One of the most challenging parts of staging a Shakespeare play is the setting. When/why/how etc.
It’s rare nowadays to see the plays performed in regulation Elizabethan attire and instead you can see all kinds of weird and wonderful concepts.
This is where Emma Rice’s reign at the Globe came to a sad and sticky end – a committed and successful moderniser, her interpretations and settings clashed (it was suggested) with the physical stage and the overarching concept of presenting Shakespeare in as close to authentic fashion as possible. I for one was sad to see her go. If Shakespeare had had access to today’s tech he’d have definitely used it!
Wartching the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing (Love’s Labours Won) last night I was tempted to think back to all the various productions of the show I’d seen. So many go for concept over truth that it was refreshing to see the RSC play the characters so sharply and nuanced. The David Tennant/Catherine Tate version was played as a ‘star vehicle’ and lost much of the emotional dynamic behind the plot – there are some seriously unpleasant things going on. And there have been many others that have struggled to place the play effectively into a workable non-Elizabethan context.
I love a good concept and it can be hugely exciting and illuminating to see a well-known work given a kick up the backside – but not a kick in the guts.