A Trio of World Premieres
Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation
Romeo & Juliet
The Shakespeare Ensemble raised three plays in three days, using modern reworking of Elizabethan rehearsal practices, and resonances from modern Kabuki practices. The Ensemble criss-crossed the country travelling from Nagano to Kochi, from Kyoto to Tokyo, playing in a different type of space for every performance, shifting between outdoor, indoor, proscenium, traverse, the round, and promenade.
They used no set, no costume, no shoes. Instead, they wore their own clothes, and used silk scarves instead of costume changes for character doubling; they used few props – only a dagger and a crown – arming themselves with adaptations of the accent & gestures of the time to aid their storytelling.
The gesture work comes from working with Beth Burns and her Hidden Room Theatre in Austin. In August 2019 Hidden Room were exploring Jacobean gesture for the first time, having mainly explored Restoration gesture hitherto. The Shakespeare Ensemble’s Curator Ben Crystal workshopped with them, and adapted the gestures for the Japanese tragedy trio.
The Japanese actor and clown Hiroaki Kurata joined the Ensemble for the world première of Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation in Japan, a world first to hear Japanese-English Original Pronunciation. Travelling across Japan with a booke-holder that struck a bell between each scene, the ever-changing 11th member of the ensemble became the space. The 12th – and most important member – were the audiences they felt honoured to meet, perform for, and play with.
With this tour of Japan they took a step closer to the kind of working dynamic Shakespeare’s actors shared.