The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2389  Thursday, 18 October 2001

From:           Stephen Dobbin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Oct 2001 13:32:34 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        Hall's Editions

My guess for Peter Hall's use of editions for his various MNDs would be
either the Penguin or the Arden editions, with possibly a Variorum for

During my time at as a stage manager at the RSC ('79-'85, I think) the
usual practice was for the cast to be given the Penguin script, or
occasionally the Arden. I never saw an Oxford, Cambridge, or any other
edition provided by the company for use in rehearsal while I was there,
although occasionally an actor might bring out his own battered Cygnet
or similar.


1. Penguin was smaller than the Arden, so easier to hold in your hand
during rehearsals and to shove in your pocket or down your trouser front
when you needed both hands for blinding Gloucester, etc.

2. The notes were at the back, so there was more text on the page with
the result that you weren't turning pages so often. (Try rehearsing from
the Arden Hamlet if you don't think this is a valid reason!!)

3. It was cheaper than the Arden (Management decision).

The prompt copies were almost invariably prepared from Penguins, even if
the cast were using Ardens. The pages were narrower, so when you pasted
them on to A4 sheets there was a bigger margin for writing down
blocking, cues, calls, etc.

Some directors liked to use the Arden for some plays because they felt
the editor was more friendly towards the play, or their interpretation
of the play. Some used them because they liked the cast to have access
to a larger critical apparatus. While I was there I remember Ardens
being used for Measure (Dir: Barry Kyle), Cymbeline (Dir: David? Wood)

In any case there would almost invariably be an Arden on the production
table and these were especially referred to if the production was of a
play where there were big differences in text between the various Q's
and F1. This was even more true if the cuts in the text hadn't been
fixed by the director prior to rehearsal because he wanted the actors'
input before arriving at an acting version.

Hall was very influenced by John Barton, probably the most scholarly of
the RSC direction team during that period. John usually had a Variorum
of whatever he was rehearsing in his briefcase, buried with the
cigarette ends, toffee wrappers, spilled coffee, spare jumpers, SQs and
dog hairs. John was married to Shakespeare scholar Anne Barton, so was
also up to date in his scholarship.

Stephen Dobbin.

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