The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1129. Monday, 10 November 1997.
Date: Sunday, 9 Nov 1997 11:40:41 -0700
Subject: Hermione and Perdita and Doubling
John Velz: Mary Anderson was the first actress to double Hermione and
Perdita, in 1887; reviewers on the whole found it unconvincing. It has
occasionally been done since, notably by Judi Dench in Trevor Nunn's
1969 Stratford production, but it didn't work for me at all: all my
attention was concentrated on how Nunn was going to bring it off. Not
the least of the problems, John, is that Perdita certainly DOES have
lines in the statue scene: these were cut in Mary Anderson's
script-restoring the mother meant silencing the daughter. I can't recall
what Nunn did with the lines, which is probably relevant-as is the fact
that John doesn't remember that they exist. I've got a little discussion
of the issues involved in this particular bit of doubling in my
introduction to the Oxford Winter's Tale, pages 74ff, with photos of
Anderson in the two roles.
As for the doubling of Theseus/Hippolyta/Oberon/Titania, the most
striking version of this I've ever seen was in Danny Scheie's marvelous
production at Shakespeare Santa Cruz in 1991, in which the doubling was
chiastic: Titania became a ravishing, Garboesque Oberon, Theseus-a very
handsome black actor with a military bearing-became Titania as a
ballerina in a white tutu and blond wig. And the Indian boy, who was
about 20 and mostly naked, was very much in evidence. It was a heap more
transgressive than Peter Brook, I can tell you!