Péter Dávidházi is Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and of Academia Europaea, and Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Author of numerous books including The Romantic Cult of Shakespeare: Literary Reception in Anthropological Perspective, Macmillan, 1998. He edited New Publication Cultures in the Humanities: Exploring the Paradigm Shift, Amsterdam University Press, 2014. His latest book is “Vagy jőni fog”: Bibliai minták nemzetiesítése a magyar költészetben [“Or it will come”: The Appropriation of Biblical Patterns in Hungarian Poetry], Ráció, 2017. His current research focuses on biblical allusions in Shakespeare, the prophetic tradition in Hungarian poetry, and the methodological changes of recent literary scholarship.
“The second burthen of a former child?” Shakespeare’s Reborn Inventions and Historical Change
“If there be nothing new, but that which is / Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d, / Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss / The second burthen of a former child?” Taking the biblical problematics of Sonnet 59 as its starting point, the lecture reconsiders Shakespeare’s inventions at this crucial moment of European history. The exploration of minor yet emblematic scenes in Hamlet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, 2 Henry IV and The Taming of the Shrew is meant to reveal how the accreted meaning of allusions, speech-acts, counterfactual musings, latent archetypes and shifting genres give birth to something familiar yet hitherto unknown, defining a special way of being new.
Francesca Rayner is Associate Professor in Theatre Studies at the Universidade do Minho, Portugal, where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Theatre and Performance. Her research centres on the cultural politics of performance, with a particular interest in questions of gender and sexuality in the performance of Shakespeare in Portugal. She has published widely on Shakespeare and performance in national and international journals, including Cahiers Elisabethains, SEDERI Yearbook, Multicultural Shakespeare, Shakespeare Bulletin and Luso-Brazilian Review and contributed chapters to several international volumes. She has been a member of the research project “The presence of Shakespeare in Spain and the mark of his European reception”, coordinated by the University of Murcia, since 2008 and was an evaluator and researcher for the European Union performance project “P-STAGE”, which produced a Portuguese-language version of Macbeth between 2013 and 2014. She contributed a chapter on the performance history of Troilus and Cressida to the 2019 Arden Critical Editions and published the bilingual Contemporary Portuguese Theatre: Performance and Criticism 2010-2015 (2017) and Shakespeare and the Challenge of the Contemporary (2021) for Arden Shakespeare. She co-edited the volume Othello in European Culture (2022) with Elena Bandín and Laura Campillo Arnaiz for John Benjamins and contributed a chapter to Boika Sokolova and Janice Valls-Russell’s Shakespeare’s Others in 21st –Century Performance (2021), also for Arden Shakespeare. She is currently editing a book on the early modern and contemporary resonances of Troy with Janice Valls-Russell for Legenda.
What’s alive in the live? Post-Pandemic Shakespearean Performance in Portugal
During the Covid 19 pandemic, theatre practitioners and programmers saw their live performances cancelled or postponed. It was an intensely difficult and anxious period, but also a time when practitioners vowed that theatre could never be the same again and would be forced to introduce fundamental changes. In the post-pandemic period, however, it seems that very little has changed and that live theatre has returned more or less as it was before the pandemic.
In line with the conference’s focus on Shakespeare and change, this presentation will explore what kind of live theatre has returned after the pandemic in the Portuguese context and the place of Shakespearean performance in particular in this return. What sort of changes has the pandemic prompted in live Shakespearean performance? How does this live theatre relate to other cultural and artistic forms, including the digital? Which changes look backwards to what has been and which reference possible futures? What Shakespeare and for whom?
Basing itself on two productions in Portugal, Jacinto Lucas Pires’ The Gravediggers and Tim Crouch’s touring Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel, the presentation suggests that the return to live theatre has not been a simple return but remains haunted by questions of death and the deadly.
Erin Sullivan is Reader in Shakespeare at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. She is the author of Shakespeare and Digital Performance in Practice (Palgrave, forthcoming 2022), which explores the transformations that the theatrical performance of Shakespeare has undergone with the rise of live broadcasting, intermedial dramaturgy, and born-digital experiments with social media, VR, and video-conferencing technologies. With Gemma Allred and Ben Broadribb she is the co-editor of Lockdown Shakespeare: New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation (Bloomsbury, 2022), and with Deborah Cartmell she is the co-founder of the Remixing the Classics research network, which is exploring the intersection of classic literature and digital technologies.
From Facsimiles to Films: Shakespeare and the Evolution of the Live Broadcast
In 2009, the National Theatre in London started broadcasting a selection of its stage productions live to cinemas in the UK and eventually around the world. In the years that followed, several major Shakespeare-producing theatres followed suit, including the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Stratford Festival in Ontario, and the Comédie-Française in Paris. For many years, those involved in the broadcasting of Shakespearean theatre – especially from the UK – insisted on the inviolable authority of the stage performance, often reiterating that the broadcasts were ‘facsimile[s]’ of the live show and that they were in no way ‘making a movie’. Quiet transparency has been the goal.
Thirteen years later, in the wake of both the coronavirus pandemic and the continued expansion of on-demand streaming, the situation has changed considerably. Attendance at cinemas is in decline, with audiences consuming most video content at home on televisions, tablets, laptops, and phones. The live broadcasting on Shakespearean performance has had to adapt, both in terms of distribution method (streaming to homes) and aesthetic choices (creating for smaller, often single-viewer screens).
This essay looks at two examples of Shakespearean stage performances adapted for the screen in our pandemic-shaped, streaming-heavy moment: Yael Farber’s Macbeth for the Almeida in 2021 and Blanche McIntyre’s All’s Well That Ends Well for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2022. Both productions were filmed for remote audiences using techniques that foreground the filmic medium and challenge earlier broadcasting conventions concerning transparency and the primacy of the stage. By placing camera operators on-stage, removing live audiences, and reworking footage in post-production, these examples suggest that the future of theatre broadcasting could be much more about overt, interventionist film-making than unobtrusive, supposedly faithful reproduction.