From play to film to ballet: Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theatre dances away with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

World-famous choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot has resisted creating a ballet for any company other than his own Ballet de Monte Carlo. But he has made an exception to his rule in order to work with the Bolshoi and interpret Shakespeare’s Shrew in a new way.
“Working with a new, unfamiliar company was a challenge I needed,” Maillot says in an interview published by Bolshoi.
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Rising to the Shakespearean challenge, Maillot has delivered a ballet that conjures the beauty of Shakespeare’s words with movement to match, while still telling one of the Bard’s most erotic and politically incorrect love stories.
For the creators, though, this is not a story about breaking a woman’s spirit, but rather “an encounter between two forces of nature, who recognise one another at last.”
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Minimal stage design and simple but eclectic costuming keeps the focus on the movement of the dancers. Raymond Stults of The Moscow Times describes it as “firmly based on classical tradition and dance vocabulary” with added “bits of quirky movement and strong element[s] of fantasy.”
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The next performance of The Taming of the Shrew will be in October.
For tickets and more information visit the the Bolshoi Theatre website.

Mayhem Musical Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night sells out at two South London parks

Although Mayhem Musical Theatre Company call themselves an “amateur company”, their Shakespeare-in-the-park performances consistently receive high praise with tickets selling out in advance.
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And their new production of Twelfth Night at Nonsuch Park, Cheam and Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon has continued this tradition, even though additional performances were added this year to help meet the demand.
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The company’s quirky take on Shakespeare’s brilliant comedy is enhanced by the Parks’ idyllic setting. Audience members can even pre-order a picnic dinner to accompany the show.
If you’re disappointed that you missed seeing Twelfth Night, keep an eye out for MMTC’s Peter Pan and A Salute to Stage & Screen 4 later this year, as well as more Shakespeare next summer.

Further details from here.

A Photographic Glimpse of Cleopatras Past from Washington DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company

If you enjoyed Tony Howard’s brilliant investigation of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra in Issue 3 of Shakespeare Magazine, here are three more actresses who have tackled this endlessly complex and fascinating role. Thank you to Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC for these archive images.

Click on the images to enlarge and enjoy.

Suzanne Bertish as Cleopatra in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2007-2008 Season production of Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Michael Kahn. Photo by Carol Pratt.

Cleo 2007

Helen Carey as Cleopatra, with Starla Benford as Charmian and Opal Alladin as Iras, in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 1996-1997 Season production of Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Ron Daniels. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Cleo 1996

Franchelle Stewart Dorn as Cleopatra and Gail Grate as Charmian in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 1988-1989 Season production of Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Michael Kahn. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Cleo 1988

More from: Shakespeare Theatre Company

Did you see any of these productions? Which is your favourite portrayal of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra on stage or screen? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Murder, Cannibalism and Puppets as a version of Titus Andronicus with strings attached opens in New York

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As Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London wraps up its hyper-realistic and bloody run of Titus Andronicus, over in New York the off-Broadway group The Puppet Shakespeare Players prepares to open a version of the play featuring puppets and silly-string gore galore.

In the style of the popular broadway show Avenue Q, Puppet Titus Andronicus will be performed by a mixture of live actors, puppeteers, and puppets. Although the presentation style is reminiscent of a children’s entertainment, the production will still feature all the violence and slaughter of the original text.

The company describes the production as “a comedic take” on what they refer to as  “Shakespeare’s ‘worst’ play” (a reference to the sniffy attitude critics have taken to Titus Andronicus through the centuries). At any rate, the performance is sure to differ from more serious recent stagings of Titus.

As a company, however, the PSP aims to “reinvent and reimagine the Bard’s work through comedy, puppetry and a variety of other mediums while staying true to the original intent and spirit of Shakespeare’s plays.”

This will be their third adaptation of a Shakespeare play for puppets, having already staged successful versions of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

The show opens at The Beckett Theatre in New York City on 24 July.

Go here for tickets.

How jealous are we of these students at Shakespeare Summer School in Urbino, Italy? Answer: Very!

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As Shakespeare fans in the UK and USA experience stormy weather of King Lear-like proportions, over in sunny Urbino, Italy it’s a very different story. Starting last week and ending on 26 July, Shakespeare in Italy offers the chance for Shakespeare fans to immerse themselves in the text and culture of Shakespeare’s Italian plays.

The course will go beyond lectures and readings, containing a mix of “expert input, practical work on scenes, discussions, and evaluations of contrasting film versions of the plays.”

Fronting the course are four leading minds from the world of Shakespearean theatre. Bill Alexander, who was an Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company for 14 years, leads an exploration of The Merchant of Venice. “What I’ll be trying to do,” he says, “is take the participants through a sort of speeded-up version of the rehearsal process.”

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Leading the study of Romeo and Juliet is Michael Pennington, who was an Honorary Associate Artist with the RSC and co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company.

Josie Lawrence will use her film, television, and stage acting experience to guide the discussion of Much Ado About Nothing.

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Finally, Martin Best, who is known as an international performer and who has worked with the RSC for 30 years, will perform his lecture-recital Shakespeare’s Music Hall and lead a seminar on the Sonnets.

Co-founders of Shakespeare in Italy Mary Chater and Julian Curry will also provide input and be involved in the courses. After three days studying the text, Chater will lead alternative pursuits that will give the students a chance to explore Urbino and the Italian culture as it relates to the plays.

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Amazingly, we’ve heard there may still openings on the course. Go here for more information and to register, or e-mail Mary Chater:

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing gets the royal treatment in Stockholm, Sweden

The Stockholm English Speaking Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing is celebrating the Bard’s 450th birthday with a royal performance.


The production may be set in Sicily in the late 1950s, but the performances themselves will take place in the grounds of a Swedish palace.


After opening performances (11 and 12 July) at the park theatre on Djurgården, the action moves to Drottningholms Palace Garden and Rosendals Wärdshus on Djurgården for later performances.


A cast of six actors portrays the complete set of Shakespeare’s characters, presenting a performance full of “flamboyant costumes, swords, singing and dancing,” says SEST co-founder Kristina Leon.


The show will run until 2 August. To find specific performance times and to purchase tickets visit the company’s Facebook page.

Is Shakespeare to blame for modern-day prejudice against people with skin problems?

Some experts are saying that Shakespeare may have handed down a fear of skin lesions along with his literary legacy.

In Elizabethan times, warts, sores and blisters were harbingers of contagious diseases such as plague, syphilis and smallpox, so the fear of them was well founded. But in a world of modern medicine such persistent distrust and dislike is unwarranted and often harmful to individuals.

But can the Bard be blamed for this?

From King Lear’s denunciation of “Thou are a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle” to the constant abuse heaped upon Henry IV‘s Bardolph for his nose like “an everlasting bonfire-light”, Shakespeare has no lack of skin condition-derived insults.

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Nina Goad, a spokesperson with the British Association of Dermatologists, believes that these barbs have perpetuated discrimination against those with skin problems.  Speaking with the Telegraph she said, “Nobody is suggesting that we edit Shakespeare but maybe we should ensure that new films and books don’t reinforce this stereotype”.

The paper “Is Shakespeare to blame for the negative connotations of skin disease?” presented at BAD’s annual conference says that while Shakespeare “may not have accepted Elizabethan society’s negativity towards skin disease, it can be argued that his success has led to its perpetuation”.

Scholars have been quick to defend the Bard.

“Has any writer in history ever suggested that the symptoms of skin disease are attractive?” Professor Michael Dobson, director of Birmingham University’s Shakespeare Institute, asked the Telegraph.

Read more on this subject here.



Revolution Shakespeare performs Orson Welles’ Five Kings in Philadelphia Museum of Art

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To continue the US celebrations of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, Revolution Shakespeare is staging Orson Welles’ Five Kings - a five-hour adaptation of Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V – in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When Welles first staged (and starred in) Five Kings in 1938, the massive length hindered the production, forcing it to close amidst negative reviews before it finished its tour.

The original vision for the production entailed a second part to cover Henry VI and Richard III. However, after the negative reception of the first part, Welles never finished the second.

To make it more manageable, Revolution has divided the play into five one-hour performances and is presenting one portion of the play each week.

Rather than taking place on a stage, each performance is in a different gallery of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The locations range from the rotunda - featuring Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – as the stage for Hal’s carousing, to the French Chapel for Henry V’s wooing of the French princess.

Taking place every Wednesday in July, performances start at 6pm. All performances are “Pay What You Wish”, and will feature a brief recap of the previous instalment for those who might have missed it.

Go here for more information.

Follow Revolution Shakespeare on Facebook.

King’s Shakespeare Company aim to make Measure For Measure a “dark, sexy cabaret” at Bristol Shakespeare Festival

Hannah Elsy BSF
The King’s Shakespeare Company bring their cabaret version of Measure For Measure to the Bristol Shakespeare Festival this month.

Transplanted from Renaissance-era Vienna to Berlin during the Weimar Republic of the 1930s, the show features an original score with songs.

And fittingly, the production is staged at the Bierkeller Theatre, part of a long-running rock venue and nightclub in the heart of Bristol.

Based at King’s College London, the King’s Shakespeare Company are the capital’s only student-led Shakespeare company.

“In true cabaret style,” says a spokeswoman, “we encourage you to kick back, grab a drink, and watch as the chemistry crackles…”

Measure For Measure in Cabaret runs from Monday 21 July to Friday 25 July (starts 8pm) at the Bristol Shakespeare Festival. Book your tickets here.

Never mind the football, here’s the Shakespeare Guide to Brazil…

Brazil cover

Read the the latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine here.