Most advanced Shakespeare concepts yet?

Hugh Richmond

Blogging Shakespeare   Jun 07, 2018 04:25 pm

By Kelsey Ridge, the Shakespeare Institute.

I was drawn to Gemma Bodinetz’s Othello at Liverpool’s Everyman largely for its high-concept approach: Othello (played by Golda Rosheuvel) is a lesbian.  An Othello with a lesbian Othello and bisexual Desdemona is one I believe can illuminate the text’s issues and is one I have wanted to see for years.  Unfortunately, despite the clarity of the concept, this production never managed to execute the necessary depth to achieve luminosity.  Its weak spots largely surround what had been key to its concepts: gender and queer sexuality. . . .


The New Shakespeare Vein: Wordless

Among the many new directorial innovations use of sign-language is highly favored, as in the recent Shakespeare's Globe As You Like It in London, where Celia was wordless, The effect has become fashionable, as in the recent Canadian Hamlet by the Why Not Theatre at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa (2019) as reviewed by Peter Kuling in Shakespeare Bulletin (37.3, Fall, 2919, 454-60):

"The show cut many short scenes, . . . but emphasized more important ones by opting to have them completely signed. For example, all of Horatio's were signed by the female Deaf actor playing him, Fawn Jani Birely, who also remained on stage and signed Hamlet's monologues. . . . Christine Horne, who played Hamlet, would intermittently sign as she spoke throughout the show. Hamlet and Horatio sharing scenes as well as sign- dialogue worked to offer new narrative potential for the audience, many of whom may never have seen Shakespeare signed for the first time. . . .The company forced its audience to stop relying on reading lips or hearing voices, making everyone see and hear  what we could  while drawing upon our existing knowledge  of how the famous pay ends. . . . . The final scene of the play was directed  as a fencing match without props or movement of any kind. . . .The production made its final scene harder to comprehend as a simple resolution of the plot, using blocking and performance to directly undo cultural assumptions we bring to the theatre about how Hamlet should end."

One is tempted to rephrase the Austrian Emperor's supposed reproach to Mozart about his multiple notes: "Words, - too many words, Mr. Shakespeare - too many words."

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