Earlier today I sat down at my London desk firmly determined to finally write an intelligent article about how to perform Shakespeare (mostly on Zoom). As you might have surmised from the title of this post, that has not happened.
It is the last day of a highly unusual year; a year that has brought immense suffering to millions of people and a year that has pushed our industry to the limit. So that is my excuse.
It is also a year that has brought many FIRSTS. Some positive ones too, if you look closely.
In my opinion, this is the year that has finally shown the WORLD that yes, SHAKESPEARE, IS FOR EVERYONE!
I am a firm believer that Shakespeare belongs to everyone. Or at the least, everyone who feels 'spoken to' whenever they read or listen to his words - whether in translation or in English, doesn't matter. And yes, I have seen my theory proven many times over in the works of companies like Shakespeare's Globe in London, the International Actors Ensemble, Shake-Scene Shakespeare of course, and others, but this year, THIS is the year I finally saw my belief come to life on a truly global scale.
The advent of the "Live on Zoom" theatre practice (a practice that allows theatre producers to take artistic risks with little to no financial gamble) has finally thrown the Bard’s doors wide open to theatre practitioners not only from all walks of life but also from all over the world.
All you need is a camera device and an internet connection - and if this sounds like a lot, please remember that you can borrow either or both easily for a three/four hour period (I have been "guilty" of that too) .
At the same time, the same practice has opened the doors wide to a GLOBAL audience on a scale never seen before. Forget the NT lives on at that ONE cinema on a Tuesday evening. No! This is content you can access directly on your phone or PC for free any time you want.
Bad for the theatre economy, maybe (I am a firm believer that live on stage action has no substitutes and will always be with us), but great for Bard expansion - if you will pardon my colonial-like term.
Thing is, I have missed theatre too (both as an audience member and as an actor on the stage). But what I haven't missed is the heart-breaking slowness of the process that traditional British (at least) theatres are having to go through when it comes to LETTING Shakespeare be accessible to everyone. I say LETTING because there really is no need to MAKE it accessible. It already is, at its core: the text. What they are having to do is, little by little, chip away at the idea that Shakespeare is/should be accessed by higher British classes only. A hard task, I am sure.
But in the Zoom theatre world all that simply doesn't exist. You are free to cast as you please. Want to have one of the twins in Twelfth Night come from the US and the other one from Germany? Yes, no problem at all! Oh, Orsino is French an in Paris? Cool! Not to speak about other kind of diversities (who really is diverse or different when you cast is Global and from all kinds of backgrounds including different kind of abilities?!?) and you know what , I haven't heard anyone complain, or even, and that's better, comment on it.
When I was younger, Globalisation was whispered in the corridors like some kind of dirty word but, in this case... in this case I think it should be shouted at the top of our lungs. We are humans (though we've adopted some cats in our midst too) and where our experiences differ, well, we are happy to enrich one another, and where our experiences collide, we shout in unison.
Why Shakespeare? you may ask. Well, I could list a number of reasons (including the dominance of the English language in the part of the world where we operate and in the communications between different cultures) but the truth is: his works are highly accessible, they tend to speak to a variety of humans, and are long out of copyright.
So yeah, Shakespeare for All and All for Shakespeare! I am looking forward to another year of cultural/life/skills exchanges with friends from all over the world lead by our favourite Bard.
Happy New Year,