York International Shakespeare Festival Launch 2015

YorkShakes banner ‘Shakespeare: Internationally, Nationally, Locally’ #YorkShakes The first York International Shakespeare Festival  (or YorkShakes) was launched on Wednesday 25th February, 2015, at the de Grey Rooms in the city.  It brought together many of the principal players (both on the stage and behind the scenes) in this exciting venture, and I am honoured to be a part of it, convening the events Popular Shakespeares 1 and Popular Shakespeares 2 on 15th May at York St John University. Unlike the RSC’s Complete Works Festival in 2006-07 or the RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, and LIFT’s World Shakespeare Festival  for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, YorkShakes is not a one off affair*, but an annual festival modelled on the other major European Shakespeare Festivals such as the ones in Gdansk (Poland) and Craiova (Romania), and YorkShakes is part of the European International Shakespeare Network. The brain child of director Philip Parr, his company Parrabbola partners with York Theatre Royal and Prof Judith Buchanan at the University of York. The Festival is very much local as well as global. The headline performance is Yorkshire’s own Northern Broadsides, a company with an international reputation for re-claiming the classics. Its founder, Barry Rutter, will play the titular role in King Lear at the University of York, directed by Jonathan Miller, one of Britain’s leading directors and thinkers. However, it is many of the other performances, talks and events that run alongside this that make this Festival really special for York.  With a focus on multicultural, intercultural or community theatre, it offers 10 days of fare, from productions such as Two Gents’ cross-cultural Taming of the Shrew , Aki Isoda’s solo performance of Two Shakespeare Heroines in which she contrasts Eastern and Western performance styles, Parrabola and Denmark’s Hamletscenen’s Prince H. Universe, Poland’s H(2)O, York Shakespeare Project’s  Timon of Athens, and the Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre’s Shedspere, to name but a few. Silents Now present a live music screening with a specially commissioned score of the silent, 1921 German expressionist film of Hamlet: Drama of Vengeance , which stars Asta Nielsen in a ‘mesmerising’ performance as a female Hamlet (see my blog post here).  Both universities contribute performances, with York St John University’s A Response to ‘King Lear’: They Kill Us For Their Sport, which grew out of students recent ‘secular pilgrimage’ to Auschwitz, and the University of York DramaSoc’s Richard III. There are also series of workshops and lectures that reflect on productions and themes that come out of the festival. For Popular Shakespeares 1 and 2, I invite Zimbabwean director Arne Pohlmeier, whose two man production of Two Gentleman of Verona was chosen to be part of the 2012 Globe to Globe (see The Guardian Review), to give a demonstration of how his cross-cultural company works, and I convene a panel talk with festival founder Philip Parr, York Museums Trust, the British Friends of Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre, York Shakespeare Project, York Explore and other guests who are actively involved in popularising Shakespeare at a local and global level. The University of York are also running an exciting lecture series. Most of the workshops, lecture series and panels are free but ticketed. For further information and booking, see here. Book soon to avoid disappointment and we look forward to seeing you, your friends and your family there: there is something for everyone! Watch the official trailer: *Globe to Globe in a more modest form has become embedded into Shakespeare’s Globe’s annual season, however.