Book Review: The Paradise Ghetto

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Published in Dec/Jan Buzz Magazine, page 50

Fergus O’Connell (Accent Press)

There is an argument that art is nothing more than delusion, and perhaps history repays this notion. At Theresienstadt, the ghetto established for ‘privileged’ Jews during the second world war – where Fergus O’Connell sets The Paradise Ghetto – a rich cultural life flourished; there were lectures series, recitals and even schooling. O’Connell’s narrative tells the tale of the intense relationship which forms between two Dutch inmates in Theresienstadt, Julia and Suzanne, as well as that of the book they write. The novel becomes an escape, and perhaps a saviour, as they become the war will end once the novel is complete. The story within a story construct is not original, and sometimes the novel is rather clunky, yet O’Connell manages to keep your attention engaged in both narratives. More importantly, he leaves you asking an interesting question: is fiction a futile, even damaging, delusion?

Price: £8.99, Info: https://www.accentpress.co.uk/

Image: OuadiO/Flickr (All Creative Commons)

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Theatre Review: Spine

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29th November 2016, Buzz Magazine Reviews

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 18th Nov

‘Libraries are the cornerstone my gel! Course they want to shut ‘em, there’s nothing for sale!’ This one line sums up the damning political diatribe at the core of Clara Brennan’s award winning Spine, against the priorities of a government which has lost all sight of the public it supposedly represents. As councils continue to cut funding for libraries, Spine crystallises the indignant, justified anger of many in society against a politics which sees knowledge as only an asset up for sale, and in so doing relegates the many to become ‘life’s losers’.

One of life’s losers is teenager Amy, the ranting, raging and reluctant hero of the piece. After a series of fuck-ups, she seems destined to become one of life’s precariat: her best friend has become a fiend, she’s flunked her A-levels, lost her apprenticeship, started stealing with her boyfriend and now, on top of all that, she’s been kicked out by her ‘people’.

All this leads her to where she speaks to us now, standing in the darkened parlour of Glenda’s house, apparently in front of the silhouettes of generic household clutter. The Glenda she recalls – ‘a shrunken little biddy with shocking died red hair’- is anything but your cosy grandmother type. In fact, she’s turns out to be just as light fingered as Amy.

At this point the studio lights blaze, and reveal all that clutter to be crate upon crate of books. ‘I nicked ‘em’, Amy retells with relish, as it emerges that the books taken by her every time the council shut down yet another library. ’We’re keeping ‘em stored until such a time when they are safe again.

Glenda is looking for a political legacy, and in Amy she finds her opportunity. She’s gets her reading – Latin, a book on pondlife, anything. She wants to harness her rage, to give her a voice, and above all, a spine. ‘You kids wanna be angry than you are; No one to vote for? DIY it, my gel!’

Brennan has frequently been accused of promoting a brand of agitprop theatre, one which parades an affecting brand of politics but offers nothing of any substance. Spine seems to offer a rebuttal to that criticism; instead, agitation is the key to politicisation. Without anger we lose our drive. Without stories, we lack the understanding necessary to empathise with others. No wonder the council would rather burn the books in the night.

It’s a polemic, and a thinly plotted one at that, and it hangs completely on the central performance of Rosie Wyatt as Amy. There is a fine line between monologue and rant, and one which Wyatt steers with a performance that is sensitive to every one of Amy’s jagged edges, her bluster and belligerence, as well as every ounce of humour and vulnerability. It’s a performance which validates all the play’s material, and has you leaving the theatre game for a fight.

Image: Stewart Butterfield/Flickr (free creative commons)

Book Review: Trysting – Emmanuelle Pagano (And Other Stories)

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Printed in Buzz Magazine 27 Nov 2016, page 50.

Emmanuelle Pagano’s award winning Trysting is a strange sort of novel. There’s no plot, no characters, and even the fact it is fiction is easily forgotten. More than anything it resembles scattered confessions which Pagano has simply collected and delicately placed on the page. But in fact, she has actually crafted the voices of her lovers in short, anonymous fragments, and it is they who detail the many varied and often strange forms that love takes.

In Trysting, Pagano insists on brevity. Of the over 100 fragments, some are as long as two pages, while others are epigrammatic. Love is made up of small moments, and detailing these minute instances Pagano manages to illustrate love in a way that no academic treatise could ever do. Whether it’s the lover thinking about the ‘line of hair’ between his partner’s pubic and naval, or another tasked with clearing out the rubbish left behind the house after her husband has gone, each vignette seems to reveals some deep emotional truth, even when what it has said is not quite clear. Trysting may be constrained by its form, but it does repay its subject.

Delicate and sensitive, the work rebounds with incisive observations that are uncannily accurate (‘Life with him is so easy and sweet and joyful. I have a feeling he’s cheating’). Pagano is a compassionate recorder of the everyday expression of love, but above all objective. This is no simply celebration of love: the animalistic nature of love is all there, as is the disappointment that is inevitable when we fall in love, watch it stagnate and then collapse, without a trace of ever existing.

Whether what will survive of us is love, Trysting illuminates what that love could be: exquisite agony.

Price: £8.99. Info: http://www.andotherstories.org

Image: The Girl in the Mirror/Flickr (free creative commons)

Food Feature: More Michelin Stars for Wales

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11 November 2016, Buzz Cardiff Feature

The release of a new Michelin Guide always causes something of a hullabaloo in the culinary world, and this year Wales has something to celebrate. In this year’s Michelin Guide, two more Welsh restaurants have been awarded a coveted Michelin star. The news which was announced at a ceremony in London brings Wales’ total of Michelin starred restaurants up to seven. One restaurant, the Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon, was also given the prestigious Bib Gourmond for exceptional good food at moderate prices.

Twenty new restaurants were awarded the accolade. The two new Welsh recipients of the stars were the James Sommerin restaurant in Penarth and the Sosban and the Old Butchers in Anglesey. Michelin tweeted that James Sommerin was a place where “passion and natural ability combine superbly”, noting the chef and his family “run their restaurant with passion”. The chef took to Twitter to thank his family and the team at his restaurant, and called the award “a dream come true”.  The eaterie was also awarded the title of Welsh Restaurant of the Year at the AA hospitality awards just days before the announcement.

The Sosban and the Old Butchers – the other Welsh recipient of a new Michelin star – opened three years ago in an old butcher’s shop in Holyhead and was the smallest venue to be honoured this year. Of the Sosban and the Old Butchers, Michelin tweeted to say that their chef, Stephen Stevens, that he had “natural flair”. The restaurant has also provided Anglesey with its first Michelin star, and has helped to cement Wales’ growing reputation as a foodie destination.

All of Wales’ winners of the previous year’s award retained their stars. They are: The Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid; Tyddyn Lan, Llandrillo; The Checkers, Montgomery; Ynyshir Hall, Machynlleth; and The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire.

Image: WikiCommons

Preview: Italian Film Festival

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18 November 2016, Buzz Cardiff Features

The Italian Film Festival (IFFC) in Cardiff began last year with the simple aim of moving beyond La Dolce Vita. Aware that many people knew nothing more about Italian cinema than Anita Ekberg dancing in a fountain or Federico Fellini suffering from severe writer’s block, the Italian Cultural Centre Wales set out to blast their ignorance; they decided to illustrate the daring, innovation and originality of contemporary Italian film in a week-long festival across two Cardiff area venues – the Chapter Arts Centre and the Penarth Pier Cinema. The festival premiered films ranging in themes from poetry to gender and migration, and focused on productions with a strong emphasis on new narrative forms and cinematography.

The result was better than they could even have hoped:  all the screenings sold out (a rare thing for any film festival) and the daily Q&As had a strong turnout. Building on this success, the Italian Cultural Centre have partnered with a number of other Italian Film Festivals – including the Maratea Film Festival and the VART in Cagliari – to return the IFFC this November with an even bigger programme.

The festival will launch on with a screening of the latest film from legendary Italian director, Ermanno Olmi, who is famous for his work examining the business world and later films exploring religious and social themes. The festival also offers a preview of an upcoming exhibition of the work of artist and illustrator Silvano Beggio, featuring his character Melanzasca – a toy inspired by the Italian punk scene and legendary bandit, Vallanzasca.

This year’s festival also aims to showcase the work of a new generation of Italian filmmakers by presenting some of their most recently celebrated pieces of Italian cinema. Across the five day event, there will be eleven films screened across two different venues in Cardiff, and a number of actors and directors will speak at their daily Q&As. The Sardegna Film Commission and Lucania Film Commission will also be present at the festival to showcase their films to the festival goers. The festival promises cinephiles an unrivalled opportunity to sample the best of Italian film.

Image: WikiCommons

Preview: Messiaen Festival

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11 November 2016, Buzz Cardiff Features

Olivier Messiaen once called his faith ‘the great drama’ of his life. It was the core of his whole existence, the internal reassurance which provided him with the endurance to suffer grief and the atrocities of war, and yet still see the hand of God in all things – the beauty of birds and colour – and then transpose that into music.

His works are vast passionate things; they veer dangerously between dissonant and melodic, and yet retain a transcendence, delicacy and visceral power. It’s ambitious, often disconcerting, and very contemporary, and it is this music that the Royal Welsh College of Music will undertake to perform in November, during a short festival devoted to Messiaen. Over the course of three days, the college will put on five performances and recitals of some of his most innovative works to bring into focus the work and the man.

At the centre of the ambitious event will be a performance of Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus. Often cited as Messiaen’s greatest composition, he himself called the piece “the triumph of love and tears of joy – all the passion of our arms around the invisible”. Pianist Cordelia Williams – who devised a year-long series of concerts centred around the composition in 2015 – will return to this work for the performance on Thurs 17 Nov.

The festival will also feature a performance of the Catalogue d’Oiseaux by Peter Hill, of whom Messiaen himself said he was “a passionate admirer of his playing”, presenting an unrivalled opportunity to hear the compositions as Messiaen wished them to be heard. His little birds will flit through, parading their plumage in a performance of Oiseaux Exotique and other excerpts from the Catalogue d’Oiseaux.

The eerie Quartet for the End of Time, which according to legend was composed when Messiaen himself was a prisoner of war and found a broken cello, an old piano, a cellist and violinist, will also be a highlight of the event, before the festival ends on a more peaceful note with a recital including the Trois Melodies and Poemes pour Mi.

Image: WikiCommons

Art Preview: Clear Cut

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4 October 2016, Buzz Cardiff Online Features

Clear Cut has always worked to showcase the very best of avant-garde performance art in the UK and developing work that is genuinely groundbreaking and resolutely cutting edge. Having produced dance, music and theatre as well as film, visual art and spoken art, Clear Cut are now looking to ramp it up in their new home base. In their brand new initiative, ‘Clear Cut-Out’, SVJdance and CardiffMADE have taken the platform out there and put them into residence at Cardiff’s renowned music venue, the Globe.

With the move comes a special performance on the 6th of this month, with a line up which bends, breaks and straddles genres and promises to challenge their audience in completely new ways. You’ll witness Will Salter’s phonetic performance which hearkens back to the days of Dada, with a work that apparently straddles literature and music. Going even further back, Choregrams – an interactive dance and music collaboration – takes the baroque’s obsession with ornamentation and grandeur to produce an intricate web of dance, music and technology.

Perhaps the most daring new ventures are those performances which attempt to give form to the intangible. In ‘Poems from the Inside’ Rosie Bufton explores the experience of incarceration in prisons, both external and self-inflicted, through the written word. Gareth Chambers, a dancer, in collaboration with film maker Aaron Cooper, will deconstruct identity itself through an examination of the body. In short, they are back, bigger and bolder than before.

Image: Flickr

Art Preview: Models and Materialities Exhibition

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7 October 2016, Buzz Cardiff Online Features

If historically still life painting was concerned with the depiction of familiar objects, then contemporary art is interested in something more abstract: the process by which things become transformed into ‘things’ through painting.

This is the process that Woodley has tried to explore in this exhibition of contemporary still life paintings – Models and Materialities: Confabulation and the Contemporary – the third project of a series of three exhibitions at BayArt. The exhibition, which runs throughout October, considers how contemporary painters approach still life through model making and materiality seems to ask several questions, like how do painters come to conceptualise the objects of their paintings and why?

In her introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition, Emma Geliot notes that we always describe our own objects as ‘things’; mere possession imbues them with a strange intangible quality. We often use the term to describe the unfamiliar, the objects we can’t quite describe. What this exhibition shines a light on is how modern still life manages to open up both aspects of ‘thingness’ to understanding.

Many of the paintings that Woodley has chosen to display seem to be taken up with producing unrecognisable, reconfigured things, simultaneously familiar and alien. Clare Chapman’s Suturedepicts a great red mass, with a deep cut down its centre; it’s not quite some displaced bodily organ, but something transmuted and created anew by the artist. Another artwork featured, Timothy Hon Hung Lee, takes a typical Dutch still life of flowers and transforms it, appearing to drag the paint up the canvas.

The result of these paintings of objects – both the new, and those transformed into something rich and strange – is often odd, but always interesting.

Image: WikiCommons

Copy: 10 Things to do this Week (4-9th Oct 2016)

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4 October 2016, Buzz Cardiff Online Features

The Weir – Fri 7 – Sat 22 Oct

While the winds batter outside, four locals take refuge in a remote pub in rural Ireland where they drink, banter and trade in grim and ghostly stories. Hailed as one of the most significant plays of the 20th Century, the Sherman Theatre and Tobacco Factory Theatres present The Weir, a chilling play about Ireland, stories and salvation. There will also be Irish stew available before the performance for anyone not already sufficiently tempted!

Tickets are £6 – £20

Jean-Michel Jarre – Tue 4 Oct

The legendary Godfather of electronic music and performer extraordinaire, Jean-Michel Jarre is heading to the Motorpoint Arena as part of his first UK tour in six years. With his shows famed for their cutting-edge visuals, and Jarre set to perform music from his brand new LP, ‘Electronica’, this is a rare opportunity for any electronic music enthusiasts to see one of the scene’s most significant artists.

Tickets are £29.50 – £75

The Woman in Black – Wed 5 – Sat 22 Oct

Known as the ‘world’s most terrifying play’, the residents of Milford Haven can test that claim as The Woman in Black is coming to haunts the Torch Theatre for two-and-a-half weeks.  Fit to burst with ghosts and goalies, and things that go bang in the dark, the show promises to frighten anyone into the spirit of Halloween! This production is not recommended for anyone under the age of 14.

Tickets are £8 – £17.50

Marianas Trench – Thurs 6 Oct

Marianas Trench have had huge success in their native Canada since their 2006 debut, and now they are venturing to Cardiff’s Globe with their sold out European Vacation tour. Perhaps this may be a chance to get ahead of the curve with the next big thing.

Tickets are sold out.

Made in Roath – Sun 9 Oct – Sun 16 Oct

Made in Roath began eight years ago as a way of showcasing of art in the diverse Roath district and has now become a major year round event. This year’s annual arts festival promises eight days of innovative, high quality art – from open galleries, workshops and theatre to mechanical moths, ice maidens and lute music, the offerings shall be varied to say the least.

Free Admission

Gower Cider Festival – Sat 8 – Sun 9 Oct

With the coming of the apple harvest comes, of course, the chance to ferment them and have some fun. Over the course of two days, this event at the Gower Heritage Centre offers you the opportunity to sample up some cider made in a 120-year old press, as well as local ciders and freshly pressed apple juice, and enjoy some live music from the likes of Soul Skunk and Coppertops.  There’s even a real ale bar and BBQ for those non-cider drinkers!

Standard Entry Applies

Aberfan – Sat 8 Oct

The Millennium Centre will play host to a performance commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The performance will bring together some of Wales’ most celebrated musicians as well as the premiere of a specially commissioned piece by S4C from Welsh musical great, Karl Jenkins.

Tickets are £17 – £45

Aberystwyth Mon Amour – Wed 5 Oct

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Welsh Noir in this new stage version by Malcolm Pryce’s Aberystwyth Noir; think Brighton Rock by way of Gavin and Stacey. Schoolboys are disappearing from the mean streets of Aberystwyth, and it falls to Louie Knight, the town’s (only) private detective cum ice-cream seller and his sidekick, Calamity, to solve the crime and clean the streets. Lighthouse Theatre’s stage production promises thrills for both mystery lovers and those just looking for a laugh. Also in Cwmbran Thurs 6 and Pontardawe Sat 8.

Tickets are £9 – £11

Towards Abstraction? Art in South Wales Since 1960 – Until Fri 18 Nov

A rare chance for art aficionados to see artwork from the University of South Wales’s art collection, with works from Sarah Ball, David Nash, Robert Alwyn Hughes and many other artists put up on display at Oriel y Bont. Towards Abstraction showcases the art works of Welsh artists alongside those merely inspired by the epic south Wales landscape.

Free Entry

The Good Earth – Tues 4 Oct

The Good Earth is a thought-provoking new work that stages a loud, full throated protest against the power of big business, heartless development and the loss of community. Using physical theatre and Welsh folk music, this Motherlode production attempts to electrify the (somewhat unpromising) story of a Welsh valleys village which council develops threaten to tear apart. Also in Brecon Wed 5; Treorchy Fri 7 and Sat 8 Blackwood.

Tickets are £5 to £10

Image: WikiCommons

Culture: 10 Things to do this Week (10-16th Oct 16)

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10 October 2016, Buzz Cardiff Online Features

Dead Sheep – Tue 11 – Sat 15 Oct

‘A tragedy with funny bits, apparently’ according to Margaret Thatcher, or at least that’s what it sounds like in the trailer for the New Theatre’s new drama Dead Sheep. Steve Nallon, the voice of Spitting Image’s Margaret Thatcher (and effectively the real one) reprises his role in this play which explores how the ‘dead sheep’, Geoffrey Howe – with the aid of his wife, Elspeth – was able to bring the Iron Lady down. Loyalty, comedy and revenge are promised. Let political intrigue and shoulder pads ensue!

Ron Jones ‘Aberfan: An Unspent Youth’ – Wed 5 – Fri 28 Oct

As the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster approaches, The Gate in Cardiff presents the work of Ron Jones, an artist who grew up in the valleys village. His paintings portray a bright, optimistic view of village life in the 1930s, before the events of tragedy which would come to define, and then overshadow, Aberfan.

Free Admission

Alan Salisbury: A Retrospective – Until Sat 5 Nov

Around five-decade’s worth of the work of contemporary painter Alan Salisbury is currently on display in the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery for a little over a month. The travelling exhibition of Salisbury’s work – who has lived and worked in Wales for over forty years – is noted for its subversion of old masters. This exhibition offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the work of one of Wales’s most important contemporary artists.

Tickets are £4, £3 (concessions), £2 (children)

Layla’s Room – Tue 11 Oct

Poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz conducted over 1000 with teenage girls across the UK to devise this show at the Sherman theatre. Locked in her room one night, Layla ponders the objects of her life. What do they say about her, and do they say anything about the person she will become? A celebration of youthful righteousness, energy and ambition told through poetry comedy and music, Layla’s Room is an ode to the highs and lows of young women on the verge of adulthood.

Tickets are £15 (concessions £2 off; under 25s half price)

Ben Ottewell + Winter Mountain – Mon 10 Oct

A chance to catch Ben Ottewell, the former front man of the Mercury Prize winning indie band Gomez, in Clwb Ifor Bach as he embarks on his own solo career. His debut album and follow-up, Rattlebag, were critically praised and marked a definite shift towards a more lyrical and mature set. Apparently renowned for hi ‘gravelly baritone’ and bluesy, folksy but alternative sound, this may be an opportunity to catch a musician coming into his own.

Tickets are £14

Iris Prize 2016 – Wed 12 – Sun 16 Oct

Now identified as one of the top 50 film festivals in the world by Movie Maker magazine, the Iris Prize – Cardiff’s International LGBT Short Film Prize, and the largest of its kind in the world – is back, with a five day festival before the winner is announced on Sunday. Events include multiple short film screenings at Cineworld, an exhibition of Jon Pountney’s work at the Park Inn and an education day at the Chapter.

£80 weekend pass; £65 members

Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra – Sat 15 Oct

The renowned Russian Orchestra with Tchaikovsky in the blood is performing – you guessed it – Tchaikovsky, to form the grand finale to the 2016’s Swansea International Festival in Brangwyn Hall. With a reputation for big, bold performances, this should form a fitting end to the festival.

Tickets are £18 – £30

Lunchtime Talks: Gillian Clarke – Thurs 13 Oct

Gillian Clarke, the award-winning poet and current National Poet of Wales, will be giving a talk at the will be the subject of a lunchtime talk at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea as part of the Swansea International Festival. In a rare opportunity to see the poet for free, Clarke will be discussing her work as the National Poet and will also be reading some of her poems.

Free Admission

Oktoberfest – Wed 12 – Sat 15 Oct

It’s October again, and so it’s time for Oktoberfest (in Cardiff at least). Touted by the Telegraph as one of ’11 great places to celebrate Oktoberfest in the UK’, the Chapter are pulled out all the stops, to offer the finest German beers all weekend. From Cologne kolschs to Saxony Schwarzibers, you’re bound to find something to suit (and drink yourself under the table).

Free Admission

Mamma Mia! – Tues 11 Oct – Sun 13 Nov

Mamma Mia, here we go again! Thinly plotted musical which is really nothing more than an excuse to listen to ABBA music for 90 minutes or so, and, frankly, it is best enjoyed as such. It’s at the Millennium Centre for over a month and will be probably be impossible to miss.

Tickets are £18.50 – £61.50

Image: WikiCommons

Feature: Shakespeare Revisited

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22 April 2016, Varsity Theatre Section

The 23rd of April marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and of course it is being commemorated with suitable theatrical aplomb – the BBC promises a lavish live celebration, and productions of Shakespeare will no doubt be even more ubiquitous than before. It is a curious event to celebrate in many ways, and not one most people would imagine as complimentary. But perhaps in the case of Shakespeare it is oddly appropriate: after all, this is the man who gave us some of the greatest reflections on death and mortality in any language.

To a certain extent, though, what we are really celebrating is that the man Shakespeare fell off his mortal coil and provided ample room for the myth of the boy from Stratford to enter centre stage. No sooner had he dotted the ‘I’ on his will than the legend of the provincial genius who goes to London and almost instantly makes good was embellished, crystallised and preserved for posterity. It is now impossible to call forth the flesh and bone of the man, and so the person ‘William Shakespeare’ has become a tenuous entity, whose very mortal existence has even been questioned.

But if Shakespeare the man is unrecognisable to us, then the modern productions of his works would have been equally unrecognisable to the man. For the past 400 years, we have happily taken a free reign with his texts: we have written a happy ending King Lear, cut the fifth act of The Merchant of Venice, transposed the action of plays across place and time and transformed the villains into victims. Most shockingly of all we have even deigned to let women speak his hallowed lines (the horror!), and all of this has been done with relatively little in the way of opposition or controversy. Perhaps if Shakespeare had survived as more than a Renaissance ideal, none of this would have happened – but perhaps he would not have endured.

In many ways it is Shakespeare’s illusiveness as a playwright that has sustained his legacy. After all, the play’s the thing, and he was pretty good at writing them. So what is it that distinguishes Shakespeare from the rest? Largely, it seems to be his openness. An ability to re-interpret is essential in the arts, particularly the theatre, which constantly has to reproduce itself, but there are plenty of plays and playwrights who produce a piece that simply stands for one viewing and then descends into immediate stagnation. This cannot be said to be true of Shakespeare. His works are not static entities that can be locked down to a particular interpretation: instead, they are multi-layered, textured pieces that demand constant re-appraisal and originality. As the man has descended into myth, he is more able than ever to remain a disinterested shadowy presence in a production rather than someone table-thumping his view. But this is only possible because the man himself made the myth through the mercuriality of his own works.

Perhaps the clearest indication of this openness is in the presentation of his work. In a period when Hollywood has had to face up to its own issues with representation, it is easy to overlook the how the works of the Bard have always been used to examine questions of race and gender, frequently against hostile political backdrops. In 1825, Ira Albright was the first black actor to play Othello, in a production that was brought to a standstill by the slavery lobby. Since then, the race of actors has mattered less, with David Oyelowo being the first black actor to be cast as one of the Bard’s kings by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shakespeare’s own interest in playing with gender and identity have also made his works natural territory for more explicit examinations of the issues. Last year, Harriet Walter played Henry IV following her successful turn as Brutus in an all-female production of Julius Caesar set in a prison. Shakespeare has come a long way from being a boys-only club! But these explorations of the issues are only possible because they use his texts. Shakespeare remains the single most-performed playwright in the world, and his plays have seeped into humanity’s consciousness in a way that is without parallel. Almost anyone can recite the plot of Romeo and Juliet without ever having seen or read it, so an audience can immediately see the significance of swapped genders or a role reversal. Through his own generosity Shakespeare has become more than a playwright: he has become a recognisable human voice for everyone to exploit.

400 years of popularity constitute an impressive feat to celebrate, and in that time Shakespeare has evolved from man to myth to a collective voice for humanity. We shall never be able to know the man who died in Stratford four centuries ago, but that should not be our concern. This is perhaps the most fitting moment to revisit his works and reconsider our initial renderings because this is what his death allowed us to do: re-interpret.

Image: WikiCommons