Tuesday, 12 July 2016

ART CHANGES, WE CHANGE

These are the words that I found staring at me as I walked across Millennium Bridge towards Tate Modern, en route to The Globe theatre having spontaneously decided to see Caroline Byrne and Emma Rice’s production of The Taming of the Shrew.  As a strong believer in the accessibility of art forms, no matter what your background, these words seemed to resonate with me and this theme continued throughout the afternoon.



Shakespeare’s original script for The Taming of the Shrew, can be seen as dated when it comes to addressing patriarchal conformity. This interpretation of the renowned Shakespeare comedy, distances itself from hierarchical gender roles.  Set in Ireland, Easter 1916, it is a firmly feminist, poignant and refreshing production.  A prime example of how art (and attitudes) change as the world changes.
After the performance there was a Q & A with the actors in which, to my surprise an elderly gentleman queried ‘Was it your intention to drown out the original Shakespeare text with all that physical theatre?’ After a collective gasp from the audience at The Globe and some Cameron-inspired question avoidance, the query got me thinking. On one hand, the man was right. There was a lot of physicality involved in the staging – ‘vulgar’ gestures, the well-known lame cool guy handshake, (Joey and Chandler inspired, I’m sure…) physical comedy, breaking of character, I could go on… But not for one minute did it drown out the Shakespearian text, nor the extremely relevant and important message proclaimed by the directors about how far women’s rights have (or haven’t) come in the past 100 years.  It was accessible for young and old, for the Shakespearian connoisseur or the fresh-faced newbie and that was its beauty.  Honestly, I could talk about this wonderful play for hours on end, but the real reason for my writing this is change.

Art changes, we change. And we do change. I know I certainly have, for one thing I used to find Shakespeare utterly tiresome and yet, on that warm, sunny Saturday afternoon on the Southbank I found myself moved to tears in the final scene. (Thank you Mum for dragging me to so much Shakespeare as a child!) To the surprise of many of my friends, 12-year-old me, when asked if I wanted to go to the opera, replied; ‘Why would I even?!’ and yet here I am, eight years later, studying music at university as a classical soprano. On a more current basis, we in the European Union and the United Kingdom are experiencing many changes as we prepare for a new Prime Minister and a potential life outside of the EU. Ironically, many of the Vote Leave supporters, just like the disdainful theatre man, didn’t like change. They didn’t like that England isn’t ‘English’ anymore, just like he didn’t like that the play wasn’t quite true to the script.

Change and diversity are not something to be feared, it is something that we should embrace, be it socially, culturally or artistically. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, (if you were one of the many 18-25 year olds who did not vote, boo, shame on you) but we can keep an open mind. Art changes, society changes, politics changes, the world changes and we change too. To get stuck in your own outlook is a curse – we should allow the beauty of culture to envelop us because it champions diversity and unity. As T.S Eliot stated, ‘Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living’.


I doubt I will see another production that moved me so much for a while and I want to thank that old man for epitomising so seamlessly my dislike towards the superiority complex surrounding art and politics. The importance that lies in straying from the script is not necessarily an aspiration to improve, but one to develop and understand; something that society should appreciate.

KB 
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