How is it that plays that were written almost 400 years ago still bear relevance today? I’m aware that not everyone is a big fan of Shakespeare, namely Emma Rice, Artistic Director of The Globe who stated:
“There’s a lot of theatre, some of it Shakespeare some not, which feels like medicine. You feel like if you can get through it, you’re a better person. I have no interest in that; I can’t bear to be in a theatre that feels like medicine.” (Telegraph, 2016).
If a Shakespeare play does feel like medicine, then it’s obviously not been done very well. I recall watching a production of Hamlet at the Tobacco Factory last year – not that I’m a massive fan of Hamlet as a play anyway, but this production was unbelievably dry. It went down like cod liver oil (if we’re going with the medicine simile). Kate Wyver’s review summarised that the reason for this was a lack of risk – the production was far too safe.
We’ve all studied and watched Shakespeare till we’re blue in the face. Something has to give. This is why I’m highlighting a couple of productions I have seen, and one that I have booked to see that break the mould, make us think and drag out themes and emotions that we may not have even considered before.
Julius Caesar, Bristol Old Vic: Starring Julian Glover from Game of Thrones, this production chose to take a contemporary route, which really accentuated the political angle of the play. The crowds shouting Caesar’s name may as well have shouted Corbyn’s – their demeanour very similar to the passionate Glastonbury attendees only a few weeks back. I had never read or watched Julius Caesar, so had no idea what to expect, but this production was fresh and defiant. The themes of treachery, political arrogance and scheming felt ever present; while Caesar is accused of being a dangerous threat to his people, Corbyn was bashed by every tabloid going leading up to the election.
Twelfth Night, The Globe: This funky, glittery 70’s inspired production was bursting with life and was simply glorious. Not only did it include the fabulous drag queen Le Gateau Chocolat, who truly encapsulated the cross-dressing theme, but Katy Owen who played Malvolio stole the show with her crazed body contortions and facial expressions. I was unfamiliar with the play before going, but the whole concept worked incredibly well. The cheesy camp-ness of the whole thing was in keeping with the cross-dressing, bi-curious elements the plot lends itself to. Luckily, you can still catch this production if you’re quick – it’s on till 5-Aug.
The Tempest, Tea Powered Theatre: A local Bristol theatre company, Tea Powered Theatre specialises in steam punk inspired theatre while serving cream teas with a fabulous selection of teas from Bristol Tea Company. This particular production of The Tempest is directed by Calum Anderson and is set in space where reality ceases to exist; up is down and white is black. Nothing is as it seems. A group of stranded astronauts delve their way into a world of discarded technology and madness. There are a few showings of this in September, so don’t miss out!
– 5-Sep – 7-Sep: Bierkeller Theatre (Cream tea not included)
– 9-Sep – 10-Sep: All Saints Church (Cream tea included) – I’ll be going to this one! 😉
If you have seen any Shakespeare productions recently that you’d like to mention, then please comment or tweet me @theatregirl_94