“There is a world elsewhere”

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Having spent countless hours over the last five years putting plans in place for the Ninth World Shakespeare Congress – it was great to see the event finally get under way.  It was at once a chance to put faces to names, and an opportunity to connect people with shared passions. I took great pleasure from seeing so many people from around the world enjoying lively conversation under one roof. Shakespeare brings people together, which can only be a good thing.

At the close of the Congress I shared a stage with Tina Packer, who is one of America’s leading theatre artists.  Having trained at RADA, Tina performed with the RSC during the 1960’s in productions directed by Peter Hall and John Barton, and then in 1978 went on to become the Founding Artistic Director of ‘Shakespeare and Company’, which continues to be one of the world’s most innovative theatre organizations – see http://www.shakespeare.org/

I met Tina for the first time last year when I was out in Boston, and we began talking then about doing a session together in Prague.  We called our session “Living Shakespeare”, which seemed appropriate seeing that Tina has spent the whole of her career engaged with Shakespeare – as performer, director, writer, and teacher.

When I asked Tina to describe her rehearsal room, she surprised the audience by hauling one of them up to join us at the front to take part in a couple of exercises.  Tina cast me as Gertrude (type-cast again!), and Stefanie Bauerochse from Munich as Hamlet. Tina had us sit very close together, legs and eyes locked.  We concentrated on our breathing as Tina whispered questions into our ear, asking that we repeat certain words after her – we reached a strange trance-like state pretty quickly.  I found myself feeling very protective of Stefanie despite the fact that we had only just met.  Our connection was raw and immediate, unsettling somehow – as was our experience of Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship.  Tina invited the audience to comment upon what they had just witnessed and we talked about how such exercises could be used to introduce actors and students to the rhythms behind Shakespeare’s relationships.

Over the next couple of weeks I will continue the series of blogs from some of our grant winners – watch this space for “Shakespeare in exile at the end of the Greek Civil War”, and “Karl Marx: A Life with Shakespeare”.



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Author:Nick Walton

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


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  • Nick Walton

    So glad that you enjoyed it all Niky – it was lovely to see you there.

  • Nikyrathbone

    Hi Nick, just to say the Congress was a wonderful experience, I am so glad I was able to come, not least fot the chance to meet old friends.

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