Explore Themes

Moving from page to performance

(page 1 of 3)

(Part of an online exhibition created by OU Associate Lecturer Brendan Jackson in 2014)

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Clip 14: AA306 A Midsummer Night's Dream 1
Duration: 00:06:54
Date: 2000
Clip 15: A101 A Midsummer Night's Dream 1
Duration: 00:05:52
Date: 1977

The most advanced OU module devoted solely to the study of Shakespeare is entitled ‘Shakespeare: Text and Performance’: repeatedly the Open University teaching materials emphasise the necessity of marrying the words to the voices and the bodies of the performers. The complexities of this marriage are virtually boundless. The Open University’s audio-visual materials introduce students to the globally respected voice coach, Cicely Berry; to the communicative potential of movement, and of ‘blocking’, or positioning on stage; to the sometimes perilous business of staging duels (as in Hamlet) and battle scenes. Illuminating contrasts emerge between directors whose bias is to privilege the text and those who are concerned first and foremost with theatricality.

Also involved are the issues of the performance spaces and the history of theatre design. The Open University Archive includes material on Sam Wanamaker’s great project of rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank.

In addition we find among the Open University archives an exploration of the challenge and the expressive potential of set design, including a historical survey of changing attitudes which have led to period settings, elaborate whimsy in the presentation of fairies, and abstract, minimalist sets. All such shifting fashions are explored and debated. In fact, how to present supernatural beings in performance is an issue which confronts directors of both Tragedies and Comedies. The treatment of the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as problematic as that of the witches in Macbeth. The performance history of A Midsummer Night’s Dream affords the opportunity to sample violently (and on occasion amusingly) conflicting attitudes, as in the following two clips (Clip 14 and Clip 15).

View Clip 14 and Clip 15

Moving from page to performance (page 1 of 3)