Category Archives: Shakespeare

‘HAMLET’ IN JAPAN (FOLGER FINDS HISTORIC 1930s PHOTOS) ·

(from Shakespeare & Beyond, 7/ 6/ 2021.)

In a recent post on the Folger’s Collation blog, assistant curator Elizabeth DeBold shared a small set of photographs, newly added to the Folger collection, that document a 1933 Japanese production of Hamlet:

These five photos provide a glimpse of a production of Hamlet performed at the Tsukiji Shogekijo, the “Tsukiji Little Theater,” aptly named and located in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo. The theater was built in 1923 for the express purpose of staging Western (European, Russian, and American) drama, as a part of an intellectual movement away from traditional forms of Japanese theater. This movement, called shingeki, or “new theater,” in Japan sought to bring many of the new western dramatic methodologies inspired by the rise of socialism and expressionism into Japanese culture.

Read more on The Collation.

The photographs join other items in the Folger collection related to Shakespeare in Japan, such as this page from a 1905 issue of The Sketch, a British illustrated weekly journal. The photograph shows actor/director Otojiro Kawakami as the Ghost in Hamlet, dressed in a Japanese military uniform.

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BARD DAY’S WORK: WHAT I LEARNED FROM EAVESDROPPING ON RSC REHEARSALS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/14; Photo: ‘It’s about the process, not the product’ … Lily Nichol as Joan la Pucelle. Photograph: Ellie Kurttz. Copyright @ Royal Shakespeare Company.)

The Royal Shakespeare Company is letting the public watch the usually secret processes towards performance – from clapping games to verse sessions

The creative process normally takes place behind closed doors. But the RSC has boldly upended that idea by streaming its Open Rehearsal Project for Henry VI Part One. What this means, in practice, is that cameras are admitted for three sessions each day. At 10am we watch a half-hour company warm-up. From noon, for 90 minutes, we get to see either a class (movement, combat, verse-speaking) or the rehearsal of a scene. Then at 6pm we eavesdrop on a green-room chat, in which company members mull over progress so far. After dipping in and out for the first fortnight – and there’s still more than a week to go before a streamed performance on 23 June – I’m intrigued by how much I’ve learned.

But are open rehearsals a good idea? There was a pivotal moment when Gregory Doran – who shares direction of the project with Owen Horsley – quoted a letter he’d received from an actor who said “the rehearsal room is sacrosanct – actors must not be exposed like this”. I spoke to a veteran actor who said she too was horrified by the idea of the public witnessing the trial and error that takes place in a rehearsal room.

I fully get that but there are extenuating circumstances that justify this experiment. As Jamie Wilkes, one of the company, pointed out: “It is about the process – not the product.” There is none of the pressure of an imminent press night or fully staged production. Mariah Gale also shrewdly observed that what works for an ensemble piece such as Henry VI Part One would be less suited to Hamlet or Macbeth, where individuals wrestle with intractable problems. But the ultimate vindication is that, for both participants and spectators, there is a peculiar joy about total immersion in Shakespeare after 15 barren, largely Bard-free months.

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IRELAND: ALL THE WORLD IS A VAN: SHAKESPEARE IN A TIME OF COVID ·

(Patrick Freyne’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/5; King Lear in a Van: Arthur Riordan as King Lear with Karen McCartney as Cordelia and Matthew Malone as Kent. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.)

King Lear in a Van is a clever way of bringing theatre and drama to the masses

If you were loitering around Ely Place in Dublin recently you may have heard some worrying bellowing from the car park/loading bay of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). Don’t worry, it was just King Lear, sitting on a yellow Ikea throne in the back of a converted van having it out with his daughters Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.

“Where we’re rehearsing today is the first time we have had good acoustics,” says Matthew Malone who plays Goneril, Regan, Gloucester and Kent in this production of King Lear in a van. “And Arthur is booming.” King Lear is played by Arthur Riordan. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard that. It’s like the Abbey, this car park.”

King Lear in a Van is the new offering from Festival in a Van which was devised at the outset of the pandemic by regular Irish Times contributor Gemma Tipton. King Lear is on the Leaving Cert this year and the team are available to perform at schools with help from the Bank of Ireland/Business to Arts Begin Together grant. Tipton has form with festivals. She ran the Kinsale Arts Festival and the Backwater Opera Festival. “I’d been writing about festivals closing down, talking to people who didn’t know when they were going to work again,” she says. “I thought, well, is there a way to do live performance safely?”

She had an epiphany and woke in the middle of the night saying: “Festival in a Van!” She enlisted production manager Rob Furey and production manager and health and safety expert Pete Jordan and, with financial support from Creative Ireland, they bought a van, hired two more vans and built sets that could be unfolded from them in just 10 minutes. “To start with,” she says, “I thought, ‘Oh, people won’t want to be in a van.’”

She hadn’t reckoned with how hungry performers were to perform and how hungry audiences were for live performance. They’ve worked with storytelling group Candlelit Tales, opera singers like Gavin Ring and drag performers like Avoca Reaction and arranged performances at schools, care homes, direct provision centres and housing estates. “One of the things that’s been good about Covid is the forgotten spaces have been looked at again,” says Tipton. “Who cared about care homes and direct provision centres?”

‘Heartbreakingly gorgeous’

She is now aware of a “map” of isolated care homes scattered all over the country and thinks there could be scope for projects like this to continue beyond the pandemic, bringing art and music to people that don’t always have access to it. Some of the experiences they’ve had, she says, have been “heartbreakingly gorgeous”. Furey recalls an 84-year-old former session musician moved to tears experiencing live music from the van. Tipton tells me about a letter she received from a woman who runs a care home after a performance by Gavin Ring. “She wrote saying ‘This is the only nice thing that’s happened in 12 months’, which also makes you realise how shitty it’s been for them.”

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MABOU MINES: ‘LEAR’ (WATCH NOW–THROUGH MAY 5) ·

MBOU MINES
LEAR
BY William Shakespeare
ADAPTED AND DIRECTED BY Lee Breuer
PREMIERE: Triplex Performing Arts Center, NYC January 9, 1990
Ruth Maleczech with Greg Mehrten and Karen Kandel, photo by Michael Cooper.
“It’s rude, it’s radical, it’s outrageous. And it’s one of the most powerful Shakespeare productions I’ve seen in a long time.”

Visit Mabou Mines:
Ruth Maleczech, photo by Jonathan Atkin.
“Lear (Ruth Maleczech) could be a Tennessee Williams Big Mama. Her evil sons Goneril and Regan are bourbon-swilling good ol’ boys who have their way with the bastard Elva (nee Edmund), a hot number in tight leather jeans, in the back seat of a convertible. The fool, a transvestite wearing a tatty fur coat and wielding a dildo instead of a coxcomb, is divine, if not exactly Divine. The music of Hank Williams and Elvis competes with the chattering of crickets for dominance of the fetid night air.”

– Frank Rich NY Times
Isabell Monk, Ruth Maleczech, Karen Kandel and Greg Mehrten, photos by Beatriz Schiller.