Is there ever such a thing as a new interpretation of Shakespeare?

“How relevant is Shakespeare?” is one of those questions that crops up a lot. Particularly during a Theatre degree. The majority of contemporary Shakespeare productions I’ve seen have made the story, the characters, the language somehow relevant to modern life. From Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet to Ong Keng Sen’s intercultural Asian Shakespeare series that used six different languages (Lear, Search: Hamlet and Desdemona), it seems like there’s something to be found in Shakespeare for everyone.

Concomitantly, there have been so many productions of Shakespeare plays since they were written in the 17th Century, and so many more versions of being performed every year (there were THREE different productions of Titus Andronicus showing at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2013, and that’s just ONE play) that it’s pretty hard to do something new, and even harder not to reference (consciously or not) previous productions in your attempt.

I’ve seen student productions of Shakespeare plays, professional versions of Shakespeare plays and I’ve seen Shakespeare performed in a language I did not understand (Korean – I was lucky to know the story), but I haven’t seen much Shakespeare as dance. So Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica was an interesting experience.

The Tempest Replica © Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot
The Tempest Replica © Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot

Knowing The Tempest quite well already, I was very intrigued by the format of the piece, which told the story in fast-forward and then rehashed the entire thing to flesh out the characters. I was curious as to why Pite decided that text was a necessary addition to the original piece (it has been through several different versions), and that she had not used Shakespeare’s text but created her own, as if every occurrence needed to be summarised or translated. Pite seemed to suggest that the language of the dance itself* was not strong enough to bear the weight of Shakespeare’s story. A curious suggestion indeed.

None of Pite’s ideas about the characters themselves seemed new or particularly engaging, but the visual landscape she created during the piece was pretty stunning. I stand by my 4 stars.

Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica at Sadler’s Wells

Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica puts a unique spin on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Choreographed in collaboration with the seven dancers who make up Kidd Pivot, The Tempest Replica presents two different constructions of the play side by side. Pite establishes two distinct versions of the same thing in order to explore the underlying themes and emotional contents of The Tempest, without creating an entirely narrative work. Presented at Sadler’s Wells, where Pite has recently become the 16th Associate Artist, The Tempest Replica gives us an old school story in a brilliant new way.

The Tempest Replica © Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot
The Tempest Replica © Crystal Pite / Kidd Pivot

Click on the link in the title to read my full review on Bachtrack.

*My companion, not a regular dance goer, was very bemused when the phrase “dance vocabulary” was used in the post-show discussion.

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