Commodity culture doesn’t want Shakespeare, it wants Shakespeare without Shakespeare.
Doubtlessly William Shakespeare is one of the most important and influential dramatist of the world. His work in literature and drama is considered to be as very important, thus most of his poems and plays were translated into other languages reaching every corner of the world. Shakespeare’s work continued to flourish even after his death, as other theatre practitioners continued to produce his successful plays. His plays are still being produced in the present time by various contemporary theatre practitioners; however their productions are done within a considerable difference.
Different contemporary theatre practitioners are adopting Shakespearean plays, however they modify the play in order to suit their ideas. This means that they do not centrally stage the play, but they incorporate their own methods, and hence subject Shakespeare into the world of the modern artist. Consequently contemporary theatre directors are no longer performing Shakespeare in a conventional way instead they are incorporating other mediums such as digital technology in order to create innovative performance
French theatre director Robert Lepage is a contemporary theatre practitioner who adopted various Shakespearean plays. He is considered by many as a genius in his use of video and multimedia projections through which he transforms the theatrical space. Shakespeare’s plays are quite important for Lepage in fact he produced several adaptations of his plays such as; Midsummer night dreams and Macbeth. All these productions were quite successful however, his most popular and successful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play is Hamlet. To Lepage ‘Hamlet’ is an interesting play mainly because of the links that the main character Hamlet, creates between his own taught and the acts he had to make, in fact Lepage declares that;
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare is the last comedy of his career. The main character, Prospero, is the exiled Duke of Milan. He lives on an enchanted island and seeks the opportunity to punish and forgive his enemies by raising a tempest that drives them ashore. At first glimpse, the storm in the play appears to be more than Mother Nature acting up. Just as the tempest is more than a storm; ...
‘What draws me to ‘Hamlet’ is his ability to forge a link between the acts he must undertake and his own thoughts. In a private moment, he says to Horatio ‘Give me that man that is not passion’s slave and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart.’ And yet, isn’t the absence of blind passion that prevents him from doing what he has to do? In any case, ‘Elsinore’ is not a real ‘Hamlet’, but a tentative exploration of the intricacies of his thought and times and in some sense of my own.’ (Robert Lepage, 1995)
As a matter of fact, Lepage was mainly interested in portraying Hamlet’s taught more than the entire story. Moreover he believed that in theatre the audience had to be immersed in the production’s arguments; therefore the audience has to sense the themes. Whilst making his own selections and choosing what was mostly appropriate for him he came up with the whole production, in fact in an interview with Richard Eyre he had declared that he had left out most of the text in order to change the traditional play and make it his own.
…… A lot has been left out, some things have been watered down, some have been cut, some completely refashioned and remodelled. So it’s not really Hamlet. I was trying to explore some of the themes of Hamlet, trying to see how, by juggling around with group of technicians, musicians-other people than my usual group of actors-I could try to find a way of understanding how Hamlet is constructed, what it has to say, what the different themes are. What I decided was to piece together the bits that were performable by one person. No, not for one person, for me’ (Lepage, 1997)
Please choose the best answer for the following questions. 1.The theatre may be considered a conservative institution because it conserves or preserves a.a consistent ideology characteristic of political parties. b.the history and conventional way of working as a theatre. c.the political and economic views of the time. d.the moral attitudes of a select group of people. Answer: b 2.Postmodern ...
Though Lepage’s aim was not that of centrally staging Shakespeare’s play he gave some important to his text, in fact he starts his production with a ghost voice over stating the popular Shakespearean text ‘to be or not to be’. Through this Lepage illustrated to the audience that this production included an exploration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet play. The whole production includes an appropriation of the Hamlet text itself, where Lepage played the entire roles and spoke all the lines by himself. However, Lepage could have never created a superior production without the aid of digital technology and multimedia.
(Richard Paul Knowles, 1998)
The set of Elsinore consisted of modular flats manipulated by a computer-controlled hydraulic system. The flats were on porpusly made so that projections such as slides, video and other lightning elements can be projected on it. As a matter of fact, the incorporation of machines is very strong in Elsinore thus machinery takes on the role of the actor. However contemporary theatre practitioners such as Lepage believe that through the use of machines and digital technologies they can create innovative performances. Despite this highly use of digital technologies Lepage argues that his production is quite diverse then a cinema film. He states that in his productions he does not implies the audience point of view but he opts to give the audience various points of view of the scene. He believes that the audience must be given the chance for its own imagination because after all the audience in theatre must be able to think the way they want.
Robert Wilson is another contemporary theatre practitioner whom just as Robert Lepage adopts Shakespearean plays. Before discussing Wilson’s most important adaptation of Shakespeare’s play; ‘Hamlet a monologue’ I am going to illustrate some of Wilson’s most important aspects of theatre. Though most of the contemporary theatre practitioners opt to create different playing space, Wilson believed that the proscenium arch played an important role in the spatial dynamics of theatre. Apart from being an important element which reminds the audience that they are actually in a theatre space for Wilson the proscenium arch allows the audience to hear better and beside this it also balances his structures. Wilson truly believed in the power of the proscenium arch thus he stages most of his avant-garde performances within such theatrical dimensions. Moreover Wilson disliked naturalistic theatre. For him to be on stage is already something artificial in fact he asserts that: ‘Theatre for me is something totally artificial. If you don’t accept it as something totally artificial then it’s a lie’ (Wilson, 2003, cited in Shevtsova 2007, p58).
The Group Theatre began as a small company that provided actors and actresses with a means and a location to practice plays. Three people, Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford formed The Group Theatre. The Group Theatre escalated in 1931 and ended abruptly in 1941 prevailing through the years there were hits, periods of flops, financial straits, depressing inactivity, and spiraling ...
Nevertheless, Wilson believed that any acting had to be credible so that the audience can relate to the actions.
Apart this, Wilson also gives a significant importance to light. He declares that there is no space without light and hence there is no theatre; ‘The theatre is ‘architecture of space and light….Without light there is no space. Space and time co-exist’ (Wilson 1999, cited in Shevtsova 2007, p 63).
For him light constitutes the space, this means that it is through light that his performance reaches the right setting. Light is so much important to Wilson to the certain extent that for him in the end it assumes the role of the actor; ‘When an object is lit, and you cut out all the other lights…. play occurs, and light assumes the function of an actor’ (Wilson, 1992, cited in Shevtsova 2007, p 64).
In consequence Wilson uses lights to create communicative aspects thus his visual becomes his text. For instance to create pauses, he holds a shade while to create exclamation marks he portrays black flashes. Therefore through light, Wilson is able to create the right tempo and environment for his performance. Wilson also associates light with emotions; in fact he takes sense both from the text and from the drama and translates it into light colour.
Most of these elements are incorporated in one of Wilson’s most important productions which he entitles ‘Hamlet a monologue’. This production is not the only Shakespearean production that Wilson produces in fact he also produced King Liar as a monologue and The Winter’s tale. In the winter’s tale performance, Wilson kept quite tight with Shakespeare’s plot and characters however this is not the case with Hamlet a monologue. Wilson eliminates most of the text reducing the play to only one and a half hour. He deletes most of the characters which were related to the theme of war such as that of Fortinbars. Moreover he also plays the parts which are centrally related to Hamlet by himself. He indicated most of his role switches by changing the space, movement voice and costumes. Wilson eliminates various characters so that he could focus on Hamlet’s long journey of life. Indeed in Wilson’s production Hamlet continuously speak to himself whilst thinking about his past actions. It’s as if he is witnessing his own life before his death. Thus it can be stated that this production reflects deeply on space and time. Such evidence can be seen from the very start of the play as Wilson changes Shakespeare’s structure of the play and starts his production with the words ‘Had I but time’ (Shevtsova 2007).
Shakespeare has included the witches in the play for several reasons. First, these supernatural beings have an important part in the storyline of the play; without them the play would not be as exciting. Then, they are there to thrill and entertain the audience. Furthermore, Shakespeare included them to please King James. The witches also play a significant part in the moral of the play: witches ...
Besides the verbal frame this play is also complemented with a visual frame. Wilson uses as part of his stage a pile of charcoal. In the opening scenes Wilson lies sideways with his back to the audience on this pile. As time went by this pile starts to diminish as if it was eluding that Hamlet’ s time is soon coming to an end. Through this pale of charcoal Wilson also wanted to make reference to the physical place and social milieu which Hamlets allude to through the course of the play. Therefore with just one element Wilson managed to create the right staging for his productions through which the audience can relate to. I had previously stated that Wilson incorporated projection light in most of his performances and Hamlet a monologue is no exception. Throughout this performance Wilson projected coloured light, from flashes of red to sparkles of green in order to evoke the emotions undergoing in the play. Beside coloured light Wilson’s production also incorporated music and sound effects which as the coloured light where used to better the performance and help the audience to relate more to the production. (Maria Shevtsova 2007)
Apart from being adopted by European theatre directors, Shakespeare’s plays are also produced by Asian theatre practitioners; one of the most popular is Tadashi Suzuki. Suzuki is a Japanese contemporary theatre practitioner, writer and philosopher. One of the most important things that Suzuki is noted for is, his own form of actor training, which is known as ‘The Suzuki method of Actor training’. The aim of this form of actor training is to develop the actor’s inner physical sensibilities and aids the actor to reach a higher level of concentration. Through this the actor will become aware of his own abilities and would be able to give a powerful and energetic performance. On the other hand, these exercises are not introduced directly into the performances as they are not intended for such practices. In fact Suzuki himself declares that “it will result in a series of stiff concrete shapes appear production” (Suzuki cited in Paul Allain, 2002).
The Globe Theatre also known as the Shakespeare Globe Theatre was not only one of most famous playhouse's of all time, but the play house where Shakespeare performed many of his greatest plays. Built from oak, deal, and stolen playhouse frames, the 3 storey, 3000 capacity Globe Theatre, co-owned by William Shakespeare has become almost as famous as the playwright himself. On the expiry of the ...
The aim of these exercises is that to prepare the actor both physically and mentally. Through this the actor would have a better control of his body and this would enable him to perform better. ‘Animal Energy is an important element in Suzuki’s notion of theatre as; he urged his actors to convey meaning to the audience through physicality. As a matter of fact Tadashi’s performances are rather aggressive and energised. (Paul Allain, 2002)
Suzuki is quite famous for adopting other plays mostly Greek ones, but he had also adopted Shakespearean plays. One of Suzuki’s most important Shakespearean plays he had adopted is ‘The tail of Liar’. Suzuki had performed this play for the first time in 1984 changing its name to ‘King Liar’. He had brought several changes to Shakespeare’s original play; in fact he reduced a considerable amount of the text. However he did not write the play from scratch thus, Shakespeare’s text remains the core of his production. Apart from reducing the text he had also exiled one of the most important characters of the play, Kent. As a character Kent was quite loyal and reliable, but since through Shakespeare’s play Suzuki sought to expose human evil he decided to eliminate him from his production.
Another important element in Suzuki’s production is the fact that it was produced by an all male cast. He sought to produce this play in such a way so as to resemble Elizabethan, Greek, noh and kabuki tradition. Through an all male cast he could also create an aggressive and intense mood. In fact various critiques argue that Suzuki believe that aggression is portrayed better through men. Another reason why Suzuki chooses an all male cast could be the fact that through this play he also wanted to portray Japanese society where power is traditionally controlled by men. (Paul Allain, 2002)
William Shakespeare authorship: The text of Hamlet contains indications that Shakespeare portrayed himself a san allegedly dead university graduate. HAMLET: A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS, OR THE TRAGICAL FATE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE? by Alfred Barkov To the contents When the text of William Shakespeare: a mask for Hamlet - Christopher Marlowe? William Shakespeare Hamlet is read attentively, and no details ...
Performing Shakespearean plays is not that easy as it seems. In fact one of the major problems that Suzuki encountered whilst producing this play is that of the pronunciation of the text. Though Suzuki gives various vocal exercises during his workshops critique Paul Allain declares that he had not yet found the right approach to tackle the delivery of such a complex text. He continues by stating that;
Shakespeare’s words can easily be obscured in performance if spoken in a state of possession, if ‘uttered’. Recitation of the text needs to appear to be spontaneous, but it also needs to be conscious and decided, such is its linguistic complexity. As well as their stories, Shakespeare’s plays are brought alive by the richness of metaphor rhythm and numerous other verbal devices which can be masked by excessive speed or incantation’.
(Paul Allain, 2002, p 174)
In consequence one can argue that the beauty of Shakespeare’s text created through metaphors and rhymes could have been diminished through the energetic and aggressive movements that Suzuki usually introduced into his productions. On the other hand it is through these movements that Suzuki managed to create an impressive production. His aim of adopting Shakespeare was not to perform Shakespeare in a traditional way but rather to infuse traditional Asian elements with those of the Eastern. To him body and language had to be assigned as the original universals of human expression. He believed that linguistic power of expression had highly developed in Western drama whilst physical expressions had mostly developed in Japanese culture. By combining these two traditions he could create an effective method by which he can re-form language and body into universals of expression. Therefore his notion of theatre was that of creating equilibrium between these two traditions in a way that the audience would be capable to understand this body language expression.
Consequently these examples mentioned above show us that contemporary theatre practitioners are adopting Shakespearean plays but at the same time they are incorporating their ideas into their productions. As a matter of fact they are not performing the traditional Shakespeare but they are adopting his text, modify it, until they reach their desirable outcome. Some might argue that such practices might be destroying Shakespeare’s original structure and text. However others suggest that there is nothing wrong in adopting Shakespearean plays as through this Shakespeare will remain alive. In my opinion I think that contemporary theatre practitioners are doing well in adopting Shakespeare’s plays and infuse their ideas because in the present time the audience is eager to see innovative performances and different ideas rather than established and traditional ones.
* Allain Paul, 2002, The art of stillness- The theatre practice of Tadashi Suzuki, Methuen Publishing Limited, London
* Lavender Andy, 2001, Hamlet in Pieces: Shakespeare Revisited by Peter Brook, Robert Lepage and Robert Wilson, published in the United States by the Continuum International Publishing group.
* Shevtsova Maria, 2007, Robert Wilson, Rutledge, Oxon
* Knowles Richard Paul, 1998, from Dream to Machine: Peter Brook, Robert Lepage and the Contemporary Shakespearean director as (Post)Modernist, published by The Johns Hopkins University press, Last accessed 15/02/2011.
* Robert Lepage and Richard Eyre, 1997, Robert Lepage in conversation with Richard Eyre , published by Platform papers-National Theatre
* Wolff Tamsen, 1998, Shakespeare and Theatrical Modernisms, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, last accessed 14/02/2011
http://exmachinalepage.blogspot.com, last accessed on 14/1/11