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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: November 2009

The Schrödinger effect: Reading and misreading performance

Summary

The fixture of her eye has motion in't, As we are mock'd with art.

(The Winter's Tale, 5.3.67-8)

It is, perhaps, to be expected that professional academic Shakespearians often make for cynical and jaded theatre audiences. They have, after all, seen it all before, if only in their heads. But alongside the bored response to what is familiar there is often something closer to indignation, a frustrated outrage - oft overheard in the intermission bar - about the extent to which the production is 'wrong'. Recent RSC offerings are a case in point. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2008 Hamlet (dir. Doran) and loathed the Shrew in the same season (dir. Morrison), but found some of my academic colleagues defended their likes and dislikes about the shows - in admittedly informal and spontaneous conversation - solely in terms of how they read the plays as text. Some objected to portions cut from the Hamlet script, others to the invasive nature of theatrical visuals (why isn't Hamlet wearing shoes?). I hated the Shrew production, it was alleged, because I misrecognized the play's unrelenting misogyny. Yes, this production was less romantic, less fun, than many others, but it got the play right. Now, I would argue that I hated that production not because of its conceptual approach, but because I found it tedious and unfunny despite the fact that it was trying hard - excruciatingly hard, in fact - to be the opposite. What I faulted the production for was a crassness of approach (as was the case with Morrison’s Macbeth the previous year) coupled with woeful execution, and while I might be persuaded that this is in some way interesting I can’t be persuaded that such failings are eradicated by the production’s derivation from a particular reading of the play.

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