Author Lois Leveen talks about the suffering that underpins the main character of her Shakespeare-inspired novel Juliet’s Nurse

“In some ways, I had to stop looking at what the core theme might be for Shakespeare, because I had to discover what it was for Juliet’s Nurse. There are plot points, and certainly characters, and even lines or riffs on lines, that I pull over from Shakespeare. But it really is ultimately Angelica’s, the Nurse’s, story. In that sense, the theme was really clear from the beginning – that line about having her own daughter who died.

©Globe/Opus Arte

©Globe/Opus Arte

“I remember talking to someone I know, a mother of young children, about the experience of having a child die and the mother said, ‘If that happened to me, I don’t know – I would lay down and die too’.

“And that was not an option for Angelica, or other women and men living who loved their children dearly in those centuries and centuries in which the death of a child was quite common. We shy away from suffering, and think of it as something to be avoided, but suffering is inevitable and survival is not something that happens in opposition to suffering. Survival is something that happens because we learn to assimilate suffering into our lives.

LoisLeveenHeadshot by John Melville Bishop
“So again, on a social level what’s present for the Nurse and for the other characters in the novel, because it’s present in the play, is the question of how do you make sense of suffering and how do you find hope in what seems like devastating loss?

“I wouldn’t say that was Shakespeare’s theme in Romeo and Juliet, but it definitely became my theme in Juliet’s Nurse.”

JulietsNurseCover
Want to find out more about Lois Leveen and Juliet’s Nurse?
Read the full interview with her in the latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine.

How the tragic death of an intern inspired a new version of Shakespeare’s Othello set in the high-pressure world of London’s City Boys

James Barnes as Othello.

James Barnes as Othello.

Time Zone Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello runs from 3-28 February at the historic Rose Playhouse on London’s Bankside.

Returning to The Rose after acclaimed productions of The Taming of the Shrew in 2013 and Orpheus and Eurydice in 2014, Time Zone’s Othello transfers Shakespeare’s tragedy to the cityscape of modern London.

Director Pamela Schermann promises “an abyss of power and intrigue, riddled with suspicion and jealousy. Beneath the surface of this civilised and polite environment we encounter brutality and callousness.”

Trevor Murphy as Iago.

Trevor Murphy as Iago.

In part, Schermann, says she was inspired by the tragic death of an intern at the London office of an international bank.

“He died after working continuously for 72 hours,” she says. “Although it is uncertain whether his death was caused by exhaustion or a medical condition, the excessive hours at work illustrate a brutal business practice, where money is more important than people.”

Schermann’s fast-paced adaptation cuts Othello down to its five main characters, with the entire play set in the meeting room of the company’s office.

Othello-Promo

The cast comprises James Barnes (Othello), Trevor Murphy (Iago), Samantha Lock (Desdemona), Ella Duncan (Emilia), and Denholm Spurr (Cassio).

Schermann’s production aims to evoke an atmosphere of claustrophobia and ultra-high pressure where everyone is under constant surveillance.

“There’s always someone watching you,” says Schermann, “analysing your every move and waiting for an opportunity to stab you in your back.”

Go here for more onTime Zone Theatre.

Go here for more on The Rose Playhouse and to book tickets.

A wealthy banker, a Pilates instructor, a bitter divorce case, a High Court Judge… And the words of William Shakespeare

According to The Independent, Mr Justice Mostyn consulted Act 2, Scene 4 of King Lear to aid his decision when awarding a £1.2 million settlement to the banker’s Pilates instructor ex-wife.

Pointedly, this is the scene in which Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, strip the aged monarch of his retinue.

In the space of a few cruel words, Lear’s personal escort is reduced from 50 knights to nothing.

An incredulous Lear responds with the impassioned speech that begins:

“O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.”

256px-King_Lear

It’s a very interesting example of the way in which top professionals sometimes use Shakespeare to assist their decision-making process.

But as is so often the case with Shakespeare, there’s a sting in the tail.

The speech in question marks the beginning of Lear’s descent into madness.

One interpretation could be that Mr Justice Mostyn is basically saying:

“Even though this settlement figure is extremely high, I am going to give this person the amount she says she needs, because otherwise she is liable to go mad.”

Lear’s harrowing madness ultimately leads to self-knowledge and redemption – along with heart-rending personal loss and his own death.

Shakespeare’s most powerful play would certainly be a lot shorter if Regan and Goneril had simply given him what he asked for…

Go here to read the original news story from The Independent.

The latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine features another High Court Judge acting alongside players from Shakespeare’s Globe.

 

 

We asked Muse of Fire creators Dan Poole and Giles Terera the 64,000 ducat question – what would Shakespeare be writing if he was around today? Their answer: everything from blockbuster sci-fi movies to political drama TV shows.

DAN: “I think it was Mark Rylance that said this in his interview… Peter Hall, who’s obviously one of the founders at the RSC, said ‘You can do anything with Shakespeare, but whatever you do, don’t put it in space.’ Which made him laugh and makes me laugh, especially because the one thing I’d love to see done is Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy series on stage.”

Muse of Fire 5
GILES: “I suppose they’re all in there, that’s the beauty of it. You can look at any story, and whether it’s a love story or The Godfather or Jaws, whether it’s Star Wars or Laurel and Hardy, you can trace it all back to some Shakespearean story.

“I’d like to see him have a go at some of the trashier things like Transformers, because he did a couple of the histories, the Henrys, then he needed a big blockbuster, a potboiler, so he did Titus Andronicus. There was blood and guts and beheading and eating people and that was a big blockbuster, so he wasn’t afraid of doing that. So I’d like to see him do something that we kind of pooh-pooh now, and turn it on its head.”

Muse of Fire  11
DAN: “It would also be fascinating to see what he would deliver now, given the culture that we live in. Because he always responded to what was going on in his environment.”

GILES: “You know, what I’d love is if he did TV. You know how they have those great American TV series like Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black, where they’re masters of keeping you hanging on, episode to episode, series to series? I’d like to see him have a go at that. He’d come up with the most incredible TV cliffhangers and character journeys.

“In many ways, I’d like to see what he’d do now. I saw a film recently called Dear White People. It’s about the American college house system, and race and all this socio-political stuff. And it was extraordinary because there was this stuff being dealt with on film that you just don’t see. We see it on Twitter feeds and facebook and we think think ‘Christ almighty, it’s about to explode’ over there. But you don’t see it on screen – and yet they were doing it. If you look at what’s happening in Othello or what’s happening in Titus Andronicus, they have a baby! Aaron and Tamora have this mixed-race baby…”

Muse of Fire  15
DAN: “…Four hundred years ago!”

GILES: “Right! People always say that Shakespeare was always very careful. You know, all this ‘you could be done for treason if you say the wrong thing’. But actually he’s talking about stuff that is the meat and bones of social life. Race and sex and age and marriage and all that kind of stuff. I reckon he’d be doing stuff that was really dealing with today’s issues. I’d like to hear what he had to say about Syria or Ebola. And it’d also be done in an interesting and entertaining way, because that’s what he does.”

Muse of Fire 3

How about you? What do you think Shakespeare would be writing if he was around today? Post your thoughts below, or tweet us @UKShakespeare

Read our full-length interview with Dan and Giles in the new issue of Shakespeare Magazine.

Portraits by Piper Williams

Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine arrives just in time for 2015 – and, yes, it’s still completely free!

Cover 05
Yes, we made you wait for it (sorry about that) but the latest completely FREE issue of Shakespeare Magazine is finally here.

Our scintillating cover story celebrates the amazing Shakespeare documentary film Muse of Fire.

We also investigate Shakespeare and the Tower of London, and take a trip to Staunton, Virginia – home of the American Shakespeare Center.

Meanwhile, actors from Shakespeare’s Globe have teamed up with a crew of legal eagles to perform at the famous Inns of Court.

Lois Leveen rethinks Romeo and Juliet with her evocative novel Juliet’s Nurse, while the experimental Filter Theatre Company remixes Macbeth at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Plus! You could win a copy of Station Eleven, the thrilling post-apocalyptic Shakespeare novel by Emily St. John Mandel.

Go here to read Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine right now.

And a very Happy New Year to our readers all over the world!