The Female Hamlet

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Following an immediate sell-out of tickets for Sarah Frankcom’s production of Hamlet (reviewed in my last post) that necessitated a further week of performances and widespread media attention, the Royal Exchange Theatre hosted a panel discussion with Frankcom, Tony Howard and Maggie Gale. Both Howard and Gale have an academic background in theatre. Tony Howard is a Professor at the University of Warwick specialising in Shakespeare performance who has published the book Women as Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation in Theatre, Film and Fiction (2007). The chair, Maggie Gale, is a Professor of drama at the University of Manchester. What follows is my summary of a fascinating discussion that not only debated gender issues, but also the theatre’s role in our entertainment-saturated society. Continue reading

Review: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, dir. Sarah Frankcom at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 11 Sept – 25 Oct 2014

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Before the performance begins, the audience are confronted with two boxes on stage. They are filled with clothes and rapier handles that jut out from the sea of material. The display is a reminder of the production’s preoccupation with artifice and the role of costumes in establishing gender, while the twin boxes suggest Continue reading

Review: Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, dir. Maria Aberg at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 27 March-3 May 2014.

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The program accompanying Maria Aberg’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing sets the intellectual mood for the performance. Its main body consists of three articles. The first article ‘Stranger in the House’ by Julie Summers describes life in Britain after the Second World War. Women (wives, girlfriends and mothers) are highlighted for their roles in helping soldiers settle back into civilian and family life. During the war, however, some young women enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle created by a patriarchal free society, especially when the American GI’s landed on British soil. Therefore, post-war Britain became blighted by divorce and unwanted pregnancies. The second article ‘An Age of Uncertainty’ by Scott Ferguson marks the birth of Government state surveillance developed from spying in the Second World War. An epidemic of phone tapping, miniaturised bugging devices hidden in offices and homes and intercepted mail plagued a suspicious world divided by conflict. In ‘Reading Between [Blurred] Lines: Staging Shakespeare’s Women Today’, Benjamin Fowler examines a subtle undermining of patriarchal power in Much Ado About Nothing.  What is particularly interesting is Fowler’s discussion of Innogen who is Hero’s mother, and Leonata’s wife, as the epitome of the silent female. Her mysterious appearance as the stage direction Innogen his wife on only two occasions (the beginning of acts 1 & 2) in the Quarto and Folio led to her deletion in 1733 by Lewis Theobald. She has rarely been seen since.

It is no surprise, then, that Aberg begins Much Ado About Nothing in
Continue reading

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