Monday, October 27, 2008

Shakespeare and experimentation

Attending the Cairo festival gave me a new, very obvious idea about why directors all over the world experiment so obsessively with Shakespeare. (In addition to the Sudanese Lear already mentioned, and a middle-school-quality version of Romeo and Juliet by a Greek company, there were three Macbeths this year: a no-men Slovak version, a beautiful Ukranian dance piece, and one other that I'm forgetting right now.)
This is speculative, but one reason may have to do with the (increasing) internationalized festivalization of the world theatre scene. Often there are no surtitle translations at these festivals, or only very poor ones. This fact would seem to privilege either 1) theatre that reworks well-known texts, or 2) "post-dramatic" theatre where the text is demoted and becomes only one component of the performance, perhaps secondary to scenography, costumes, movement, etc. (I was pulled in to interpret for a member of the jury, Chinese playwright and scholar William Huizhu Sun, as he complained about this anti-text bias in an interview with a very minor Egyptian newspaper.) Best of all fare the plays that do both, e.g. the (not very imaginative, to my eye, but well-liked) adaptation of Antigone performed at CIFET by the Italian Mistral Modern Dance Company, which adapted a classic script AND augmented the text (not really dialogue) with interpretive dance.
So... the expedient of sliced-and-diced Shakespeare!
(This posting just confirms that the "how" question in international Shakespeare studies is more interesting than the "why" question.)

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