Silent Shakespeare

21 March, Adelaide.

The University of Adelaide and Silents Now are having a special screening of the Asta Neilsen Hamlet, accompanied by live, improvised music.

The first Hamlet ever to appear on film was Sarah Bernhardt, in a roughly ten minute piece designed to demonstrate the possibilities of film. The first full length feature film version of Hamlet also starred a woman as the Prince, Danish actress Asta Neilsen.

“To my mind there were just two geniuses of the silent film era: Asta and Chaplin. It is very hard for anyone now to conceive the huge scale of Asta’s personality in Germany. Wherever we went, even in the smallest towns, crowds immediately gathered round her.” – Sven Gade, Director of Hamlet, in The Screenplay of My Life (1941).

For those interested in the extensive, expansive history of actresses playing Hamlet, Women As Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation by Tony Howard details the whole story.

One chance only to get the Asta Neilsen experience, and see the first Hamlet feature film on the big screen.

Tickets are free and can be booked HERE.

Flyer advertising Silent Shakespeare event (details repeated above).

Twelfth Night hits the beaches

12- 21 March, Sydney.

Bondi & Eastern Suburbs Theatre Company

Directed by Michael Campbell, and performed outdoors in Rushcutters Bay, Coogee and Bondi.

For a handful of performances, the chance to see Twelfth Night performed al fresco on Sydney’s Eastern beaches.

Tickets $20 and $10

Group of young men and women in bits of costume gathered around bandstand in park.
Actors from last year’s production of Romeo and Juliet in Coogee (via BEST website)

Sat 12th March 2016, Rushcutters Bay 5pm
Sun 13th March 2016, Coogee Bay Amphitheatre 6pm
Sunday 20th March 2016, Bondi Beach Amphitheatre 1pm and 6pm
Monday 21st March 2016, Bondi Beach Amphitheatre 1pm and 6pm

Full details here.


Shakespeare and the Drover’s Wife


“When the Shakespeare Tercentenary Memorial Fund was established in Sydney in 1912 … the goal of the organisation was to raise enough money for a fitting memorial to Shakespeare to be created by the date of the three-hundredth anniversary of his death, in April 1916. Upon the announcement of the formation of the fund, an anonymous woman wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald to speak of the enthusiasm and support the organisation could expect from Australian women: ‘Whatever work there is to do by which we women may show our gratitude and love and devotion to our Shakespeare, we only ask, do not spare us, let us work side by side with men. Our power and ability to work for a fitting memorial of a beloved idol are as great, our devotion to the cause no less.'”

This is an extract from an article I wrote for the online journal Australian Studies.

B&W text: A Grand Spectacular Pageant Ball.
Advertisement for the 1914 Shakespeare Ball

The research for this article about the way Australians commemorated the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was only possible because of the remarkable capabilities of the Trove service, at the National Library of Australia. I was able to look up every column written about the Shakespeare Balls and other spectacular fundraising efforts, reported in minute detail in the Sydney newspapers from 1912 – 1916. I could do this at no charge, and without needing to travel to the Library in Canberra and ferret through their archives. This astonishing, useful, used resource is under threat from funding cuts, like so many other services supporting Australia’s intellectual and cultural life.

The idea of something that is already working so well, working for any Australian who cares to make use of it, and getting better all the time being curtailed is an unconscionable false economy.

Here you can read Mike Jones and Deb Verhoeven on Treasure Trove: why defunding Trove leaves Australia poorer.

The full article on the Shakespeare Tercentenary Memorial is available in downloadable PDF form here, as yet another free service from our National Library:

Shakespeare and the Drover’s Wife: the work of women in the Australian Cultural Landscape

(Australian Studies, volume 4, series 2)


Dr Patrick Gray at the University of Sydney

Tuesday 5 April, Sydney.

Dr Patrick Gray, Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in the Department of English Studies at Durham University will speak on, “What is Iago: Shakespeare on Imagination and the Demonic.”

In association with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

When: Tuesday 5 April 2016, 12-1pm

Location: Rogers Room, Woolley Building, The University of Sydney


Full details here.

UWA Shakespeare in The Conversation

The online journal for academics in a magazine-ish mood has a piece up from distinguished Shakespeare in Performance scholar Liz Schafer. It reflects on the work she has just been involved in in Perth, staging the Merry Wives of Windsor and Margaret of Anjou (noted previously on this site).

Vale Shakespeare, the (not always) patriarchal Bard

Peacock walking through outdoor seating.
A fellow of the resident company of the New Fortune Theatre

Tribute of a Troubador

Paul Kelly is scheduled to release his new album Seven Sonnets and a Song on 23 April, to mark the Shakespeare 400 anniversary.

Kelly, in consort with some of the highly accomplished Australian musicians he often works with, sings new settings of six of Shakespeare’s sonnets. “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee” – Shakespeare could never have guessed how true his words would turn out to be, or what fresh forms this life of words would take.

The ‘sonnets’ portion of the work is rounded out by Vika Bull singing a poem by Sir Philip Sidney, providing an apt proof of Kelly’s eye for talent that doesn’t have as high a profile as it deserves, no matter what the era.

The song is from Twelfth Night, one of the party pieces of the wise fool Feste, ‘O Mistress Mine’.

Kelly has long been identified as much as poet as a popular music artist, so at some level this kind of project coming from him causes little of surprise, though much of delight.

Kelly is making the album available digitally at midnight Greenwich Mean Time on 22 April, as the morning of the 23rd begins. Later that day he will give a performance of this special work at the State Library of NSW. He will also be speaking about Shakespeare and performing several sonnets at Sydney Writers’ Festival on Monday, 16 May.

Album cover with ink and watercolour sketch of Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet: a rose among the wildflowers

12 & 13 March, St Ives.

Also this weekend in the Hunter Valley, and 5 March in Murrumbateman.

Essential Theatre specialise in “Shakespeare in the Vines” performances in vineyards, to a picnicking audience. For two performances only they are bringing their touring production of Romeo and Juliet to the northern Sydney suburb of St Ives, and playing in Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden.

Two men duel with fencing foils among gum trees.


Event information:

Gates open at 4pm with the show commencing at 6pm.There will be two x 50 minute acts with a 20 minute interval. Why not arrive early – relax, unwind and soak up the great picnic atmosphere? Food and drink is available on-site or you can bring your own picnic, but no alcohol can be brought on site. Low-rise chairs will be available for hire or you can bring your own.

Free on-site parking will be available.

This event will go ahead rain, hail or shine. In the event of extreme wet weather or heat the alternative venue will be the Douglas Pickering Pavilion at St Ives Showground, 450 Mona Vale Road St Ives.

Ticket prices are $49 Adults, $44 Concessions and groups of 10 or more, $140 family (2 adults, 2 children).

Full details here.

Black, white and red banner. Text advertising production as detailed above.

Hypotheticals at the Sydney Opera House

15 March, Sydney.

Culture Club at the Sydney Opera House has a morning discussion panel on the theme “If Shakespeare were alive today…”

Chaired by Jane Caro, the speakers are actor Michelle Doake and directors Damien Ryan and Peter Evans.

From the Sydney Opera House website:

“If Shakespeare Were Alive Today… What would he write about, and for whom? Marking 400 years on from Shakespeare’s death, Bell Shakespeare’s Peter Evans (Artistic Director), actor Michelle Doake and director Damien Ryan discuss some ‘what ifs’ in the world of this legendary artist. What would he make of the 21st Century? What do contemporary audiences get out of the classics? If Shakespeare were alive what would he be writing, and perhaps more importantly, for whom?”

Tickets are only $15 for those who somehow manage to free themselves up for an 11am gig.

Full details here.

Sonnet Competition

Does your body hold the soul of a poet? Everybody, surely, has at least one sonnet in them. Here is a chance to share yours.

Open book with centre leaves flying out, becoming birds.

From the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia:

“To join the world-wide observances commemorating Shakespeare’s life and the 400th anniversary of his death the Shakespeare Club of WA is sponsoring a competition:  WRITE YOUR OWN SONNET.

Exercise your imagination and creative spark in a poem in the pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet, but using modern language.

Choose any theme, but link it in some way with Western Australia.

It can be comic, serious, satirical, romantic, descriptive… or what you will.”

Prizes:    1st:  $300     2nd:  $200     3rd:  $100

CLOSING DATE:  23rd September 2016

Full details here.



Auckland has a pop-up Globe

From 19 February, Auckland CBD.

Lucky Auckland is having a Globe Theatre delivered to their doorstep.

Middle-aged white man with glasses, braces and a fine moustache.
Miles Gregory

An amazing project in New Zealand is seeing a full-scale replica of the Globe built, used, then dismantled over the course of 2016. Lots of different companies, loads of plays, workshops, classes and experimental performance work.

Led by Artistic Director Miles Gregory, the core of the programme lies in full-scale professional productions of Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet. “These two masterpieces are performed by a cast of professional actors brought together into a new, specially-formed ensemble repertory company, that have worked with world experts to bring you the so-called ‘shock of the old’: the experience of seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed in the space for which they were written.” (Pop-Up Globe: About Us) However, the venture is offering a frame for a much winder range of projects.

If I were there I would camp out under their makeshift eves and see everything, before it vanishes like Titania’s court.

Logo with block drawing of Globe theatre. Text: Pop-up Globe the 2016 Auckland season.

Full details here