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Pick of Shakespeare 400: Unusual adaptations

20 January 2016 | Lydia Cooper

From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to After Juliet, there have been many re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s work. This year, to commemorate the four centuries since Shakespeare’s death, there are myriad talks, productions and exhibitions for bardophiles to enjoy. Here we pick out a selection of some of the most unusual interpretations.

Table Top Shakespeare

Forced Entertainment condense each of Shakespeare’s thirty-six plays and present them on a table top, with a cast of ordinary, everyday objects: a spoon for a servant and a candle for the Friar; Macbeth becomes a cheese grater and Pericles a light bulb. The scaled-down worlds that are created as a result of this dramatic experiment allow the troupe to explore the dynamic force of Shakespeare’s narrative and the power of his language. The retelling of Shakespeare’s entire canon takes place over the course of six days, allowing audiences to come to as many performances as they like (especially as tickets are only £3).

Table Top Shakespeare is at the Barbican 1 - 6 March 2016.

 

Macbeth: A Tale of Sound and Fury

This three-man version of Macbeth from 6FootStories sets the play in an immersive set made of clutter and recycled objects, beginning with three gnarly fortune-tellers in an old junkyard. The actors will swap roles between one another as the play progresses in a demented retelling of the classic tragedy.

The show runs from 2 - 20 February 2016. Find out more here.

 

I, Malvolio at the Orange Tree

This one-man show, written and performed by Tim Crouch, re-imagines Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night from the perspective of the pedantic, Puritan-esque Malvolio, who aims to ‘wash off gross acquaintance’ and marry his employer, the Lady Olivia. Challenging us to explore the pleasure we take in other people’s suffering, Tim Crouch uses the ranting, entertainment-loathing Malvolio to create - ironically - a very entertaining show.

If you like the sound of this, later this year Crouch’s The Complete Deaths will tour the country (London dates tbc). This new work crams all of the deaths in Shakespeare’s canon into one gloriously funny and chaotic production.

The show is on Thursday 25 February 2016. For tickets, go here.

 

A Hum About Mine Ears

Vocalist and composer Clara Sanabras reinterprets The Tempest in her new album A Hum About Mine Ears. Sanabras infuses the themes of the play with her own immigrant experience, alternating between the existing text and imaginings of characters’ lives after the story ends. In the five-movement piece, Caliban is used to critique xenophobia and her song ‘Miranda’s Dissent’ imagines Miranda emancipated. The hauntingly beautiful work will be performed with a choir, orchestra and female soloist at the Barbican.

If you can’t make the show on 6 March 2016, you can still listen to her album here.


The Devil Speaks True by Goat and Monkey

Using video projections and a solo dancer, avant-garde theatre company Goat and Monkey have created a stripped-down, sensory adaptation of Macbeth. The audience will be plugged into wireless headphones, sitting in partial or pitch darkness. The script, which recreates the last hours of Banquo’s life in a first-person adventure, is intertwined with recordings of interviews of ex-servicemen, examining Banquo’s behaviour through the lens of PTSD. As they follow a battle-wearied Banquo attempting to make sense of his world, the audience will smell the rain and fir trees, and see a spectral banquet table. Together, these special effects draw on Shakespeare’s play to create a sense-based exploration of the psychological impact of war.

The Devil Speaks True plays at the Vault Festival from 17 - 27 February 2016.

 

Ophelia’s Zimmer

This Royal Court production, a collaboration with the Schaubühne Berlin, explores Ophelia freed from the Hamlet of Shakespeare’s text. Performed in German with English surtitles, the action will stick strictly to the material that Shakespeare provides, but it pieces together what happens in Ophelia’s room. The scene in which Hamlet bursts wildly into her room, which is not shown in Shakespeare’s work, but which makes Ophelia ‘so affrighted’, is dramatised in the adaptation.

Director Katie Mitchell has already been drawn to Ophelia in a video installation, ‘Five Truths’, and this new work, with a text by Alice Birch, will hopefully provide a new exploration of the character’s psyche.

The show runs from 17 - 21 May 2016. More information here.

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