The Shakespeare Effect: A History of Twentieth-Century Performance

The Shakespeare Effect: A History of Twentieth-Century Performance

The Shakespeare Effect: A History of Twentieth-Century Performance

The Shakespeare Effect: A History of Twentieth-Century Performance

Synopsis

This lively and provocative study offers a radical reappraisal of a century of Shakespearean theatre. Topics addressed include modernist Shakespearean performance's relation with psychoanalysis, the hidden gender dynamics of the open stage movement, and the appropriation of Shakespeare himself as a dramatic fiction and theatrical icon.

Excerpt

The image on the cover of the theatre programme is an arresting one: the head and shoulders of a young man with close cropped dark hair, posed against a background of what looks like both finely scratched metal plate and a wall of television static. He wears an off-white T shirt, his chin bears a shadowy trace of stubble, and his left ear and right nostril are pierced by rings. He faces the camera, but is unable to address us or even meet our gaze, for his eyes and mouth have been forced shut, held in place by crude but emphatically secure, thick black thread stitching running through the lips and eyelids. Since this is poster and programme image (borrowed from Amnesty International) for a production of Hamlet, we assume this to be the Prince of Denmark himself, but in this instance the relentlessly garrulous and observant protagonist is subdued to silence and blindness, a mute witness who can speak (and see) neither good nor evil. the pre-public ity for the production had prepared us for a ‘fast-paced urban thriller’ with its ‘young prince at the centre of a paranoid world’, envisaged as ‘a Denmark in constant readiness for war’ and ‘a striking post-indus trial landscape’; the programme announces that its aim is to link ‘the public and the personal’ and to expose the catastrophic consequences of ‘a monarchy bent on survival at any cost’. It is evident, then, that Hamlet's exquisite mutilation is politically motivated, a violent act of corporeal censorship by a totalitarian regime which has both sufficient wit to grimly parody the Prince's own fashionable bodily ornamenta tion and a fetishistic ingenuity that would be at home in Kafka's penal colony.

It is a metaphor, of course, albeit one as telling as much of the visual iconography employed within the production itself; Hamlet's first appearance on stage confirms that while he still sports the T-shirt and . . .

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