From the Artistic Directors
BY THE LAKESPEARE & CO. Team
Shakespeare’s plays have been gracing stages of all kinds for over 400 years. New York’s Shakespeare in the Park is in its 65th year; Shakespeare By the Lakes is just entering its second. Will we have the longevity of the festival that inspired us? We hope so, though we’re certain that Shakespeare of some kind will go on being performed as long as men can breathe and ears can hear. The success of our Much Ado About Nothing in 2018 took us somewhat by surprise: we knew that a company of actors trained in Shakespearean verse technique can move and mesmerize in ways that no other live performance can, but we did not expect our own modest efforts to attract such enthusiastic crowds.
Many Australian stagings of Shakespeare are driven by instinct or imitation, and the traditional verse work done in other parts of the world is too often forgotten, ignored or dismissed as passe in the 21st Century. This attitude is creeping into even in the highest theatrical circles and it is a shame: Shakespeare is epic and poetic, qualities that require a style of performance that rises to meet them, not one that ignores them in the misguided belief that this feels more natural or realistic.
Shakespeare’s mighty lines bestride the world like a benevolent colossus to be admired and enjoyed by all. It is neither elitlist nor precious. As Phanibhushan Chakravarti wrote about Shakespeare in Bengal, India: “The British empire in India crumbled because it had only annexed our territory, but failed to annex our love … Shakespeare on the other hand approached us genially with a regal abundance of gifts and expected nothing from us except that we should accept them from him for our use and enjoyment.” Despite such universality (Shakespeare as human right) ticket prices are going up and up. What is the future of Shakespeare in performance if the tickets are more inaccessible than the language?
Shakespeare by the Lakes aims to champion accessibility by bringing performances of the bard’s work to you for free. This work is not easy - especially on our limited budgets - but those who have sponsored us are lightening the load and joining us in a movement that we hope will effect necessary change in the whole entertainment industry.
As with last year’s Much Ado About Nothing, this year’s production of Twelfth Night draws from Canberra’s considerable well of theatrical talent to present the best, funniest and most accessible version of the play that we can perform. Our company have been working hard all summer at delivering Shakespeare’s verse with passion and clarity so that (in the words of this year’s director, Christopher Stollery) ‘it lands’ for you. We have greatly enjoyed the process of creating this show for you, and we have enjoyed many conversations along the way about the need to reach audiences with it. After having witnessed it, we hope you’ll agree that we have.
- Duncan Driver & Lexi Sekuless