Thursday 26 June 2014

On the next OP production

A correspondent writes to ask what's the latest on the OP ('original pronunciation') front. A timely question, as it happens, as next month sees Shakespeare's Globe renewing its association with OP for the first time in almost a decade. Readers with long memories will recall that the Globe initiated the modern OP movement (in relation to Shakespeare) with its productions of Romeo and Troilus in 2004-5. Since then, there have been several productions around the world, as well as applications to early music, the Bible, and other authors of the period, such as John Donne - details can be found in the Archive section of the OP website.

The Globe event in July is actually three events: an opening evening explaining the background to OP and illustrated by a range of extracts from texts of the period presented by me with illustrations from Ben Crystal's Passion in Practice company; an evening devoted to songs and sonnets; and a staged reading of Macbeth in the Globe's 'Read not Dead' series - a British first, as I'm not aware of an OP production of this play having been performed in this country before (at least, not since 1606). The series has been well received. Indeed, it's been a sell-out. They're planning to film the event, though, in the hope that this will enable a wider audience to appreciate what's been going on.

That's the good news. The bad news is that it was always going to be an expensive business, mounting a series like this, which involves a full theatre company as well as musicians and singers. The Globe has given us every imaginable help, including all its marketing resources and the space itself. But we want to do this properly, with actors paid for their time, and this works out to a significant amount - not huge, compared with some of the budgets in showbiz - but one we couldn't fund all by ourselves.

Thanks to the powerful commitment to performing original practices that Ben's built up in his company over the past few years, those involved are determined to make this series come off, even if their return is next to nothing. At the same time, I'd like to find the financial support to help them make this project work at the level originally intended, without having to cut too many corners. There are all kinds of costs (such as accommodation for actors coming in from abroad), in addition to basic wages during rehearsals and performances, and it all adds up.

So: if you're interested in OP and would like to act as a supporter for this venture and make a donation, or know of someone who might be interested, I'd very much like to hear from you, either through this forum or privately (to We're using the Shakespeare's Words website as the online mechanism for processing donations. Supporters will form the nucleus of an informal 'Friends of OP' group that will help shape the way things develop over the next few years.

As an indication of what's involved, here are some relative values:

£20 pays an actor's per diem for travel and subsistence.
£50 pays for an actor's accommodation for a night. .
£70 pays for a fight director for a day.
£150 pays for a decent rehearsal space for two days.
£430 pays an actor for a week.
£1000 pays a musician to work on the project.
£2000 pays for the commissioning of new musical scores written with OP in mind.


Ϯ Lady MacbethϮ said...

I attended the 'Macbeth' Read Not Dead on Sunday. (Unfortunately I couldn't attend the other two. Shropshire isn't exactly convenient for The Globe.)

The script was heavily cut and I didn't understand why the (also cut) Hecate/Middleton scene was included.

However, if Ben was serious in his threat to tour it - hopefully uncut - count me in as a friend.

DC said...

Thank you. I hope it happens.

The cuts were to produce 'two hours traffic on the stage' - which the company managed to do, almost to the minute. A four-hour Hamlet would never have been acted in Shakespeare's time, and even though Macbeth is much much shorter, it still needs some cuts to make it work for a 'Read Not Dead' presentation. A tour, where such constraints (such as the requirement to be holding a script) are not present could result in a much more relaxed text. Whether that will happen is more a matter of money than motivation!

Collaboration being the norm in Shakespeare;'s time, I have no problem in seeing the Hecate scene included in a Macbeth production.

Ϯ Lady MacbethϮ said...

I've recently seen a podcast by Greg Doran featuring 'the two hours traffic of our stage'. He would, I think, disagree! (I don't, but I'm one of the few people who think there is merit in the 'Hamlet' bad quarto in performance terms.)

Of course, if all the collaborative bits of the plays were cut we'd have very different plays, but my understanding is that Middleton added bits much later, not in collaboration with Shakespeare. The Hecate scene certainly reads like a masque and I don't think Shakespeare was including masque like scenes in 1606. It's only a small quibble, though.

I've just read a review from the RSC. If you've not seen it, it's here: