From TLS - 'Emotional stranglehold'

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.025  Monday, 1 February 2016


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 30, 2016 at 9:49:32 AM EST

Subject:    From TLS - 'Emotional stranglehold'


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in a recent TLS. I will provide excerpts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]


Emotions in stranglehold

Lucy Munro

William Shakespeare



William Shakespeare and George Wilkins


Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, until April 21


The current season in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse deserts the intriguing Jacobean and Caroline curios of the previous two years for something more familiar. “Winter Shakespeare” presents four of the “late” plays – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest – omitting the collaborations with John Fletcher that occupied Shakespeare’s final years: Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Part of the considerable allure of this season is the chance to see these plays by candlelight. The late plays are often associated with the indoor Blackfriars playhouse, used by the King’s Men in tandem with the outdoor Globe from late 1609 or early 1610. This is somewhat misleading, given that Pericles was first performed around 1607–08. However, there was probably little difference between the Globe and Blackfriars repertories in the 1610s; it is therefore perhaps unsurprising that Dominic Dromgoole’s Pericles feels wholly at home in the Wanamaker while, conversely, Sam Yates’s Cymbeline sometimes feels confined by it.


Both productions make use of the full auditorium in terms of their staging, repeatedly placing actors in the area in front of the stage and in the walkway leading to the foyer. However, the lighting for Cymbeline is more centred on the stage: most of the lights are placed on or above it, and in the first half a set of trays with candles act almost as conventional spotlights. The action thus feels more restricted, though this sensation is exploited to great effect in the battles of the second half, which constantly give the impression that they might explode beyond the stage’s confines.


One of the sternest challenges for a director staging Cymbeline is knowing quite what to do with its humour – are the characters in on the joke? Or are they blissfully unaware of their own potential absurdity? With its gleefully wicked stepmother, lost children and host of reversals and revelations, it is not always easy to know whether one is laughing at or with Cymbeline. And despite some striking moments, Yates’s production seems not yet to have worked out fully where it stands.


[ . . . ]


In contrast, Pericles emerges in Dromgoole’s vibrant production as a bravura piece of storytelling. It opens with the entire cast either on or around the stage, singing and talking to audience members. The cast then blow out the candles, and Sheila Reid’s kindly, bird-like Gower emerges from the trapdoor, taper in hand, to introduce the oppressive court of the incestuous king Antiochus (Simon Armstrong). The two storm scenes, the second of which separates Pericles (James Garnon) temporarily from his wife Thaisa (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) when she appears to die in childbirth, are staged with economy and flair. The first leaves Pericles tangled in rigging, suspended above the stage, in which undignified position he is found by the fishermen whose humour first helps to dispel the aura of Antiochus’s court. The second uses simple means – a plank thrust out from the stage into the auditorium, a sail stretched across the centre of the stage, a welter of drums and swaying actors – to support and sustain the raw emotion of Pericles’s reaction to Thaisa’s death.


Where the production succeeds most brilliantly, however, is in the scenes featuring Pericles and Thaisa’s daughter, Marina (Jessica Baglow). Carried away from certain death by a pack of energetic pirates, Marina is deposited in the brothel at Mytilene, where she proceeds to convert all its customers to “honest” behaviour, much to the disgust of Kirsty Woodward’s Bawd, Fergal McElherron’s Pander and Dennis Herdman’s Bolt. Woodward, McElherron and Herdman almost steal the show, riffing on Shakespeare and George Wilkins’s lines with easy confidence and creating an effortlessly sleazy backdrop for Marina’s miracles. Dromgoole also handles Marina’s conversion of the governor of Mytilene, Lysimachus (Steffan Donnelly), with a sure hand. Many recent productions of Pericles have distrusted the original text, in which Marina’s speeches are comparatively brief, and they have often supplemented it with material taken from Wilkins’s “novelization”, The Painful Adventures of Pericles, published in 1608, shortly before the play itself. In these adaptations, Marina is given far more to say, but her conversion of Lysimachus depends on her making herself abject: “O my good lord”, she tells him, “kill me but not deflower me / Punish me how you please but spare my chastity”. Although Dromgoole takes some four or five lines from Painful Adventures, Baglow’s Marina does not weep or abase herself; instead, she takes Lysimachus’s hand and then places her hand on his chest, a gesture that she repeats in her later conversion of Bolt. Crucially, Lysimachus is unusually young and, apparently, sexually inexperienced, and his response to Marina’s words and gestures is to collapse and sob violently.


[ . . . ]




From TLS - 'Banish all the world'

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.024  Monday, 1 February 2016


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 29, 2016 at 1:27:22 PM EST

Subject:    From TLS - 'Banish all the world'


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in a recent TLS. I will provide excerpts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]


Banish all the world

Charles Shafaieh



St Ann’s Warehouse, New York, until December 13

Published: 25 November 2015


“Make way! Prisoners coming through!” shouts a guard in the foyer of St Ann’s Warehouse. Twelve women in chains and matching grey uniforms follow him through the room, paying no attention to the voyeurs finishing their pre-show espressos. The entire affair lasts less than a minute, and almost instantaneously, the crowd’s energy picks up again. The air of seriousness that the director Phyllida Lloyd hopes to convey with this spectacle seems strained, however, as it does occasionally elsewhere in her otherwise faultlessly delivered and emotionally charged Henry IV.


Lloyd returns to the same prison setting of her acclaimed Donmar production of Julius Caesar, in which the actors are inmates performing Shakespeare’s play. The Roman tragedy is a favourite in programmes like Shakespeare Behind Bars in America and the UK’s Clean Break, which bring theatre into prisons for rehabilitation purposes. For some of the incarcerated, killing is not an abstract concept. In their performances, lines like Brutus’s assertion that “we shall be called purgers, not murderers” for killing Caesar are imbued with a potency inaccessible, for better or worse, to actors living calmer lives. By evoking this harsh reality, the conceit – inspired, it seems, by the text itself – was brilliant, giving the work an immediacy often lost on contemporary audiences.


Henry IV too contains parallels with this cold environment. Much like the royal line of succession dismantled by Henry when he deposed Richard II, hierarchy in prisons can rest on shaky foundations. Most respected, or at least feared, at the start of this production is the inmate who assumes the role of the king, played by an unrecognizable Harriet Walter with slicked back hair and a gaunt, steely-eyed complexion. Subtly alluding to Henry’s anxiety regarding his reign’s questionable legitimacy, she utters every word with immense gravity and conviction, as if aware that her authority may vanish in an instant. Jade Anouka’s firecracker Hotspur, topped with a flash of red hair, convinces as the threatening leader of a rival gang. She bounces around the stage in perpetual motion, a boxer with her hands wrapped in red tape as she trains for battle. Hers is not the only faction with stakes in a potential change in the power structure, as Jackie Clune’s feisty Glendower and the Douglas (Susan Wokoma) make evident – though the former is most memorable for introducing unexpected levity to the Welshman’s grand claims that “the earth did shake when I was born”. This violence can also break families apart, which makes the impassioned pleas of a bathrobe-clad Lady Percy (Sharon Rooney), begging her husband and father-in-law not to leave her side, that much more anguished.


Each character feels necessary to the narrative, and as a result, no actor seems less important than any other. Showcasing one star above the rest of the cast is a tradition these women want abolished (among many other patriarchal practices, including non-gender-blind casting). This pure sense of ensemble is not the only way the company has produced a progressive kind of Shakespeare. Myriad accents – Irish, Indian, Scottish, cockney – and even the Spanish languge itself sing through the theatre. That not a word is lost or intent made unclear should give more conservative directors pause. The single instance of RP, or at least a conscious parody of it, elicits the evening’s biggest laughs, as Sophie Stanton’s show-stealing Falstaff impersonates Henry as a cross between Lady Bracknell and Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess. At no point does it feel awkward or unnatural for these women (or the women they portray) to take on these parts. On the contrary, it even feels necessary at times, as they subvert Part I simply by being on stage at all, considering it has the fewest lines for women in all the history plays. They also bring instances of misogyny in the text to the foreground, such as a series of lewd insults Falstaff makes about Mistress Quickly which here devolve into an off-book moment of intensified sexual degradation that drives the woman playing the hostess to tears.


Less effective, however, is the invented frame story. Like many critics and directors, Lloyd ignores the obvious: that the Henry IV plays are actually about Henry IV. Instead, she heavily condenses both texts (using Part I primarily) and builds the narrative too much around Hal’s maturation. She then turns this into a rehabilitation story of sorts for the inmate playing the prince (Clare Dunne) who, the moment the show begins, shares news of her impending release. Some alterations do work to the production’s advantage. Conflating the civil conflicts from Part II with Shrewsbury raises the dramatic tension surrounding the final battle, and were this Part I alone, we could not witness Walter’s masterly turn berating Hal when he prematurely takes up the crown. Other changes feel ironic though, such as the excision of Doll Tearsheet, one of the few “female” roles, which in turn removes the scene in which both she and Mistress Quickly are arrested on murder charges and taken away – to prison.


[ . . . ]




From TLS - 'Sombre Revels'

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.023  Monday, 1 February 2016


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 29, 2016 at 1:12:58 PM EST

Subject:    From TLS - 'Sombre Revels'


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in a recent TLS as did the next three to follow. I will provide excerpts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]


Mistress of sombre Revels

Katherine Duncan-Jones



Garrick Theatre, until January 16, 2016

Published: 18 November 2015


To take first things first: Dame Judi Dench’s Paulina is charismatic, tender and subtle, and brilliantly holds the episodic Winter’s Tale together. Whether speaking or silent, she functions as its essential Chorus and the charismatic Mistress of this play’s rather sombre Revels, as well as a figure of calm wisdom. Her choric presence helps us to tune in to the mood of each dramatic segment. Her performance is further complemented by the gentle authority of Michael Pennington’s smaller but highly significant role as Antigonus, Paulina’s courageous husband.


At first sight, this splendid Winter’s Tale resembles a traditional Christmas show – exactly what a newcomer to the West End might expect to encounter in the opulently refurbished red-and-gold Garrick Theatre. Visually, it evokes the Nutcracker, showing a doted-on boy eagerly preparing to open his presents and play with his new toys. Looking beyond the royal drawing room, we glimpse the beautiful eight-month-pregnant Queen Hermione (Miranda Raison) flirting and canoodling with the Bohemian Polixenes (Hadley Fraser), and a few minutes later the pair skate on unseen ice together. These opening tableaux are far too pretty to be true. We may wonder whether the flirtatious Hermione is merely performing the correct diplomatic role of a good hostess – but if so, she certainly seems to be overdoing it – especially when we learn that she has been behaving like that for eight months. Meanwhile, there are hints that her husband may feel most at home among his male courtiers.


The ensuing metamorphosis of Leontes (Kenneth Branagh) from proud, playful father to manic and furious cuckold is genuinely terrifying. He never becomes ridiculous, as supposed or actual cuckolds often do in other plays, but commands the theatre with his rage. Since we ourselves have so recently witnessed Hermione’s distinctly overplayed good hostess role, we can empathize with him. Indeed, audience members encountering the play for the first time will probably do so. When news arrives of the utterly unexpected death of the sprightly child Mamillius, that opening Christmassy gathering appears to foreshadow the destiny of the doomed Romanovs. The Russian theme is not irrelevant, for later we hear the innocent, doomed Hermione deliver one of the best lines in the play: “The Emperor of Russia was my father”.


To put The Winter’s Tale into a Jacobean context: four plays categorized as Shakespeare’s Late Romances share familial themes. With a fruitful royal family on the throne, Jacobean subjects anticipated royal marriages, and would soon celebrate that of the Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. Topically, each of these plays chronicles premarital trials to be endured by young royals. The sea-tossed Marina in Pericles (1608) suffers most: she meets her future husband in the inauspicious setting of a brothel, where, worryingly, he appears to be a regular customer. In Cymbeline the spurned and wandering Imogen fares better, finding herself a Snow White-like occupation as housekeeper to two pleasant young men who prove to be her princely brothers. Less agreeably, in The Tempest the biddable Miranda is bullied by her control-freak father Prospero. In contrast to all three, the outcast Perdita in The Winter’s Tale is fortunate in her thoroughly good-humoured adoptive father, the Old Shepherd (charmingly played by Jimmy Yuill). He has fostered Perdita’s natural talents for household management and botany – accomplishments which will stand her in good stead when her royal status is revealed. (I always wonder how the newborn Perdita was nourished, but must keep reminding myself that this is a fictitious Tale, not a History.)


[ . . . ]




Guardian Shakespeare Solos

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.022  Monday, 1 February 2016


From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Monday, February 1, 2016

Subject:    Guardian Shakespeare Solos


Leading actors film new Shakespeare Solos series for the Guardian


Leading actors film new Shakespeare Solos series for the Guardian

Adrian Lester, David Morrissey and Eileen Atkins are among the stars performing some of Shakespeare’s greatest speeches in a set of videos to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death


Adrian Lester returns to the role of Hamlet and Roger Allam takes on King Lear for the first time in a major new series of Guardian videos, launched today. Shakespeare Solos, a project to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, brings together a lineup of outstanding actors who each perform a key speech from the plays. The first six videos also star Eileen Atkins, Ayesha Dharker, Joanna Vanderham and David Morrissey.

Lester gained acclaim when he played Hamlet for director Peter Brook in a stripped-back production at the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris in 2000 and the Young Vic in London the following year. For Shakespeare Solos, he delivers the “to be or not to be” soliloquy which the actor describes as “Shakespeare at his best”. Lester said he hardly had to relearn the soliloquy before filming the video as he and Brook had spent “so long getting it in the blood” for the stage production. Lester, who is currently appearing in Red Velvet at the Garrick theatre in London, said the speech captures the “quiet, profound nature” of Hamlet’s despair and that it is also “an intellectual outpouring, because Hamlet is a very bookish person. But at the heart of it is a very fundamental question about whether he should live or die.”


For Lester, playing Shakespeare on camera was “quite liberating, because the complexity of all of those thoughts can be brought right down for the screen. You don’t have to do anything but believe what you’re saying … rather than turning front and centre [on stage] and firing it down to the audience. The complexity of thought has a delicacy to it. You have to be careful about it – at times, it can be slightly destroyed when you’re concentrating on technically making sure the audience can hear you and delivering the kind of bombast required.”


While Lester’s solo found him returning to a familiar speech, Roger Allam’s gave him the opportunity to play a part he has long desired a crack at: King Lear, which is often described as a mountain of a role. One stormy night, when he was playing Falstaff at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2010, Allam surprised audiences by suddenly going into Lear’s “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks” speech. He performs those lines for Shakespeare Solos.


The videos, directed by Dan Susman, have been mostly shot at the Guardian’s multimedia studio but Atkins was filmed on location at a restaurant for her performance as Emilia from Othello. We are put in Desdemona’s place as Atkins intimately addresses the camera: “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall.” Emilia is one of the characters Atkins is currently playing in her one-woman show at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.


[ . . . ]




February BSA Bulletin

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.021  Monday, 1 February 2016


From:        BSA <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 1, 2016 at 4:45:14 AM EST

Subject:    BSA Members' Bulletin - February 2016




BSA appoints New Education Trustees

The Board is pleased to welcome two new co-opted trustees, Karen Eckersall and Chris Green, to the BSA board. Karen and Chris will be working closely with Sarah Olive, chair of the Education Committee, to help the BSA develop its Education strategy. You can find full details of the Board at the BSA People page.


New Honorary Fellows: Chris Grace and Dame Janet Suzman

On 7 November 2015, the BSA awarded Lifetime Honorary Fellowships to Chris Grace and Dame Janet Suzman in an event at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Janet Suzman discussed her groundbreaking work as a director and actor in conversation with Alison Findlay, and Chris Grace gave an illustrated lecture on his work in creating Shakespeare – The Animated Tales and the Shakespeare Schools Festival. For more information about the Fellows, please visit our webpage.


BSA Journal Volume 11 now published

Volume 11 of the BSA journal Shakespeare is now out, including special issues on ‘Adaptation and Early Modern Culture: Shakespeare and Beyond’, and ‘“Roaring Girls: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2014 Season’ as well as two open issues with a wide range of articles, critical debates and performance reviews.


Recent articles published online include John V. Nance’s investigation of the authorship of 2 Henry VI and Lars Harald Maagero’s discussion of communication in a Norwegian A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Current members can subscribe to the journal – including the physical volume and full online access – at the heavily discounted price of £15. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details and missing volumes.

New BSA Education blog

On the BSA Education blog this month, Laura Louise Nicklin reviews the TECbook learning resource for Much Ado about Nothing.

Preparing for Hull 2016

The 2016 annual conference, ‘Shakespearean Transformations: Death, Life, and Afterlives’, takes place 8-11 September 2016 at the University of Hull. Please visit the conference website for full details. Highlights include Spymonkey performing The Complete Deaths at Hull Truck (all the onstage deaths in Shakespeare in one show) and a conference dinner held among the fish tanks at The Deep, one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world and home to 3,500 fish.

Disability and Shakespearean Theatre Symposium

The BSA is supporting this conference, taking place at the University of Glasgow on 20 April 2016. Attendance is FREE to BSA members in good standing. For more information, please visit the conference website.


Applying for funding

The BSA is able to award small amounts of money to Shakespeare-related education events, academic conferences and other activities taking place in the UK. For more information or to apply for funding, please email the Chair of the Events Committee, Susan Anderson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or the Chair of the Education Committee, Sarah Olive (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).



We are pleased to advertise news and activities by our members and other Shakespeare associations. If you would like to advertise a Shakespeare-related activity, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Items below are not affiliated with or endorsed by the BSA – please use individual contact details for more information.

BBC Shakespeare Archive now available to UK schools

The BBC has recently launched the BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource. This new online resource provides schools, colleges and universities across the UK with access to hundreds of BBC television and radio broadcasts of Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets and documentaries about Shakespeare. The material includes the first British televised adaptations of Othello and Henry V, classic interviews with key Shakespearean actors including John Gielgud, Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier, and more than 1000 photographs of Shakespeare productions.

‘On Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ at King’s College London

Working with King’s College London, the Arden Shakespeare and the British Council, the Royal Society of Literature has commissioned some of the country’s greatest poets to respond in verse to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Join us to celebrate the publication of the anthology, On Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poets’ Celebration, and listen to ten poets read and discuss their work. The reading is chaired by Shakespeare scholar Margreta de Grazia. 11 February 2016, 7pm, King’s College London.

Shakespeare and Democracy talks and workshops

Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary with a talk or workshop by Gabriel Chanan, author of the newly published Shakespeare and Democracy (Troubador, 2015). Shakespeare’s vision of how societies hold together or break apart is startlingly relevant today, and Gabriel illustrates this through a range of tailored events exploring gender, war, subversion and democracy. For more information, please see here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Sonnets for Schools Competition

Are you a budding bard? Do you know someone who is? Are you a teacher with a class full of young talent just waiting for a good challenge? Writers from schools all over the Portsmouth area can now become part of Much Ado about Portsmouth by writing their own sonnet and entering it in the Sonnets for Schools Competition. For more information, please visit the website. Entries must be received by 4 March 2016.


Shakespeare: Birmingham

Shakespeare: Birmingham organises weekly gatherings / play readings in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham (Tuesdays, 6.30-9.00pm) and monthly workshops aimed at increasing enjoyment of Shakespeare through any means possible! All are welcome to attend. For details of meetings, please visit the website at, which also lists all Shakespeare productions happening in the area.


Antony Sher interview at The Guardian

In a Guardian Live event in London, Sir Antony Sher offers a frank account of his struggles on and off the stage, talking about his new book, Year of the Fat Knight, his early days in South Africa and his 28-year relationship with director Greg Doran. The full recording of the event is available at the Guardian website.


New Books by BSA Member

BSA member Cedric Watts has two new books: Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’: A Critical Introduction (London: PublishNation, 2015), and Shakespeare’s Puzzles (London: PublishNation, 2014). Shakespeare Puzzles (‘lively … informative entertainment’, Times Literary Supplement) contains 25 puzzles ranging from ‘The Sonnets: autobiographical or fictional?’ to ‘Prospero’s Epilogue: is it really Shakespeare’s farewell?’. Cedric Watts is general editor of the Wordsworth Classics’ Shakespeare series and the author of several critical books.

Indian Shakespeares on Screen conference and film festival in London

‘Indian Shakespeares on Screen’ examines the full influence of Shakespeare in Indian cinema. The project will include a major international conference and exhibition at Asia House, London (27-29 April), followed by a film festival at BFI Southbank (29-30 April) featuring screenings of the Indian Shakespeare trilogy Maqbool (Macbeth), Omkara (Othello) and Haider (Hamlet) and public interviews with the films’ screenwriters and director Vishal Bhardwaj. For more information please visit the conference website or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shakespeare Documented online exhibition launched

Shakespeare Documented is a multi-institutional collaboration convened by the Folger Shakespeare Library to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. This free online exhibition constitutes the largest and most authoritative collection of primary-source materials documenting the life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). It brings together images and descriptions of all known manuscript and print references to Shakespeare, his works, and additional references to his family, in his lifetime and shortly thereafter.


Public Lecture: Shakespeare’s Henry V and Scotland

On Thursday 11th February, Professor Lorna Hutson will present a lecture entitled ‘Thinking with causes: Henry V and Scotland’ at the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies. Written at the time of the accession of a Scots king to the English throne, Henry V has been called a ‘succession play’. Yet its representation of Scotland goes unmentioned by critics, a silence that this lecture will address. This lecture is free and open to all.



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