Deborah Shaw is Director of the World Shakespeare Festival. She’s also a complete firecracker. In her own words, “I’m quite a good Hermia – small, loud and feisty!” Her passion for Shakespeare and the unrivalled festival is infectious and I leave the interview bowled over by her energy. The World Shakespeare Festival is in very good hands indeed.
Here are her tips on making the most of the festival.
I can’t say which World Shakespeare Festival event I’m most looking forward to because they’re all my babies. I love whichever one I’m working on at that moment. I was in Baghdad recently for the first rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet so that’s very dear to my heart. And to be in the midst of the madness that is Baghdad with the people who are so beautiful, so full of stories and hope and trying to live normally in the midst of insanity – I love that project and where it comes from and what it’s doing. It’s a very important play for Iraq theatre. That play is going to be bigger than just being a play.
Take your kids...
We’ve got a really strong strand of work for young people in the festival. If you’re a newcomer to Shakespeare and you’re aged, say, two, Oily Cart have been commissioned to create a piece called In A Pickle, which is going to be a sensory exploration for children aged two to four. It could be their first experience of Shakespeare!
For the Shakespeare aficionados…
More experienced fans should challenge themselves with some of the international work. What they can do in a different language is explore Shakespeare in a contemporary context without having to stick to exactly those words, We’re very lucky to have the words but they’re very lucky to be able to distort and play with them. Dmitry Krymov, a visionary director from Russia, comes from a design side and he creates a montage of images and that are really exhilarating. He’s done it with Chekov and now he’s doing it with Shakespeare, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It), on in Stratford-upon-Avon in August.
"The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a given, but go to the Guild Hall too. It’s a beautiful little chapel, quiet and small."
Soak up the entire festival, not just one performance...
A festival gives you a context. It’s a certain vision and it has certain ideas and it puts them on a platform and says, “Here you go, sample this.” It allows you go to different theatres, to try out different spaces and the kind of work that you might not normally see. What I love is that a lot of the people who have already booked tickets have booked for more than one show so they’re coming on the journey with us. So that’s what I’d recommend – see everything!
Interact with Shakespeare fans from around the world...
We’ve got a digital project online. It basically allows us to say that this is probably the first festival that anyone anywhere in the world can take part in, because we now have the technology to do that. If Shakespeare was alive today, I think he’d love the internet. He was totally engaged in the issues of his time and I should imagine that an information superhighway, a means of communicating with the rest of the population, would really light his candle.
Explore Shakespeare beyond the plays...
If you are in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a given, but go to the Guild Hall too. It’s a beautiful little chapel, quiet and small. Inside is a painting that was of souls going to hell on the day of judgment and when Shakespeare’s father was the local mayor he was responsible for having that painted out so lots of people use that as evidence of the fact that they must have been protestant without seeing it in the context that actually local authorities just have to put into practice what the state is demanding of them, whatever their own beliefs are. But it’s a beautiful building. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s small and you really get some kind of trail of what was happening at that time.
Find out more about the World Shakespeare Festival, a year-long event which showcases England’s greatest bard through a variety of art forms and cultural interpretations. It kicks off on 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday.
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Blogger: Emma Field, Editor
Born in Berkshire, bred in the Cotswolds and adopted by North Devon. A self-confessed overland travel geek, I’d rather take the most offbeat form of transport available, from unicycles to steam trains.