Friday, February 21, 2014

Shakespeare and Homer: Rebooting the Classics for Today by Jane Howard

One of the themes of Jonathan Holloway’s Perth festival is a series of theatre works that are playing with classic texts: re-examining and contemporising them for modern audiences. It is a global theme, too, as Perth plays host to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) from Russian director Dmitry Krymov, An Iliad from New York’s Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare and The Shadow King, from Australia’s Michael Kantor and Tom E Lewis. 

For Peterson, director and co-writer of An Iliad with O’Hare, the flexibility in these old texts has always been present and should be embraced by artists. 

“We think of the Iliad as a fixed text now,” she says, “but [O’Hare and I] think it was built through oral tradition, by people adding layers and digressions, and it was probably written down hundreds of years after it had already been performed all over that part of the world. We wanted it to feel fresh; we wanted it to feel like it had never existed before.”

Kantor, director of The Shadow King, tells me the work is “so not King Lear. The Shadow King is something that blows out of King Lear.”
Looking at the current drive to tear apart these old works, Kantor reflects that it is exciting to watch artists overtly present their position on classic texts.

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