Archive for July, 2010


Stealing Shakespeare on the BBC

July 31, 2010

You should still be able watch the BBC documentary on BBC iplayer over the next five days. Click below:

The remarkable story of how a 53-year-old rare book dealer from the North East of England became the centre of a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a long lost Shakespeare First Folio.

The film follows bachelor Raymond Scott as he finds himself the focus of a worldwide investigation, involving the FBI, a Cuban fiancee and Durham CID.


Durham Conference: ‘Ideals and Values in the 17th Century’

July 20, 2010

Elizabeth Ford (Cardiff University) presented a paper today at Durham University. The conference is focused on ‘Ideals and Values in the 17th Century’.

Elizabeth Ford’s paper was entitled ‘Dramatic Ideals in Shakespeare’s Hamlet‘.

Find out more about the conference here.


Cardiff Shakespeare Readers: Anthony and Cleopatra

July 20, 2010


The next Cardiff Shakespeare Readers gathering will take place this Sunday.

Anthony and Cleopatra

Sunday July 25th 2010, 6.30pm,

Media Point, Chapter, Cardiff.

Click here for more information.


Derrida Today: Limited Inc. T&C apply

July 17, 2010

Johann Gregory (Cardiff University) will be presenting a paper at the Derrida Today conference in London on Monday (July 19th). His paper is entitled “Derrida’s ‘thought of the promise’ and Troilus and Cressida“. The paper engages with Derrida’s Limited Inc and particularly the issues of context and the performance of promises on stage.

Visit the conference website here.


Controversy, Protest, Ridicule, Laughter, 1500-1750

July 15, 2010

Elizabeth Ford has recently returned from a conference at Reading University. She presented a paper on clowning in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in a panel including Katherine Duncan-Jones and Roger Clegg.

Visit the conference website here.


Bare Knuckle Co’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

July 14, 2010

Cardiff will be host to another Shakespeare production this summer – this time indoors. Bare Knuckle Company will perform their ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at The Gate:

“All seems well in the village of St Athens when Mayor Theseus announces he will marry Hippolyta, more commonly known amongst the local population as Queen of the Amazons. His peaceful walk across the countryside is ambushed by Egeus’ complaint that his daughter Hermia refuses to marry his chosen suitor, Flight Lieutenant Demetrius, since she’s in love with Lysander, who Egeus the pub landlord, heartily dislikes. Egeus calls on an ancient law forcing Theseus to declare that Hermia must marry Demetrius or choose between death or joining a nunnery. Lysander asks Hermia to elope with him to the forest. Hermia’s friend, Helena, learns of this and decides to inform Demetrius, whom she loves. Demetrius, though, loves Hermia. Confused yet? Meanwhile, the local am-dram society consisting of Peter Quince, Nick Bottom and a host of others organize a play to be performed at Theseus’ wedding. In the forest, Oberon King of the Fairies argues with Titania the Fairy Queen that he should have an orphaned child in her care for his page. To obtain the boy, Oberon orders the fairy Puck to obtain a flower from Cupid that will cause anyone to fall in love with the first person they see… and that’s when the fun really begins.”

Saturday 10 July, 7.30pm

Thursday 15 July, 7.30pm

Friday 16 July, 7.30pm

Saturday 17 July, 7.30pm

For more information click here.


Shakespeare’s Promise: Articles from Johann Gregory and Richard Wilson

July 11, 2010

The latest issue of the journal Shakespeare is a rather special one as far as Cardiff is concerned because it includes articles from both Johann Gregory and Richard Wilson at Cardiff University.

Shakespeare’s “sugred Sonnets”, Troilus and Cressida and the Odcombian Banquet: An exploration of promising paratexts, expectations and matters of taste – Johann Gregory

This study centres on the promises that the first printed paratexts of Troilus and Cressida seem to be making before the action of the play begins. These promises are not identical to the promises made between people or characters, but, like these promises, they create expectations and make associations. This exploration, therefore, begins by taking “Sonnet 107” as an example of a text that makes promises, in order to set up the notion of promising texts. It then focuses on the Sonnets‘ dedication, before moving on to consider the title pages and the epistle to Troilus and Cressida. Finally, it attempts to make sense of the culinary terms in the paratexts to Troilus and Cressida by using the Folio prologue to the play and the Odcombian Banquet to show that readers’ and playgoers’ experiences were often imagined as a matter of taste that seem linked to a burgeoning consumer culture.

Forgetting Faith? Negotiating Confessional Conflict in Early Modern Europe

July 9, 2010

Richard Wilson (Cardiff University) will be giving the opening lecture at a conference in Munich next week (15-17 July). His lecture is entitled:

“Too Long For a Play: Shakespeare and the Wars of Religion”

Visit the conference website here.



Shakespeare and Wales reviewed

July 8, 2010

“Stewart Mottram delights in Shakespearean scholarship that finally gives Wales its due”

A review of Shakespeare and Wales: From the Marches to the Assembly published by Ashgate appeared in the Time Higher Education Supplement today. It can be read here.

The book was edited by Willy Maley and Philip Schwyzer, and included essays from Katie Gramich and Richard Wilson at Cardiff University.

View the publisher’s page for the book here.


Review: The Tempest, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, at Cardiff Castle 1-2 July

July 6, 2010

Reviewed by Nicole Thomas (Cardiff University)

Seven men in white cotton shirts and brown breeches stand in front of a wooden stage in the centre of Cardiff Castle. One holds an accordion and begins to play, accompanying them through a series of sea shanties. The music ends mid-verse, when the company abruptly ascends the stage, throwing ropes from the balcony and shouting for the ‘Boatswain!’ The sun is still shining down on the audience, but on-stage The Tempest has begun.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men brought their boisterous production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest to Cardiff Castle on July 1st and 2nd. All but three members of the seven-man company were double-cast: a practical decision which had interesting dramatic repercussions. Of the eleven titled characters (the roles of Adrian and Francisco were eliminated and their lines dispersed), only Prospero (Matt Bannister), Caliban (Kristian Phillips) and Ariel (Craig Gordon) did not have to face multiple hurried costume changes in the small marquis backstage. Those costume changes meant William Vasey, who played a smirking Antonio in plush red velvet suit, had to forgo a wig when playing the wide-eyed, tip-toeing Miranda. Her first appearance—in blue dress and headband—evoked laughter from the crowd, a response which set the tone for the audience’s reaction to the entire play.

When Miranda first catches sight of Ferdinand, her response to ‘the third man that e’er I saw’ cues more audience laughter. Vasey plays her so daintily, with hands constantly clasped, that the audience takes nothing she says seriously. This is most emphasized by her interactions with Caliban. Phillips, wearing the torn and muddied version of Ariel’s pristine white doublet and hose, elicits more audience laughter with his desire to people ‘This isle with Caliban’s.’ His hunch-backed gate, staring eyes and slow speech incite an indulgent sympathy in the audience. Phillips plays him as if he was indeed a ‘foot-licker’: perhaps a bit naughty for trying to rape Miranda and murder Prospero, but without any violent rage seething underneath.

The mirroring of his and Ariel’s costumes provides a link between these two magical beings: Ariel is the good child to Caliban’s bad seed. Gordon’s training at the Dance School of Scotland is evident in his physicality on-stage: he stands with arms suspended, slightly swaying as if susceptible to the slightest breeze. Gordon prances, lisps, and pulls a multitude of faces at the audience, who enjoys every antic.  He plays the accordion to accompany his own strong singing voice when toying with the mortals on the island.

The production’s approach to the magic in The Tempest is its strongest asset. The actor–led by Ariel’s hypnotic tunes and Prospero’s large wooden staff–move through a simple, tight choreography. When Alonso, Gonzalo, Sebastian and Antonio enter Prospero’s charmed circle at the end of the second act, they stagger slowly in with faces distorted in pain and freeze until Prospero tells the audience: ‘The charm dissolves apace’.  The choreographer has paid careful attention to the script; each physical response to the magic is initiated by a cue in the dialogue, with gestures large enough to carry across the field. The balcony represents the seat of the play’s magic: only Prospero and Ariel use it, and then only when they are instigating or observing the effects of their spells.

With such an emphasis placed on magic and music, the political dimensions of the plot are somewhat subdued. Yet the choices made when double-casting add an intriguing psychological dimension to the play. The King becomes his own jester (Paul Hassall). The sober councilor, who envisages creating a utopia on the island, transforms into the drunken butler who would be king (William Reay).  Innocent Miranda and noble Ferdinand (Shaun McKee) double as their own scheming uncles. Of these four actors, Hassall and Reay choose to maintain a continuity of character without sacrificing performance. Hasall’s Alonso and Trinculo are both fretful characters, while Reay’s Gonzalo and Stephano share a puffed-chest pomposity. Both actors use voice and mannerisms to differentiate their characters. Conversely, Vasey and McKee radically transform, in every respect, from virgin lovers to duplicitous royals. Their earnest, timid courtship stands in stark contrast to their verbal jousting with Gonzalo in the first act.

These vivid performances drive an energetic production. Thus, Bannister’s un-aged Prospero runs the risk of being overshadowed by his more dynamic fellows. Bannister narrowly avoids this by maintaining his energy level through each monologue and using Prospero’s moments of anger to take advantage of his height and vocal power. His epilogue is delivered with quiet grace.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men débuted this production of The Tempest on May 29th. On July 2nd they were as fresh as if it were opening night. In emphasizing the quick wit, physical humour and supernatural characters of one of Shakespeare’s latest plays, they lost its darker shadings. Prospero’s elegiac figure, which anchors the plot, is buffeted by the strong winds of some excellent character actors. They made a choice. By the time the sun went down, they had the audience cheering their approval. Prospero was indeed set free.

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