chapter  3
34 Pages

Late Plays and ‘Neglected Classics’

Shakespeare’s later plays present unique staging challenges, and many theatre directors find the task of realizing these works for the stage especially difficult. The Tempest, Pericles, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale are all characterized by qualities of the exotic, the improbable, the mysterious and the miraculous. They detail long journeys to remote locations often by sea accompanied by storms and shipwrecks. They embody themes of loss and recovery, separation and reunion, death and rebirth. Within these Shakespearean fairy tales, realism and verisimilitude are displaced by a different kind of truth and reality; a truth which is largely symbolic in its faith in the inherent good in human nature and its longlasting hope in the ultimate benevolence of divine providence. This visionary reality, with its preoccupation with the wonderful and marvellous, is made manifest through elements of magic, music and the supernatural. However, it is precisely the fantastical nature of these plays that can make them a challenge to represent on the stage. With Pericles there is also the additional complication of the garbled text. The director must find ways of bridging the gap between the (un)reality of the plays and the reality of the modern audience. One must speculate whether producing these plays in a studio space with limited resources compounds or helps to alleviate the problem.