Brainstorming session: Shakespeare 400

Statue of Falstaff in front of the Renzo Piano tower.

Falstaff casts his eye over Macquarie Street

Here’s a little bit of Australian history trivia: the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death coincided with the first celebration of ANZAC day. Sydney’s Shakespeare memorialists had spent four years planning major events, including booking the fanciest theatre in town for a commemorative revue. With the changes in circumstances, that is, the war, the association donated their theatre booking and the proceeds of the charity event to the war effort instead, though the evening’s performance did still include the recitation by Dulcie Deamer of her poem expressing her conviction that Shakespeare’s spirit fought alongside the ANZACS.

Next April marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and at this point there is no organised plan being drafted in Sydney, as far as I can ascertain, to commemorate the event. Not wanting to be outdone by a bunch of Edwardians, I am proposing a Shakespeare 400 Festival. At the moment this would mean for Sydney’s city, inner west and eastern suburbs, because these are the areas I have most access to funding structures and useful contacts, but it could spread beyond.

Four of Shakespeare's original folios laid in a line.

Shakespeare’s folios held by the State Library of NSW

The broadest idea is to have a name, logo, website and social media accounts that will act as an ‘umbrella’ so that any organisation putting on an event can attach themselves to the Festival, and share information, resources and promotion opportunities. This could mean,

  • theatre companies
  • am-dram societies and drama clubs
  • schools
  • universities
  • libraries and book groups
  • historic societies
  • musical performances
  • themed comedy or burlesque gigs
  • charity fundraising parties
  • annual festivals who could link if they hold related special events (Sydney Writers’ Festival, for example)

The Festival would centre on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th April, but related events throughout the year would be welcome.

So tell me, what would you like to see as part of your Sydney Shakespeare 400 Festival? Or if you’re not in Sydney, do you have an event you would like to link? And how do I go about persuading Deborah Mailman to be Patron?

Categories: arts & entertainment, education, history

Tags: , ,

4 replies

  1. Are there any plays where good notes exist on how they’ve been performed in different centuries? Like, say, a modern take on Winter’s Tale, as close as you can get to a contemporary to Shakespeare one, and a couple from the 18th or 19th Centuries, performed in chronological sequence? Is such a thing even vaguely feasible?

    Of course I’m on the other side of the world, and have no useful contributions to make, it just struck me as an interesting thing for an anniversary if it was doable.

    • King Lear would be an ideal candidate for that treatment. It was played with a happy ending all through the 18th century, then several influential actors became famous for distinctively different versions, then you got some very deconstructed ones towards the end of the C20th. Probably not feasible with full productions, but would make for some great scene presentations.

  2. Bell Shakespeare Company sound like they should be up for something! Will think further upon this.


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