Editors’ Picks: The International Shakespeare Festival

With the International Shakespeare Festival opening this week, the Arts Editors take a look at what’s in store and pick their favourites from the line-up

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

Lily Papworth, Arts Editor

Two Shakespeare Heroines

De Greys Rooms, 8th May

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

What could sound better to an English Literature student than a Shakespeare Festival? An International one, of course!

York’s first International Shakespeare Festival is particularly exciting for me, as it is incredibly diverse and there is just so much to see. Despite Shakespeare being quintissentially English, this Festival is proving how accessible the Bard is on a global level. With performances in Polish, German, Spanish and English, the Shakespearean tales we all know and love are being reinvented before our eyes and presented to us in ways we could have never imagined.

I am particularly looking forward to the opening production, Two Shakespeare Heroines. Performed by the renowned Japanese actress, Aki Isoda, both Lady Macbeth and Ophelia will come to life through a combination of Western and Japanese styles. The performance will also be delivered in Japanese with English subtitles – even better!

Isoda is highly acclaimed for her craft with numerous awards to her name, including an award from the Shakespeare Globe Trust in London. I think her performance will certainly be a highlight of the Festival and, as the opener for the event, Isoda will most likely set the tone for the ensuing two weeks in celebration of the world’s favourite Bard.

Joel Down, Deputy Arts Editor

H (2) O

(Venues vary) 9th-11th May

Image: Greg Goodale

Image: Greg Goodale

York’s Shakespeare festival looks set on exceeding expectations. Therefore, while there is an unsurprising emphasis on Hamlet, with three or four different performances popping up over the duration of the festival, the play is unlikely to appear in a form you’d expect it to. That’s true even if you were to go to the same performance twice in one day. You could do this if especially eager to test whether or not Teatr Strefa Otwarta’s improvisation is as sharp as they advertise in their highly condensed development of Hamlet: reworded, reorganised and replayed over the course of three days during the festival. A two person cast, H(2)O promises to illustrate and magnify the contradictions within Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship and engage the viewer in dialogue.

Sound intimidating or intense? Well don’t worry, it should be fairly relaxed given the array of unconventional venues the company has chosen; including a cocktail bar and a pub. It’s there that the name ‘H(2)O’ might reach its full meaning. After all, if you’re going to drown your sorrows, why not do it creatively?

There’s everything to suggest that the performance will be worth a look-in: to see how well this interesting experiment comes off; what the cast does when its audience refuses to fill in the blanks and lastly, the bewilderment of a few locals when they find their pub overrun by eager-to-please thespians.

Lara Swan, Deputy Arts Editor

The Taming of the Shrew

Friargate Theatre, 15th–16th May

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

Image provided by York Theatre Royal

Being born and bred in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of the Bard, I’ve had no choice but to have been under the spell of Shakespeare since my earliest days.

Growing up, I never really understood the throngs of tourists blocking my way to Woolworth’s pick n mix, drawn from all over the world to celebrate Shakespeare through performances and the odd novelty keyring with one of his quotes on it.

But now I realize that Shakespeare’s works are written in a way that everyone can understand, and we are lucky enough to have an opportunity to see many iconic plays during the upcoming International Shakespeare festival.

My choice for this year’s festival is the Two Gents Production of The Taming of the Shrew. This production company is attempting to perform Shakespeare’s plays in the chronological order in which they were written, and pride themselves upon ‘unusually thoughtful’ interpretations.

My hope is that this production company are able to strip away the layers of comedy to reveal the complexities of this play. Whether you think Katherine’s plight is a result of misogyny and patriarchy, or is a strange form of Elizabethan foreplay, The Taming of the Shrew is most definitely one not to be missed.

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