October 3, 2006, by Peter Kirwan


The next ‘new’ thing in the Complete Works festival is the start of the Responses. These are new plays, reflecting Shakespeare’s plays in new settings and texts to reflect new concerns.

I’m quite excited about these. While the traditional productions are great, I’m always excited to see how Shakespeare is translated into new forms. One of my favourite films of all time (though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it) is ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, which is not only the best US teen flick of recent years but also an intelligent and clever response to the ideas raised in ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’.

Where a response starts and a reinterpretation ends is a very grey area. Many may consider Kneehigh’s ‘Cymbeline’ a response to the play, featuring as it does a brand new script, a radical approach to storytelling and a loose take on the plot. Others may think that responses start in films like ‘10 Things’ or ‘My Own Private Idaho’, that completely translate the plays to new times and places.

The responses start this week with ‘Regime Change’, a take on ‘Julius Caesar’ set in Istanbul. Other responses include ‘One Of These Days’ – ‘The Tempest’ transposed to Ireland in 1775, ‘The Indian Boy’, a new and exciting-sounding take on ‘Dream’, ‘The Baghdad Richard’, which identifies the rise of the crookback with that of Saddam Hussein, and ‘Days Of Significance’ which takes ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ to Iraq.

I’m really looking forward to all of these, and very much hope that the reaction to them isn’t going to be “This isn’t Shakespeare”. It’d be wonderful to think that people will enjoy these new takes on Shakespeare on their own merits.

Of course, that’s assuming they’re good!

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