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Friday, 2 August 2013

Taking Culture To The People

It seems that Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company is a group on a mission:

Firstly to take his play Hamlet to every nation on earth (including the Vatican), and others not known for their love of the West, or even their love of the theatre - including some which have never before seen a professional production of a Shakespeare play. I am talking about countries like North Korea and Afghanistan (not confirmed as venue but do able). Apparently the aim is to knock off 200 countries in a two year cycle starting in 2014 and ending 23 April 2016 - with the aim of covering the 450th anniversary of the playwright's birth next April and the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death in 2016.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company

But not content with that, they have also been performing Henry VI, parts one, two and three, on the actual battlefield of Towton, where in 1461 one of the bloodiest battles (28,000 men died in those same fields), ever fought on English soil took place between the two royal houses of of York and Lancaster, in what was the culmination of what later became known as the 'Wars of the Roses'.

Battlefield Shakespeare - Henry VI

One has to admire the 'up and at em' ambitions of the Globe Theatre company .... they are single handedly doing what the rather staid "Royal Shakespeare Company" should have been doing for the last 40 - 50 years, and is taking the works of Shakespeare to the masses. There have been attempts to popularise Shakespeare before, but they have either been attempts to change the settings (the Mafia does 'Romeo and Juliet', or a Military Junta for 'Julius Ceaser', or occasionally puerile attempts to slang the language, to 'get down with the kids'), but maybe none quite as inventive as these Globe Theatre company efforts.

Personally I would approach it via the language, not slanging the language across the bard (sorry LOL), but updating all the swearing to current standards ... yes I do mean Bastard and the 'F' and 'C' words (after all the terms used in the plays were the equivalent terms 400 years ago), and removing archaic phrases that make no sense unless you are far more widely read than today's teens.

As an example here's a scene from "Much Ado About Nothing; Act II, scene I"

LEONATO: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.

BEATRICE: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.

LEONATO: Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.

BEATRICE: The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is measure in every thing and so dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero: wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.

LEONATO: Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.

I ask you, how many teens in the UK would fully understand that? Could it be altered to make more sense to a modern teen audience, whose use of English has dramatically changed?

I had a quick attempt ......

LEONATO: Well, niece, I hope to see you married one day.

BEATRICE: Not till God makes men of gold rather than mud. Would it not shame any woman to be conquered by a piece of congealed dust? to promise her future to a clod of clay? No, uncle, I'll have none: Adam's sons are my brothers; and, truly, I hold it incestuous to marry my brother.

LEONATO: Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do ask for your hand, you know your answer.

BEATRICE: The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is timing in every thing and so to dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero: wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a dance, and a lively dance: the first stage is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and as lively as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, restrained, full of state and sedateness; and then comes repentance and, with his bad legs, falls back into the lively pace, faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.

LEONATO: Cousin, you perceive the situation with unusual sharpness.

Is that losing too much for the sake of understanding? It seems not so to me, especially if it leads teens into the full language and poetry later.

Finally, as an after thought ...... I suspect  that they had best get to Afghanistan fast, before the Taliban get back in to power .... camp bastion will only be a comparatively safe spot for a few months more .....

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