Social media has discovered that William Shakespeare penned King Lear in quarantine during the plague.
According to one meme, the greatest of British playwrights could do so only because YouTube wasn’t streaming in the 1600s. Records show that King Lear premiered during the Christmas festivities at the court of King James I in 1606, a few months after the bubonic plague had shut down theatres in London and driven the population indoor. From a distance of 400 years, Shakespeare is now inspiring his admirers to spend the lockdown with theatre. You could create a masterpiece, as he did, or watch one on YouTube as he could not. Here’s what’s playing:
The National Theatre
As the National Theatre, UK’s premier arts organisation, began streaming One Man, Two Guvnors, on April 2, 14 lakh viewers from around the world put aside the gloom of isolation and laughed. Actor James Corden won a Tony Award in 2012 for his role as a perennially hungry servant, Francis Henshall, in this production. National Theatre will put out a play every Thursday at 7 pm UK time — 11.30 pm in India. Jane Eyre comes up on April 9. Charlotte Bronte’s novel is reimagined as the quest of a strong-willed woman to live on her own terms. The following week features a gender-balanced adaptation of Treasure Island, starring Arthur Darvill. The final play on the list is Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare’s tale of music, love, shipwreck, disguises and a cruel joke.
Where: Globe Player
On April 6, Shakespeare’s Globe in London will present Hamlet, in which the Prince of Denmark looks out at a darkened hall, packed with unseen people, and claims, “Now I am alone.” For billions of people across the globe, who are surrounded by many but also separated from them, the scene is a powerful metaphor of the times. Shakespeare’s Globe is no stranger to shutdowns. In the early 17th century, as the bubonic plague laid siege on London, the historic playhouse was almost always closed. As a new disease quarantines people across the world, Shakespeare’s Globe has announced that six of its plays will be available free on the theatre’s video-on-demand service, the Globe Player. Apart from Hamlet, these are Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, The Two Noble Kinsmen and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The free films will rotate every two weeks, one at a time.
Its doors are shut but Moscow’s majestic Bolshoi Theatre has opened its window for online audiences. Some of Bolshoi’s finest works, featuring its stylised performances and stagecraft, are now available on YouTube — Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Tsar’s Bride were featured last month. Coming up next, on April 7, is Boris Godunov, based on an iconic protagonist of Russian opera — a Tsar tormented by his history of murder. The Nutcracker, a magical tale of Christmas Eve, when all toys come to life, will be broadcast on April 10. The shows start at 7 pm Russia time — 9.30 pm in India — and recordings are available for 24 hours.
The Show Must Go Online
Where: YouTube page of Rob Myles
The pandemic has kept actors away from the theater but couldn’t keep theatre away from actors. Though the stage is missing, there’s always Zoom. British performer Robert Myles is connecting with amateur and professional actors online to livestream readings of the complete works of William Shakespeare in the order they are believed to have been written. The initiative is titled The Show Must Go Online. It started with Two Gentlemen of Verona, featuring performers from London, Dallas and New York, among others. The dramatic reading — with astute voice modulations and a gamut of gestures and expressions — bring alive the themes that Shakespeare explores in his later works, such as love, friendship and infidelity. It was watched by more than 35,000 viewers from across the world. It was followed by The Taming of the Shrew and Henry VI, Part 1. The second and third parts of the Henry VI series will be read on April 9 and 16, respectively. The readings will continue till November 26, with
Where: Facebook and YouTube
Do you want to act in a Shakespeare play? An unconventional theatre experiment is enabling people in quarantine from all over the world to do just that. Titled Sofa Shakespeare, the project, which is the brainchild of US-based Julia Giolzetti, invites participants to submit a minute-long video of themselves performing an extract from a pre-decided play. Giolzetti edits the videos into a single performance and uploads it online. The result is a quirky patchwork of a play that features many actors and homes from world over. Romeo and Juliet begins with Giolzetti presenting the sombre prologue — “Two households, both alike in dignity/ In fair Verona, where we lay our scene” — when her dog suddenly starts licking her face. Dodging it, she valiantly completes the scene. Some performers evoke the mood of their dialogues with astute diction and mood lighting while others have children, pets, puppets and unfinished chores in the frame. The second play, Twelfth Night, features several students from the Drama School Mumbai. The next play is Titus Andronicus. If you want to be a part of Sofa Shakespeare, fill the form that is available on the project’s Facebook page.
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