One of the reasons for the long-term dramatic success of Shakespeare’s dramas is their amazing theatricality. Many spectators received from Shakespeare’s performances the brightest theatrical impressions in their lives. Many actors best revealed their talents when playing roles in Shakespeare’s plays. Many of the creators of the performances reached their main creative peaks in the process of translating Shakespearean ideas into scenic images.
However, the production of plays by an English playwright is as difficult as it is tempting. Each director who has taken on him faces complex questions connected with different traditions, approaches and possibilities of interpretation of the Shakespearean dramas.
What, for example, is more important: to convey to the spectator the spirit of the time depicted in the play of Shakespeare or to show the points of its contact with the modern era?
In the first case, it is necessary to accurately reproduce the details of everyday life, lifestyle, behavior and habits of people of the past. So, the Englishman Charles Keane, before staging any Shakespearean play, studied the works of archeologists and historians, shedding light on the epoch depicted in it, and then carefully reproduced the information obtained in the scenery and props. It is also worth mentioning the play “Romeo and Juliet”, presented in 1948 in Verona: its action unfolded right on the city square, against the backdrop of natural
In the second case, it is entirely permissible to arbitrarily treat the historical background of the play with the aim of adapting it to the needs and trends of the present-up to changing characters into modern costumes. In 1925, the Englishman Barry Jackson presented to the public the production of Hamlet, in which heroes dressed in the latest fashion acted. Since then, the tradition of “modernizing” Shakespearean works has developed.
In solving the question of recreating the spirit of the time in Shakespeare’s plays, one can go along the path of maximum approximation of the performance to the theatrical spectacle once unfolded on the stage of the “Globe”, and thus “resurrect” the Shakespearean theater. So, the Englishman William Poel in his performances tried to reproduce the stage, direction, costumes and even features of the speech of the characters, typical for Shakespearean company performances. And you can, based on the generalized “all-human” character of the Shakespearean images, completely free the statement from any particular time, show the “eternal” meaning of images and situations. For example, to interpret the plot of “Romeo and Juliet” as a story showing the tragic doom of love in any society embraced by the spirit of hatred and enmity,
The next question is: what should be the main emphasis in the play – on the play of the actor performing the main role in the Shakespearean play, or on the actor’s ensemble involved in general?
The first approach – building a performance on the game of actors “stars” – has a long tradition. It was laid still by the outstanding English actor of the beginning of XIX century. Edmond Keen, who in Shakespearean dramas attracted primarily images of titanic heroes endowed with mighty passions. Embodying these images on stage, Keane used all the richness of the colors of the actor’s palette; The general setting of the play in this case is a secondary role. On the recall of one of his contemporaries, it was all the same to look at Shakespeare’s characters in Keane’s performance that “to read Shakespeare at the lightning’s shine”
The opposite approach envisages a thoughtful composition of the performance and a well-coordinated work of the ensemble. Adherent to this approach, the German director Ludwig Kroneg explained the entire company thoroughly the character of the play and the place of each performer in the play. He paid special attention to the mass scenes with the help of which he strove to show on the stage the diversity of human characters and mores.
Finally, the question arises of who, in fact, should play the same Romeo and Juliet. Young actors, naturally emitting on the stage the energy and power of love passion, or experienced performers who can convincingly convey the scale of the feelings of this hero? For example, the famous actress Eleanor Duse played the role of Juliet on the day of her fourteenth birthday, that is, at an age almost exactly the age of the Shakespearean heroine, and her play caused a real storm of enthusiasm in the hall. But the Italian actor Ernesto Rossi dared to play the role of Romeo in sixty years, and did not resort to a wig and makeup. And what? Thanks to the impeccable acting technique and the skill of speech, he brilliantly coped with this task.
Be that as it may, with every talented production, the images of Romeo and Juliet turn to the viewer with new faces. In this – the pledge of their theatrical immortality.