September 04, 2008

The Cultural Olympiad

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7597460.stm

Not much detail yet, but this news storyis the first mention I've found online of the Shakespeare Festival that is going to form part of the Cultural Olympiad. I don't know huge amounts about this yet, but the RSC are heavily involved in (if not actually running) the event, which is going to consist of performance of Shakespeare plays all over the country on some astronomical scale.

I'm reporting this on this blog (as opposed to my theatre review blog) because this Festival is actually related to my PhD. One of the main purposes of the new edition of the Apocrypha is to create performable playtexts of the apocryphal plays. Several of them only exist in old-spelling versions, and most are impractical to obtain unless you're an academic (or really committed). One of the outcomes of the edition, then, is planned to be a series of the apocryphal plays as part of the Shakespeare Festival, simultaneously celebrating the new edition and bringing the plays, at long last, to an audience.

All of which is very laudable. I'm waiting to hear more details about the Festival itself, though, as I'm not completely sold on the idea. Shakespeare is one of the international images, if you like, of Britain, and it's understandable that, with the world's eyes on the country in the run up to the Olympics, the authorities want to remind the world of our most popular exports. However, there ARE other writers (gasp, horror), not to mention dramatists, and if this festival is as large-scale as it threatens to be then I think there's a huge danger of overkill. We have, after all, only just finished one Complete Works Festival.

Nonetheless, as long as it's got some artistic merit I'm sure I'll enjoy it, and if the work done by our project contributes tangibly to the Festival then it'll be a wonderful (and hopefully fun) outcome.


- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Duncan

    The article talks of a ‘World Shakespeare Festival’, which implies that it will involve productions from across the globe in keeping with the Olympic spirit of international good vibes and brotherhood. That in itself will be a different animal from the Complete Works, despite the fact that one of the lessons learnt from the CWF was that Stratford should host more top quality international productions.

    If we do get a chance to see some more global Shakespeare, then I’m up for that in a big way!

    (Talking of which, has anyone noticed that Tim ‘Indian Dream’ Supple is producing As You Like It at Leicester’s new Curve theatre in 2009? And also Tobacco Factory is doing JC and A+C next year)

    04 Sep 2008, 12:48

  2. Missed that reference to it being a “World” festival at the bottom, thanks Duncan. I’m still reserving judgement until I’ve seen a programme, but I agree it’s got potential.

    Had spotted those three productions, sorry for not drawing attention to them earlier. The Supple As You Like It should be a good ‘un, I hope!

    04 Sep 2008, 12:57

  3. Duncan

    Dominic Dromgoole was just on Newsnight explaining that the Globe is going to be staging all 37 plays in one month to be performed by foreign theatre companies in a variety of languages.

    As a Shakespeare fan and a linguist, I’m very excited about that.

    Jude Kelly, who’s coordinating all this culture, said that the RSC was putting emphasis on youth involvement, which will dovetail nicely with their Stand Up For Shakespeare schools manifesto.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm

    04 Sep 2008, 23:34

  4. Duncan

    The major projects – described by Coe as “at an advanced yet flexible stage of planning” – include a World Shakespeare Festival, which is to be spearheaded by the Royal Shakespeare Company and be centred on London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Newcastle upon Tyne. The focus will be on international collaborations and the notion of Shakespeare as a world figure. Kelly said “large-scale international production” of Shakespeare would be launched at the festival, which will start on April 23 2012 – Shakespeare’s birthday.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/sep/05/olympics2012

    05 Sep 2008, 09:29

  5. Duncan

    Statement from Michael Boyd:

    http://www.shakespearepost.com/2008/09/05/rsc-artistic-directors-statement-on-cultural-olympiad/

    06 Sep 2008, 12:47


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I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.


Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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