Sunday, 18 January 2015

Interplay #8 - Pericles in the Original Pronunciation

Interplay #8 - Pericles in the Original Pronunciation - will be a world premiere - in three very different ways.

It’s the first contemporary production of Shakespeare’s late-play Pericles in Original Pronunciation, the accent his actors spoke in, based on research by the renowned linguist, scholar (and my father) Prof David Crystal, OBE, at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2004.

Original Pronunciation, or OP, is considered by modern audiences to be easier to understand than Shakespeare spoken in a modern English accent. The Tragedy of Pericles, Prince of Tyre was an collaboration with a young colleague of Shakespeare's in 1608, and an exploration with his actors of voyage, self-discovery, romance and reunion.

It will be underscored using a modern reworking by Max Richter of one of Vivaldi’s most famous works: a recomposition that remains faithful to the original score, while taking riffs or themes and ‘tinkering' around with them. My Shakespeare Ensemble has a similar process in theatre: our exploration is to recreate - as fully as we can - a modern incarnation of Shakespeare’s company of actors, who worked together full time for two decades. They would have been Shakespeare’s understanders as has not been seen before or since. 

Shakespeare would have adapted his company to today's laws. An example: in this modern world I believe Shakespeare would have welcomed female actors to his company, illegal in his day. I believe he would have let us cut his text to the best ’two hours’ traffic’ - a time-frame suggested in the Chorus to Romeo and Juliet - just as his own company once did. And I think he would have welcomed faithful innovation to tell his stories as clearly as possible - a quality in our productions we feel counter-balances the concept-driven Shakespeare that has popularised the world. This production of Pericles will not be set on the moon, on a cruise-ship, or in the 1920s: the setting will be the Berwaldhallen, the audience above and around us, with a chamber orchestra nestled with us, on stage.

We will rehearse in our usual manner, as our Elizabethan counterparts used to: each actor only receiving their 'cue-script' - the words they say, and their cues for when to say them - but never reading the entire play. So we will rehearse together, but will not speak the play whole to each other until we perform it for the first time in front of our audience on the 29th January. 

Instead, we will explore how we can best serve both the music, this new-old accent we call OP, and the text - the latter filled with 'Dumb-Showes', non-verbal scenarios of action that takes place, all narrated by the Chorus figure of Gower, the Medieval English poet Shakespeare reincarnates to tell this most wonderful of stories.

And finally, Interplay #8 will take the name of SRSO conductor Daniel Harding’s Festival, Interplay, quite literally, and explore those magical moments when the musicians follow the actors, the actors follow the musicians, or the rarer times when both are led by something Other, and unwished for, there comes an Interplay between us. 

It is going to be quite a night at the Berwaldhallen this January 29th. Do come & join us.

Ben Crystal
The Shakespeare Ensemble

Further details via the Swedish Radio Symphony Website

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