Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Liverpool Shakespeare Festival begins ...

Since I fear other things could conspire against me attending the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival, I at least promised to run some publicity on here so find below the relevant information in the form of press releases.

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet will be retold in stunning fashion as the centrepiece to the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival. The festival which runs from the 25th August to 11th September is back and will take place in one of Liverpool most iconic venues, St George’s Hall.

Romeo and Juliet, Sunday 25th August 2011 – Saturday 10th September 2011, St. George’s Hall.

The festival is the brainchild of Lodestar Theatre Company and was launched 2006. After a short hiatus in 2010 the Liverpool Shakespeare festival has returned for 2011 bigger and better than ever.

The festival’s central performance of Romeo and Juliet takes on the tagline of ‘Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?’ It is a story for everyone about sex and death and falling in love. LIPA graduate Rachel Rae, best known for her television performances in C4’s Misfits and BBC 3’s Lunch Monkeys, takes on the role of Juliet in what is sure to be a truly magical performance from the very start.

Max Rubin, Director and founder of Lodestar Theatre Company said;

“Romeo & Juliet is the world’s greatest love story, told against the amazing backdrop of St George’s Hall. You can be assured that we will use every secret corner of this unique performance space to create a truly unforgettable production. Expect stunning performances, breathtaking design and a haunting original score from award-winning composer David Ben Shannon.”

Simon Hedger, Producer added, “Romeo & Juliet is the central production and is meant to celebrate the extraordinary talent in Liverpool and the North West by producing truly beautiful classical theatre of the highest quality, whilst recruiting strictly from within the region.”

Tickets are from £10. Tickets are available from the Echo Arena Box office. Call them on 0844 800 0400 or book securely online at

Richard III

On the last night of the festival, Lodestar will present a unique Shakespearian experiment.

25 theatre companies will each prepare a randomly selected scene from Richard III in the style of their choice. They will then be all brought together for a single performance of Richard III unlike any other. One hundred performers, three judges and not a single rehearsal!

Richard III, 11th September 2011 7.30pm, St. Georges Hall

Richard III will follow suit with the rest of the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival and take place in the beautiful St George’s Hall. The performance goes by the tagline of ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re BARD enough’ working fittingly with the type of performance that will take place –this is Shakespeare with ‘No Holds Bard.’

This unique performance will bring a variety of different styles and techniques together; giving each of the theatre companies involved a chance to celebrate Shakespeare’s work in an entirely new way.

Max Rubin, Director and founder of Lodestar Theatre Company said, ‘Through this world-first event, we want to show how Shakespeare can sit comfortably at the heart of risky, contemporary performance practice, and to celebrate the diversity of approach both here in the North-west, and nationally. Although nothing like it has ever been attempted before, we hope to make it a regular feature of the festival’.

Simon Hedger, Producer also said, ‘What we like most about ‘Come and have a go . . .’ is that it will only happen once, and no-one – ourselves included – has any idea what will happen. Our audience will have exclusive access to a truly original theatrical experiment. It embodies everything that we at Lodestar aspire to provide: ‘Shakespeare for the 21st century’.

Tickets are £10. Tickets are available from the Echo Arena Box office. Call them on 0844 800 0400 or book securely online at

Breathe, Wake and Belong

The Liverpool Shakespeare Festival 2011 will include three heritage-inspired youth projects called Breathe, Wake and Belong. Young people from all over the City have come together to tell this incredible story through three exciting new performance projects which have been created in partnership with Widening Participation and St George's Hall.

Breathe, 26th August 2011 2pm, 27th 10am & 2pm, St. George’s Hall
Wake, 2nd September 2011 10am, 3rd 12pm & 2pm, St. George’s Hall

Belong, 2nd September 2011 12pm, 3rd 10am & 4pm, St. George’s Hall

The High Rip, The Cornermen and The Dead Rabbits (which were immortalised in the film of The Gangs of New York), were just a few of the criminal gangs who terrorised Victorian Liverpool. Hundreds of poor young people, many who were no more than children, were sentenced at St George's Hall.

Some endured years of back-breaking labour; others faced the dreaded 'Cat o' Nine Tails' or paid for their crimes with their lives. This story will be brought to life in three original pieces of performance art which have threaded within the tales original court transcripts and newspaper reporting of the cases heard in St George’s Hall.

Breathe is a music and song performance inspired by life, love and Liverpool. Wake is an original contemporary dance piece whilst Belong is a play based on the gangs of ‘Savage Liverpool’. Each performance takes place in St. George’s Hall where many of the young people characterised stood trial for their part in gang culture.

Max Rubin, Director and founder of Lodestar Theatre Company said, “We wanted a play that could tie several elements of the festival together and when we researched the history of gang culture in Liverpool, and realised the role that St George’s Hall had played when it operated as a courtroom it seemed like an opportunity to make some multi-layered stories with real resonance to the venue and the audience. This is when Breathe, Wake and Belong were born.”

Simon Hedger, Producer said about working with young people from around the city,“The ‘Breathe Wake Belong’ project will dramatically increase the number of young people we work with which is great for our cause in finding and showcasing the best talent the North West has to offer.”

Tickets to Breathe, Wake, Belong are free so please do go along and show some support and witness one of Liverpool’s most fascinating stories brought to life! Tickets are available from the ECHO Arena Box Office.

Call them on 0844 800 0400 to book or online at

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Tempest (Arden Shakespeare). Edited by Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan.

Even if, because I’m yet to see a convincing production, The Tempest isn’t my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays, it does contain my favourite line: “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.” As well as encapsulating human existence in eighteen lines, it’s always seemed to me to be a moment when Prospero breaks from the suspended disbelief of his fictional world and considers his own existence as a construct and in a way that slots in the space in reality between the actor portraying him and the audience.

Such woolly mysticism is probably nonsense but as Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T Vaughan (henceforth known as the Vaughans) demonstrate in their superb introduction to the newly revised third series Arden Shakespeare edition, of all Shakespeare’s plays The Tempest, because so much of it's world and characterisation have apparently been left deliberately vague, critics and creatives across the centuries have fallen over themselves to pour into the precipice all kinds of what some might describe as analytical construction and others dated prejudices. Imagine the six years the internet spent talking about tv's Lost (itself heavily influenced by the play) stretched across four centuries.

That’s true of much of the canon, but in The Tempest’s case the depth of investigation is particularly rigorous and resolves about twin, linked subjects: the location of the island and the nationality of Caliban. Unable to accept this receptacle of Propero’s Arts as a fantastical construct, writers have sought to position it geographically and metaphorically as anywhere from the North Atlantic coast of Africa to Ireland to encompassing both North and South America, with Caliban revealed to be a cannibalistic expression of any number of their inhabitants.

This makes for uncomfortable reading. By the early twentieth century The Tempest was actively being described as Shakespeare’s American play, with Prospero symbolic of White colonial powers and Caliban as the savage, subjugated native Americans even though as American Scholar Elmer Edgar Still noted “there is not a word in The Tempest about America or Virginia, colonies or colonizing, Indians or tomahawks, maize, mocking-birds, or tobacco. Nothing but the Bermudas, once barely mentioned as a faraway place like Tokio or Mandalay.”

Such diversions consume a high proportion of the Vaughan’s work though much is spoken of sources which are numerous but inconclusive. The Tempest lacks an ur-text, though it’s thematically informed by Ovid and Virgil and tales of exploration by Willam Strachey and Montaigne, both reproduced in the appendix, the product of Shakespeare’s magpie mind which makes for one of the shorter literary antecedent sections seen in an Arden. There’s still some room to consider the Freudian readings of the play though as you’d expect they're rather less baroque than for Hamlet.

All of this is cleanly presented and because the Vaughans are steeped in The Tempest having both produced separate volumes about the play, their attempts to cram in as much detail as possible into the introduction makes for a very dense read. But refreshingly their work lacks an agenda; probably because they’ve worked through their own opinions elsewhere they’re more relaxed about simply presenting the arguments of others and letting the reader decide as to their merits, pleasingly giving due prominence to contemporary thinkers like Bate, Wells and Kermode.

The Tempest (Arden Shakespeare) edited by Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan is published by Methuen Drama. RRP £8.99 paperback. ISBN: 978-1408133477.