“Pigeon-livered”

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Summer will soon be upon us, and so too will a plethora of touring productions of Shakespeare’s plays.  Shakespeare ‘al fresco’ is as much a part of British summertime as strawberries…. rain…… and unbecoming shorts.  It is little surprise that Shakespeare’s plays can take to the road with such ease – you don’t need a very big prop box to take Shakespeare’s plays on tour!

Letters….daggers….books….purses….skulls….yellow stockings… donkey ears….and vials of poison don’t take up much room in the back of a van – but they play an important role in some of Shakespeare’s most famous works.

I was reminded of just how little Shakespeare calls for prop-wise when watching the Globe’s touring production of ‘Hamlet’ last week.  As Joshua McGuire journeyed through Hamlet’s seven soliloquies his most important ‘prop’ was the theatre audience stood before him.  The drama lay in the electric charge that is produced when a thousand people are held listening to one man “unpack [his] heart with words”.  Even the pigeons swooping through the bays seemed impressed! Shakespeare was well aware that this actor/audience relationship could be achieved in a theatre, at court, or in a private home – and he would probably be delighted to see that his plays can now be dropped easily into sports halls, castle ruins, fields, and found spaces.  Over the coming months Dominic Dromgoole’s production will be performed in gardens, halls, and castles, and will eventually be performed at Elsinore castle itself early in August.  Full tour details can be viewed at http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/on-tour/hamlet

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Author:Nick Walton

Nick Walton is a Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
  • Anonymous

    Nicely put Sylvia. 

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to agree with Nick that the effectiveness of the production has little to do with things like complicated costumes and props. In the end it’s all down to the connection the actors make with the audience.   

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