A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be leading a seminar at RADA on Measure for Measure. In preparing for that seminar I found myself disagreeing with much of what I said in my own podcast episode on the play. So here I rebut and refute many of my earlier claims. One of the great pleasures of working on Shakespeare is that one’s opinions are seldom allowed to stand still.
Twelfth Night seems to be everyone’s favourite Shakespeare play. Why is this the case? Could it be something to do with the fact that it is a play about playing? This play is a hymn to the pleasure and virtue of playing and play wins over anti-play, though of course the real motto is that it’s the taking part that counts.
For many years, Globe Education has been staging performances with scripts of the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries in a series called Read Not Dead. They have worked their way through over 200 plays, but the opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse means they now have a permanent and splendid home. To decide which play should be the jewel in the crown of the current season, they held a husting featuring four plays backed by four teams. Sheldrake was there.
Attempts to reconstruct the original performance circumstances of Renaissance plays, either literally or imaginatively, have been a constant companion to fascination about the literature. How did these plays actually get put together? What was the process? Would the actors recognise the concept of a rehearsal process? Sheldrake investigates.
Where did the magic happen? We’ve all heard of the Globe, but what did it mean for a play to be written for one playhouse rather than another? And what, for that matter, did it mean for Shakespeare to be attached to the Globe for most of his career? Sheldrake gallops through some answers.
As social politics continue to change with gathering speed, works of literature have to catch up or fall by the wayside. The plays of Shakespeare, written in a very different age from our own, must be scrutinised. Does this play, a notorious battle of the sexes, pass the test? Sheldrake thinks so.
The current production of Titus Andronicus at the Globe Theatre in London has the sort of theatrical courage that all Globe productions, indeed all Shakespeare productions, should have. Much like the play, this production takes risks, and they pay off big time.
The scarcity of scenery on Shakespeare’s stage does not mean that there were no impressive visual effects. One way of awing an audience was with fine costume. As a primer to the full Henry VIII episode next week, Sheldrake describes the impact of costume in two scenes from that play.
As You Like It is liked by audiences, disliked by academics. What then does this tell us about how crucial performance is to the success of the text? Consequently, Sheldrake argues, engaging with the performance of this play and others should be not only a pleasure for the serious Shakespearean, but also a duty.