rehearsals 2018, photo by Kája Curtis

The Shakespeare Ensemble

The Shakespeare Ensemble is an international collective of multi-disciplinary artists. We spend our time adapting rehearsal methods from Shakespeare’s time to raise our shows in 3-5 days. Communication of heart is craft.

We seek to engage with communities and audiences – regardless of language – with urgency, immediacy, and energy. Our fuel is the methods used by Shakespeare’s actors, reworked and reimagined to make simple, powerful theatre.

We think vibrant, dynamic storytelling is this: actors speaking passionately, playing in a great space, with a listening audience.

Shakespeare’s company were said to have 40 plays in their repertoire, and would raise their shows with less than a day’s rehearsal. We put this to the test in our own practice and experiment with similar time frames. How could Shakespeare’s actors have raised their shows so quickly? Continual daily practice, for much of their lives. 

We adapt rehearsal methods from Shakespeare’s time – looking at how acting companies made Platts (like a set-list) detailing the order of scenes, action, and music, to hang back stage; how they cut their shows; and how actors prepared only their lines using cue-scripts.

Coming together once a year for a week or two, the Shakespeare Ensemble plays together, developing exercises to sharpen our listening muscles.

In August 2018 we adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream into Dreame, an immersive promenade indoor-outdoor-indoor performance that ended in a feast, for a small Welsh community, raising the show in 5 days. In autumn 2019 our tour of Japan took the experiment further, raising 3 plays in 7 days. 

With the tour of Japan we stepped closer to the kind of working dynamic Shakespeare’s actors shared. We played in a different type of space for every performance, shifting between outdoor, indoor, proscenium, traverse, the round, and promenade.

scarves, puppets, and sticks, Bessho onsen stage, 2019

Thrumming similar strings to Shakespeare’s company, we use few props, no set, no costume, no shoes… Shakespeare’s actors probably had shoes.

We wear our own clothes, and in Japan explored using silk scarves instead of costume changes for character doubling, a dagger, a crowns and three puppet heads, created by Helen Foan, together with adaptations of the accent & gestures of Shakespeare’s time, to hold our play for non-English speakers.

We adapt original practice methods – of accent, gesture, cue-scripts and improvised movement – and agree that rehearsal time is for play, and to establish the dances and the fights – the complicated bits.

We learn the words, the cues, and we train ourselves to listen to each other, and to the spaces we’re invited to play in, gearing up to our listening muscles for the audience, the most playful member of the Ensemble we haven’t met yet.

community workshop, Kochi, 2019

We hail from New Zealand, Japan, India, South Africa, Ghana, Czechia, Norway, Austria, Germany, Holland, Wales, Scotland, England, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.

We fold our artists’ first languages into our performances.

We make contemporary living theatre, using Shakespeare.

Dreame, 2018

List of Ensemble Members past & present.

You can read about the Ensemble’s Lineage here.