of humorous posts, a more somber one to end the week. At many prisons across the United States, Shakespeare is used as a tool for educating inmates, and re-integrating them into communities. One of the older of these programs is Curt L. Tofteland's Shakespeare Behind Bars program in Kentucky, started in 1991. Their latest production: A Midsummer Night's Dream, a production which uniquely, requires theatergoers to undergo a background check and security clearance.
A great interview with Christopher Eccleston, an English actor perhaps best known for being the ninth doctor in the storied Dr. Who series. The interview has two great talking points — the fact that accents matter very little in performance (take note those who say that only the English can perform "true Shakespeare"), and also, now that it has been announced that the 13th Doctor Who will be a woman (Jodie Whittaker), that a time is coming when women can — and should — take on the great (traditionally male) roles in Shakespeare's plays. A very humane and thoughtful discussion. Eccleston will play Macbeth in a new RSC production opening in March.
Between 1961 and 2010, The RSC put on sixteen different productions of Romeo and Juliet (including a 1973 production directed by Terry Hands, with Timothy Dalton as Romeo.) (Do they call him Montague…Romeo Montague?) The interactive timeline provides a great teaching resource, allowing teachers to compare and contrast different approaches to the same classic play.
David and Ben Crystal provide a genuine service to Shakespeare lovers (and doubters too, really) by hypothesizing on what Shakespeare's language might have sounded like in its original pronunciation. In addition to being intrinsically interesting, it has an impact on performance, if actors and directors wish to provide an "original" production to their audience. Very worthwhile video clip.
Another production of Julius Caesar, reflecting our growing preoccupation with demagoguery and the virtues and perils of republics and democracies gone awry. Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder, and David Morrisey all put in excellent performances, according to Guardian critic Michael Billington. The play is at the Bridge Theatre, an the set design has audience members be part of the mob.
Turns out, you can attend a performance of Shakespeare, and drink your way through it all. Unorthodox to modern ears, but as this article from NPR points out, likely the approach (for audience members at least) from Elizabethan times. And the name of the troupe? Why, The Drunk Shakespeare Society, of course!
Tom McCall, left, and Stefan Adegbola in Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Titus Andronicus.” “Pretty much every night there’s somebody who faints or is sick,” said Becky Loftus, the R.S.C.’s head of audience insight. “We want to see how the audience reacts physically to the production.” Credit Helen Maybanks/RSC
Does watching a production live, versus on a movie screen, engender a different physiological reaction? The RSC intends to find out. More.
Stephan Wolfert rehearsing his one-man show, “Cry Havoc!”
SARA KRULWICH / THE NEW YORK TIMES
A closer look at how Shakespeare makes sense of war, to veterans and those who have lost friends in war.
A very positive review of a play that resonates in today's political environment. More.
A seasoned (and quite amusing) Pittsburgh theater critic, Ted Hoover, cannot abide Shakespeare and his works. Among his pithier quotes on Studio 360: “If you had a lick of intelligence in your head , this play [Romeo and Juliet] wouldn’t happen. It only happens if you’re stupid.” Possibly... More. Oh, and NPR's Ira Glass also dislikes the bard…
Michael Dorn (Worf in Star trek) is set to play Marc Antony.
A production photo of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collaboration with Intel on “The Tempest.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOPHER MCGRILLIS / R.S.C.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner reviews the RSC's production of the Tempest, and examines the limits of real-time computer effects blended with a live performance.
We can't say we fully (or even partially) understand this review of Taming of the Shrew by the Russian Kachalov Theatre, but in the spirit of acknowledging Shakespeare's global reach, we put it forward here. Opaque though the commentary may be, it certainly seems like a visually arresting production. More.
Tremendous article in the Financial Times detailing the possibilities and pitfalls in translating Shakespeare's works into Mandarin. More.
We here at The New Book Press can't resist the occasional Spoonerism. So, here 'tis! More.
Michael Crichton leaned heavily on Shakespeare's words when writing Westworld. What does it all mean? More.
Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet
The Guardian re-reviews Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet on its 20th anniversary. More.
A fascinating discussion about playing Hamlet from a 1963 BBC TV program (or programme, as you like it). It's a peculiarly chaotic interview, with everyone talking over each other, Wheldon (the host), not controlling the discussion at all, and some fairly poor camera work. However, it's worth listening to what Welles, O'Toole, and Milton are saying. They're thoughtful, humorous, and in their own separate ways, deeply in tune with Shakespeare's masterpiece.
The Globe, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre.
Emma Rice, the Shakespeare Globe's artistic director, will step down at the end of the 2017 season, after clashing with management over the use of sound equipment and lighting rigs. At the heart of the disagreement is whether the Globe should focus on traditional productions that mimic the constraints of Elizabethan theatre tech, or incorporate current theatrical methods (the "shared light" issue in theatre shorthand). For now, the traditionalists have won. More.