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Shakespeare Performances in London, Manchester and Stratford-upon-Avon 1985–6

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

Is Shakespeare getting too expensive? Even with simple sets and ruthless doubling, his plays are beginning to pose formidable financial problems for regional repertory theatres. Rehearsing and retaining a company of fifteen or more actors, and making a profit, seems not to have been difficult in Jacobean London. Today a single production on this scale can distort the budget of an entire season. Shakespeare has hitherto met the shifting demands of modern performance with surprising ease. The growth of the one-set-and-three-actors formula may yet banish his work from all but the grandest national stages.

Given this melancholy consequence of the labour-intensive nature of Jacobean drama, it is heartening to be able to report that this year the plays have, in fact, been bursting out all over - often in the most unlikely places. As You Like It, for example, was performed by the London Theatre of the Imagination in Heaven, the gay night club under Charing Cross Station. The Two Noble Kinsmen, never previously included in a Royal Shakespeare Company repertoire, appeared in the astonishing circumstances of The Swan - a brand new theatre, created entirely by private generosity, at Stratford-upon-Avon. And theatre-goers really infected with a hunger for improbable texts in unfamiliar settings could, in April 1986, actually have gone to a converted school hall in Battersea and seen Edmund Ironside.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 169 - 184
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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