York International Shakespeare Festival 2015 – Editors’ Pick

If you have not heard of the term “Yorkshakes” yet, you soon will. As we enter May, York is about to host an unprecedented celebration for William Shakespeare. As part of the European Shakespeare Festival Network, Yorkshakes is a 10-day long festival that aims to celebrate the works of The Bard. A collaboration between York Theatre Royal, the University of York and Parrabbola, the York International Shakespeare Festival promises to bring an unforgettable experience.

Ahead of the festival, our editors highlight some of the gems that are on offer.

Charlie Dos Santos, our Film & Theatre Editor on Hamlet: A Drama of Vengeance showing Saturday 9th of May in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Drama of Vengeance - Asta Nielsen Hamlet film for YISFCould anyone possibly do a Shakespearean play without Shakespearean speech? Well …it seems someone has tried. With the Shakespeare Festival nearly upon us, the screening of Gade and Schall’s silent Hamlet (1921) is one to be put on any cinephile’s list. For all those Shakspeare snobs who think that the big screen is not worthy of the Bard, this film proves, not only can cinema do Shakespeare well, it doesn’t even need the words. As if that wasn’t enough to hammer home screen supremacy, the film even beats Maxine Peake to an acclaimed female portrayal of Hamlet, with the Baird’s most famous brooding Dane re-imagined as a princess in King’s garb. Hamlet: A Drama of Vengeance is surely a top event on everyone’s list for this year celebration.

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Photography by Caroline Anderson

Liz Tresidder, our Online Film & Theatre Editor on Pyramus and Thisbe showing Sunday 10th of May at the National Centre for Early Music.

Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is one of his best-loved comic plays. If you happen to be the kind of person to leave a two hour Shakespeare production and think ‘you know what I need? More fantastic (if somewhat incomprehensible) theatre – but this time, with Baroque music!’ then pop along to Opera Restor’d’s production of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe.’ A comic opera based on Ovid’s play, written by John Frederick Lampe, this production promises to be loud, exciting – and probably a bit silly.

Stan Braminski, our Film & Theatre Editor on The Diagnosis: Hamlet showing Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th of May at St Peter’s School.

In this production Shakespeare continues to be reinvented, and culturally shared (brought to the UK by Catalan puppeteer Miquel Gallardo), in a conception we should have seen coming. Forget Napoleon, Elvis or Jesus, what better way to act out your mental disturbances then by living literature’s favourite nutcase? Hamlet. This is the thought of the much-oppressed Max who elects to live his life in a dramatic microcosm via his vibrant and disturbing puppets. This production will undoubtedly appeal to anyone wishing to see an enthusiastic mix of unbalanced psyche, novel puppetry, and warm personality.

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Beth Sharrock, our Online Film & Theatre Editor on Shakespeare In His Cups and Timon of Athens. Shakespeare In His Cups is showing Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th of May at The Gillygate Pub, Timon of Athens runs from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th at the De Grey Ballroom.

Shakespeare? Theatre? A bunch of actor-types pretending to be drunken Elizabethans? The only way ‘Shakespeare in his cups’ could sound more appealing to me is if they were to stage it in a brewery… but the Gillygate pub will have to do. With all the beauty of Shakespeare set against a bawdy lads night in the local, ‘Shakespeare in his cups’ looks so be some hilarious action with an unmissable tavern-turn-theatre atmosphere. If you’ve ever fancied getting mortal with Mercutio or trollied with Trinculo, ‘Shakespeare in his cups’ is not one to miss.

Nursing your literary hangover, do keep the party going with Timon of Athens. Timon is Shakespeare’s unsung, underperformed party boy. He literally parties his way into crippling poverty and when he finds that his so-called-friends have turned their backs, he takes a macabre and bitter revenge on them and himself. Forget the Shakespeare you know and dive into a tragedy which is rarely performed, thought to be a collaboration with the fantastic Thomas Middleton and even suspected to be incomplete, but which promises to be a side of the Baird you’ve never seen before.

*To get a glimpse of director Ruby Clarke’s work, revisit our review of her play, Border Line here.

Molly Bell, our Co Editor-in-Chief and Literature Editor on A Party for Will, an exhibition running from Sunday 10th May – Saturday 16th May in Heslington Hall.

“All the world’s a stage…”

Hold it right there, Jacques, because this collaborative exhibition at the University of York is turning your cynicism on its head to prove that all the world can be a stage and Shakespeare isn’t likely to make his exit soon. On loan from the University of Cologne, the exhibition reveals the creative potential that arises from expanding the Bard’s horizons to foreign shores. Heslington Hall will be brimming with thespian delights, from artworks and artefacts to records of diverse international productions. This is sure to make you reconsider Shakespeare’s peregrination throughout history and see the impact his theatre is having now, not just in the Globe, but across it too.


Unknown Magazine will follow the festival throughout and continue to comment on the highlights over the next few weeks.


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