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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: My Old Brain Is Troubled
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2661  Monday, 26 November 2001

[1]     From:   M. Yawney <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Nov 2001 09:45:14 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled

[2]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Nov 2001 19:30:17 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M. Yawney <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Nov 2001 09:45:14 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled

I think the problem is less that Shakespeare is dying out, than that the
production may have been overloaded with invention.

This kind of concept production is like a high-wire act--when it works
it is spectacular, but when it does not, it simply does not. I think you
may have run into a problem that many "high concept" productions do.
Often the production elements rest like an oily film over the play
rather than mixing in with it and enlivening it.

After seeing many such productions, it was a revelation to see
Cheek-by-Jowls all male production of As You Like It since it was done
so simply. No particular time or place setting. Functional design rather
than beautiful. And the production got most of its laughs from the lines
themselves rather than physical business that accompanied the lines.

This sort of austere rigorous production is hard to do for experienced
actors, let alone teenagers, so I do think you would have to do the sort
of concept production that you did here. The fact that your other
productions got a more enthusiastic response than this one indicates
that you are doing something right and that maybe the balance was just
off here.

Sometimes a production concept is so striking that it leaves the play in
the lurch. I know of a similar production which used the song "Just One
Look" for Titania awakening with Bottom. The song was so apt, the
choreography so funny, that the dialogue was a let down.

I hope this helps. It certainly sounds as if you are doing some
wonderful work there.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Nov 2001 19:30:17 +0100
Subject: 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2648 My Old Brain Is Troubled

>Is Shakespeare a dying part of culture?

Well, Shakespeare has been receding linguistically from all Anglophone
cultures since he died in 1616, and left the language changing without
him.  Arguably he recedes less quickly than his contemporaries (notably
Jonson I think) because of his familiarity - but you can't stop
linguistic change.

This produces two paradoxes, which many on this list may savour:

1 It is arguable that Shakespeare will last longer in non-Anglophone
cultures where he is retranslated regularly, and so remains accessible

2  The cultural weight we attach to Shakespeare in the Anglophone world,
and which guarantees that people will sit politely through stuff they
have no idea about (and most of us on this list, if we're honest, have
probably done that), prevents us accepting 'translations' of Shakespeare
into Present-day English - and thus effectively signs his cultural
death-warrant

As long as there are Anglophone cultures, Shakespeare is likely to be a
cultural symbol - but you don't need to be read or understood to be one
of those.

Jonathan Hope
Strathclyde University, Glasgow

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