Latest news on our first production
We are excited to announce that our first production will be a six character modern dress, #brandnew version called 'A Merchant of Venice' adapted and directed by #BillAlexander at The Playground Theatre, Latimer Road, London W10 6RQ.
For 4 and 5 star reviews please see News page. Production photos - © Guy Bell, GBPhotos.com
Bill on A Merchant of Venice:
One can get obsessed with a particular work of art and I confess that obsession is the only way to describe my relationship to The Merchant of Venice. I have directed it twice professionally (the RSC and Birmingham Rep), twice at drama schools (LAMDA and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School) and taught and lectured on it often. When working on select scenes with students at the London Drama Studio (Ealing) it began to occur to me that there was an inner play about a small network of relationships that was the core of the bigger play that wrestles with huge themes of Justice and Mercy, Marriage and Money, Race and Class, and it is this inner core, essentially about the tortured nature of Love, that my production for Shakespeare in Italy will focus on.
Antonio loves Bassanio in a tortured way because he struggles to understand the true nature of his feelings and has no idea either how to express them or whether they will ever be reciprocated. Bassanio loves Portia but is tortured by how real that is when weighed against his desperate need of her money to repay his debts to a man he also loves, Antonio! Portia loves Bassanio but is tortured by the terms of her dead father's bizarre will that dictates her marital future turns on the outcome of a crazy-seeming lottery. The conversation of the lovers before Bassanio makes his choice turns around the metaphor of them both being on the rack, the Elizabethan torturers instrument of choice. Shylocks torture, apart from his foul treatment by the Christians of Venice, is the death of his adored wife Leah and the duplicity of his daughter. My version of the play, which I have called A Merchant of Venice, excludes much that is well known, to focus on just six key characters whose entangled loves, desires and fortunes hinge on better understanding of themselves and their relation to each other in the blackly comic world of a modern Venice, the sublime and terrible Serenissima.
I have directed this play many times but never before prepared for it with such excitement and the sense of the profound relevance it has to our own twisted times.
It is true to say that without Italy there would be no Shakespeare.The stories of ancient Rome came down to him through the works of Plutarch, Seneca and their contemporaries and adaptations from medieval Italian literature. His comedies and tragedies were inspired and adapted directly from great Italian writers like Boccaccio, Ser Giovanni and Bandello.
Dedicated to focusing initially on the five plays set exclusively in Renaissance Italy ( The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and The Two Gentlemen of Verona ), we have forged a relationship with the Goldoni Theatre in Venice and other theatres in north and central Italy. The culture and politics of the country had a profound effect on Shakespeare's drama and part of our focus will be to explore the nature of that influence by playing in both countries and building cultural links between Great Britain and Italy.
Production related workshops - Aliens Order
In the summer of 2017, we developed a project in Peterborough called ‘Alien's Order’ linked to themes from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It was made possible following our successful application to the Arts Council for our first grant. The central idea was the experience of migrant Italians living in the UK after WW2, many of whom had to register for an identification card called Alien's Order. Portia refers to the word in the court scene saying “if it be proved against an alien”.
We held workshops involving people of all ages at an Italian community centre, in primary schools, at the City Museum and with a language school. A local writer produced six short pieces of pop up street theatre which were staged at the two-day open air Italian festival in the city centre. We partnered with local organisations including Metal, who champion the need for investment in artistic innovation and provide practical support to practising artists.
Workshops will be offered to schools, colleges and community groups.
We will explore, amongst other things, universal themes such as race in ‘Othello’, race and religion in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, gender politics in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and family strife in ‘Romeo and Juliet.
They will also be linked to current productions.
For more information on our workshop programme for schools, go to Education and communities, go to Reach Out.
The company founders have presented Shakespeare recitals in the UK and Italy.
They gave a recital for the opening of Cartoleria 18, a new mental health project in Bologna. https://www.cartoleria18.it/wp/
It was also presented in the Comandini Theatre in Cesena, as part of the 7th Mantica Festival of Theatrical Research and Development, and at the Ducal Summer Festival in Urbino.
In #2017 we ran community workshops at the #ElectricPalaceCinema in the Old Town in #Hastings. The aim of the work was to focus on relevant issues e.g. women in society, greed, ambition. Each person took a line in the scene, discussed the meaning of it and the scene was then cast gender blind and performed for the group. We worked on excerpts from Macbeth, As You Like It, King John, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Othello and Romeo and Juliet.
From #January21st 2020 we are running workshops for the #Over50's in #BrightonandHove ' Snacking on Shakespeare.' Organised by #Lifelines at #VolunteeringMatters, we welcome those who have an interest in Shakespeare -previous experience with the texts is not necessary.