Shakespeare ancient and modern

I’m off to see the Shakespeare on Wednesday – Romeo and Juliet. I do love Shakespeare and I’m happy to see the same plays over and again, perhaps because no two versions are really the same.

This one sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. The production is by a group called the Watermill Theatre and I will be seeing it at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, near where I live.

There’s an aspect to this version which will be a big plus for some people but perhaps not so much for others – it’s described as being contemporary.

Where do you stand on Shakespeare being given a modern look? Does it sound interesting or fill you with horror?

I’ve always enjoyed seeing Shakespeare’s plays given a new set of clothes, both literally and metaphorically. I have no problem with where you want to set the play geographically, when in time, what costumes the actors wear, what accents they use. I’m even easy-going about the music, which is just as well with this production. It features modern music with the cast singing and playing songs from the likes of Mumford and Sons, the Vaccines, The Civil Wars and Hozier. It’s an indie-rock Romeo and Juliet.

Enough to send traditionalists into a fit of the vapours I’m sure, but fine by me and in fact only adding another element for me to enjoy. I mean, it’s got to be done well of course, it’s got to work – but so does everything, that’s true of any piece of theatre, any piece or art for that matter.

I don’t like to see Shakespeare’s work preserved in amber like the ghost of a dead dragonfly, I like to see it living and breathing, attracting new people to it today, not just as a piece of history but relevant and alive.

I’m not quite ‘anything goes’. One proviso – don’t mess with the words. I like the script to stay as Shakespeare wrote it. Of course, a bit of judicious trimming here and there doesn’t hurt if we means we get out before the pubs shut – but I can’t abide attempts to rewrite Shakespeare’s words for a modern audience.

Shakespeare’s the maestro isn’t he? A glorious poet echoing though the ages, attempted rewrites are doomed to failure.

Otherwise though, let’s have fun with it – and it sounds like Watermill Theatre are planning to.

You can find out more about their production of Romeo and Juliet here, they are doing Twelfth Night with a jazz theme the same week – fantastic.

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7 thoughts on “Shakespeare ancient and modern”

    1. I love reading it too – something I wouldn’t say about any other playwright I think. I’ve heard it said that Shakespeare is more of a poet than he is a playwright and, though I wouldn’t go quite that far myself, I do see where that idea is coming from.

    1. Sounds great. I do think certain of his plays just suggest particular time periods and work very well in them, the history ones often beg to be set in times of change and turmoil for example.

  1. As long as the words are the same, I’m fine with contemporary costume. I saw a production of Taming of the Shrew that was especially hysterical because they placed the production “in rehearsal” so the actors wore outrageous outfits and there was a joke before Shakespeare’s play started that one male actor playing a maid would need to get his beard shaved for “tomorrow’s” performance.

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