For a brief week, the Seattle International Film Festival was able to bring Manchester International Festival’s production of Macbeth to the Uptown Theater in Seattle. As a part of a series called National Theater Live (which includes Othello with Adrian Lester and Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller), this production stars the illustrious Kenneth Branagh as the titular Scottish King. I was lucky enough to get tickets to see this thunderous play.
Co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, the production was spectral, but appropriately stark. A lot of the eerie desolation came from the fact that it takes place in a deconsecrated Manchester church. The floors of the church were ripped out, so the stage was a pit of austere earth across which the witches skulked and the Scottish thanes clashed bloodily. Rain was poured unsparingly onto the actors. The dim lighting was the perfect harshness for this sinister play.
This summer the Los Angeles based Troubadour Theater Company is reprising its role as masters of the Shakespearean mash up. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream.
You may have guessed it, though you might not believe it: one theater company has poured all the funk, bellbottoms, and embarrassing dance moves of 70s disco into the world’s most timeless romantic comedy ever to be written in iambic pentameter. But lest you think this is a joke, you should know that the Troubies (as they’re affectionately known round these parts) are old hands at the genre. After all, these are the folks who brought you…
OthE.L.O., Fleetwood Macbeth, As U2 Like It, and every actor’s dream Hamlet, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark
Might the actors who comprised Lord Chamberlain’s Men have sounded more like Americans from the East Coast? That is the conclusion that Sir Trevor Nunn, former director of the Royal Shakespeare Theater, has come to, after working closely with the actor Kevin Spacey.
However, the renowned Shakespeare scholar John Barton, contends that the speech was likely a blend of both English and Irish accents. And some historians complain that the accent isn’t as much of a problem as the pacing, which, they argue, is too slow in modern productions.
In the past, you would have to attend a play in which the actors were truly trying to offer a “real” rendition of Shakespearean speech. But now the British Library has taken the advice of those who have studied how to render authentic sixteenth century English dialect. Several audio versions have been released. Listen and judge for yourself:
Extract from Romeo and Juliet:
Or, perhaps you’re in the mood for a sonnet? Here’s Sonnet 116:
And here is another excerpt from Macbeth:
Ben Crystal, a British actor who has long advocated for making Shakespeare accessible, curated the ambitious project.
“For the first time in centuries,” he explains, “we have 75 recorded minutes of sonnets, speeches and scenes recorded as we hope Shakespeare heard them. It is, in short, Shakespeare as you’ve never heard him before.
“The modern presentation of Shakespeare’s plays and poems in period pronunciation has already attracted a wide following, despite the fact that hardly any recordings have been publicly available,” he said.
For more information on the project, click here.