Another Day, Another Farthing: Glasgow's Shakespeare Festivals

It's easy to shy away from the overwhelming nature of Shakespeare's work. But with two Shakespeare festivals in Glasgow this month, there is room for everyone, even if you are not among the perfectly well-versed.

Article by Marcie Hume | 15 Jun 2006
Two inspired festivals in Glasgow this month are ensuring that the omnipresent work of Shakespeare stays on the front burner. If you haven't been to a play by the man in a while, this is your chance to remember why he's still the hippest name in theatre.

Bard in the Botanics does what it declares with Glasgow Repertory Company's annual festival at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens; among other activities, the plays 'The Comedy of Errors' and 'The Winter's Tale' will be featured - the latter features the well-loved and wacky stage direction 'Exeunt, pursued by a bear'. Let that whet your Bard whistle.

Over at The Arches, Shakespeare in the City whips up 'All's Well That Ends Well' (directed by a a member of the RSC, an acronym to set your interest aflame) and 'The Tempest', along with a saucy reinterpretation of 'Measure for Measure'. There's also 'Micro Shakespeare', wherein young acting students perform Shakespeare-inspired shenanigans in the crooks and shadows of The Arches as theatre-goers arrive. In the foyer will be presentations of Shakespeare-on-film as created by film and acting students.

Hugh Hodgart, the head of acting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, who along with his colleagues established Shakespeare in the City, suggests that the universality of these plays makes such a project all the more thrilling. "I'm astonished at the range and depth of imagination, and what Shakespeare's work continues to mean to people all over the world. People find themselves in his work. He really is a universal poet, and it's a fantastic medium to use to communicate with people everywhere," he says.

The educational component is greatly important, and the involvement of theatre students of all ages, as well as the tours of the productions to schools, means that this festival is far-reaching. "Shakespeare's not going away," Hodgart explains, "and we want to be part of how his plays are made fresh and new. For students to get the best value, I think no one would argue that we must make it exciting."

The opportunities for reinvention are vast, and over at the Botanical Gardens, environment plays a role in spicing it up. Gordon Barr, the Artistic Director of the Glasgow Repertory Company and the director of the main plays in the gardens, says, "It's a much different experience than sitting in a dark theatre. You're outdoors and the interaction between the audience and the performers becomes central. You're all sitting underneath the same sky, and there's a shared informality and communality."

The gardens remain open during the performance, so there are "all kinds of colourful characters" who add to the entertainment. "It's what these plays were written for, really," Barr says, "like the open air space of the Globe. There's a nice edge of possibility."

Even with all this gusto, it's easy to shy away from the overwhelming nature of Shakespeare's work. There are all sorts of Shakespeare-goers, and there is room for everyone, even if you are not among the perfectly well-versed: there's The Academic who smirks contentedly, recognising every chiasmus and syllepsis. There's The Wide-Eyer who watches each actor's zealously-rehearsed movements, hoping to understand the metaphors or at least half of the plot. The Eye-Closer appreciates the rhythm and prettiness of iambic pentameter but doesn't worry if he misses a word or two. And there's The Post-Modern Anti-Shakespearian who thinks he shouldn't bother seeing Shakespeare because it's just so standard to see Shakespeare.

But with all this opportunity for new environments and clever ideas with these texts, it's likely that anyone can find their place in the audience. Whichever production you choose, you're likely to get a unique, inspired, proper dose of Bard.
Bard in the Botanics, June 21-23
Shakespeare in the City, June 5-27