Footsbarn Theatre Co, Perchance to Dream

Review in Issue 15-3 | Autumn 2003

Footsbarn have been trailblazers, touring the world for nearly 30 years with their iconoclastic and highly visual adaptations of classic texts. Perchance to Dream is very much a Footsbarn retrospective in that it blends scenes from several of Shakespeare’s plays. Thus, for example, the clown mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream perform the opening scene of King Lear in which Lear’s kingdom is represented by a chocolate cake, which they then proceed to destroy in time-honoured fashion. This leads into the storm scene from Lear with the ‘real’ Lear.

The audience is in the same space with the actors for the scenes from Romeo and Juliet, which is performed on a cart. A giant plastic curtain allows Hamlet to graffiti ‘Hamlet is dead’ in giant letters. Live music is used throughout; sitar, African drumming and Brazilian carnival music as well as Western music. There is an intentional sense of roughness, the popular and the carnivalesque.

However, with so many other companies currently performing Shakespeare in imaginative and extraordinary ways (for example, the all-female Richard III at the Globe), there is the feeling that their work has not really developed. Moreover, although the actors’ physicality is impressive much of the acting is strained and the characterisation is wooden.

What is terrific is the wonderful simplicity of some of the staging. At the end all the characters (Romeo, Juliet, Lear, Macbeth, and Hamlet) lie dead. In itself this is a provocative concept. The other actors then cover them in sheets. Finally, a huge white sheet is slowly dragged over them all, under which they exit, leaving the stage completely empty to our awed, almost reverential, silence.

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Hudson’s Field

Date Seen
  1. Jun 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-3
p. 27