An irreverent, pared-down and post-Apocalyptic take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Last month, director Sarah Redmond helmed an “edited, reinvented off-West End production of The Tempest” at London’s Waterloo East Theatre. It’s an experience she describes as an “incredible voyage of discovery with 14 terrific actors,” adding that: “I learnt so much about Shakespeare, editing and budgets!”

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Due to budget restrictions, Sarah decided to take out all of Prospero’s ‘mystical magic’ and replace it with a Derren Brown-influenced element of mind control. “Prospero has endured a lot,” she explains, “and when exploring the play I felt he would be dark and bitter.”
Achieving Sarah’s desired degree of darkness as Prospero was actor Tom Keller. “This approach definitely made him very much more ‘mortal’,” she says. “Our Prospero was grumpy, simmering and short tempered.”

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Despite its placing as the very first play in the First Folio, in which it opens the ‘Comedies’ section, The Tempest is rarely thought of as one of Shakespeare’s funniest works. “There are comedic scenes,” Sarah says, “but by removing the otherworldly magic, I definitely removed the expected lightness of the play.”
However, Sarah believes that her approach did allow comedy to flourish in unexpected places, “Especially in the lovers’ scenes.”

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The play’s actual comedic scenes (played by Matthew Harper, Lucy Harwood and Sy Thomas) also received a thorough editing from Sarah, “But the comedy beats exist,” she says, “and are very obviously placed. Losing a lot of the cultural references on one hand could be sacriligious. On the other hand, it does get to the point.”

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Sarah believes that her anti-purist production succeeded because ultimately she had trust in the play and in her casting. “I edited The Tempest down to an hour and a half,” she says. “It works. Tell the story and don’t wallow.”

Find out more about Sarah Redmond here.
Find out more about Waterloo East Theatre here.

Photography by Rob Youngston

All 10 episodes now available of web series inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

Written and directed by Colleen Scriven, A Bit Much is a new web series based on Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. “It takes the War of the Sexes out of 16th century Sicily,” Colleen explains, “and into the equally scenic and exotic Camp Messina in upstate New York.”
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Despite the updated script, costumes and characters, Colleen argues that the themes of the series strive to be the same as those of the play. “The characters - no longer lords and ladies, but campers and counsellors - still struggle with deception, love, friendship, jealousy and sex.”
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Colleen describes the series as being in a similar vein to popular Shakespeare modernisations such as She’s the Man and Ten Things I Hate About You. However, A Bit Much is the first adaptation of its kind to premiere as a web series. YA Bit Much4
Colleen herself co-stars in the series, as part of an all-student cast. You can find out more and watch all 10 episodes of A Bit Much here. (Contains strong language and adult themes)

Shakespeare Highlights 2014 – the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project makes its debut

Elizabeth Ruelas has no hesitation in selecting her 2014 Shakespeare Highlight: “It’s the fact that my theatre company performed our first independent production this summer!”
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The company in question is the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for which Elizabeth is Artistic Director.
And excitingly, it’s a company that specialises in performing plays using the First Folio unrehearsed cue script technique.
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Elizabeth describes debut production The Comedie of Errors as “a great success!” Now, along with husband Andy Kirtland, who is co-founder and Managing Director of the company, she is currently putting together their next show for the summer of 2015, Much Adoe About Nothing.

Find out more about the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project here.

Dame Janet Suzman has learned some amazing things from 50 Years of Shakespeare – listen to the full audio here!

For Ben Spiller, Artistic Director of 1623 theatre company, the Shakespeare Highlight of 2014 is the evening he hosted with Dame Janet Suzman in September.

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“Dame Janet is one of the greatest Shakespeareans of our time,” Ben says. “She’s played nearly every female role in the canon, directed Othello with a multiracial cast in South Africa when apartheid was in force, run masterclasses at LAMDA and in prisons, edited Antony and Cleopatra, and written books on performing Shakespeare and the role of women in drama.”

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Ben describes Dame Janet as “one of the most inspirational people I have met” and he was delighted when she visited his home city of Derby to share her experiences with his Shakespeare Night regulars and newcomers.

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“It was a professional and personal highlight for me,” he says, “to share the stage with this incredible woman, whose intelligence, skill and humanity are second to none. As if things couldn’t get any better, her acceptance of the invitation to become 1623′s patron was a dream come true.”

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You can listen to the complete audio of the evening with Dame Janet here.
You can find out more about 1623 theatre company here.

Prepare to lighten your wallet and boost your brain… It’s the Shakespeare Magazine Beautiful Bard Books Roundup

Seeking Christmas gift inspiration? Why not treat a fellow Shakespeare fan (or yourself!) to one of these beautiful Bard-related books. All prices are RRP for UK editions, but if you shop around you may well nab some of these for less (especially in eBook formats).

Shakespeare for Grown-ups
Subtitled “Everything You Need To Know About The Bard”, SHAKESPEARE FOR GROWN-UPS by E. Foley and B. Coates is already a firm favourite in the Shakespeare Magazine office. It’s a fun, handy reference guide that will fit nicely on your shelf between Bill Bryson’s ‘Shakespeare’ and Ben Crystal’s ‘Shakespeare on Toast’. An eminently readable intro for anyone who wants to find out what Shakespeare’s all about, it’s also a great memory refresher for those returning to the Bard in later life (like the Editor of Shakespeare Magazine, for example).

Out now, priced £12.99 Buy ‘Shakespeare for Grown-Ups’ here.

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Opening with the vivid and ultimately heartbreaking reimagining of a medieval childbirth, JULIET’S NURSE by Lois Leveen sees US novelist Leveen give a poetic new voice to one of the most memorable supporting characters in all of Shakespeare, namely the Nurse from ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Watch out for an interview with Lois in the very next issue of Shakespeare Magazine. Meanwhile, you can read the opening chapter of ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Out now, priced £16.99 Buy ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Station Eleven
Post-apocalyptic science fiction conveyed via dreamlike prose with a Shakespearean soul, STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel won instant acclaim and a National Book Awards nomination. Opening with a stage performance of ‘King Lear’ that eerily foreshadows the global tragedy to follow, this is definitely one of the year’s must-read novels.

Out now, priced £14.99 Buy ‘Station Eleven’ here.

Forensic Shakespeare
Firmly placed at the more academic end of the market, FORENSIC SHAKESPEARE by Quentin Skinner (no, the title doesn’t refer to Crime Scene Investigations) eloquently explores the idea that the Bard skilfully employed judicial rhetoric in the poem Lucrece and in some half-dozen of his most famous plays. A good one for Lawyers (obviously), Law students and anyone keen to sprinkle their dinner party conversation with some judiciously selected pearls of Shakespearean legalese.

Out now, priced £20 Buy ‘Forensic Shakespeare’ here.

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Underneath their cheekily mashed-up cover art, PULP! THE CLASSICS – OTHELLO and ROMEO & JULIET by William Shakespeare are readable, no-frills editions of two of the Bard’s Greatest Hits – and the perfect student stocking filler.

Out now, priced £6.99 Buy the Pulp! The Classics editions of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Othello’ here.

PLUS! COMING IN 2015…

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THE TUTOR by Andrea Chapin comes recommended by no less a Shakespeare authority than James Shapiro, who deems it “a terrific achievement [that] allows us a glimpse into the workings of Shakespeare’s mind and heart.” A wonderfully entertaining adventure set during the young Will Shakespeare’s infamous ‘Lost Years’, it should please fans of ‘Shardlake’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ alike.

Released 26 March 2015, priced £7.99 TBC Pre-order ‘The Tutor’ here.