Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tongues in trees

I was at the Barbican yesterday for Calixto Bieito's Forests, a World Shakespeare Festival production composed from fragments of Shakespeare's woodland and heath scenes.  'The play takes audiences from As You Like It’s forest of Arden through the moving trees of Macbeth’s Birnam Wood, ending in the bare wilderness of King Lear’s cliffs of Dover: a vivid theatrical journey from the calmness of paradise to the uncertainties of purgatory and finally into the flames of hell.'  In a Guardian interview Bieito says "I became fascinated with how often Shakespeare's characters go into the forest. In Shakespeare, the forest can be many things: a place of self-discovery, a place of magic, a place of darkness. I tried to shape this work as if it were a symphonic poem. You don't have to understand the whole plot. What matters is the strength of the images and the music of the text." It is a great concept and made me wonder about sampling and sequencing landscape moments from other writers, not for  descriptions of nature, but to see what kinds of action is staged in these settings.  In Forests we have cross-dressing, seduction, assault, madness and suicide.  It doesn't all work, as Kate Kellaway's review points out, though, as she says, 'Shakespeare proves tolerant to reinvention, his words pliant as willow.'

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