It is true to say that without Italy there would be no Shakespeare.The stories of ancient Rome came down to him through the works of Plutarch, Seneca and their contemporaries and adaptations from medieval Italian literature. His comedies and tragedies were inspired and adapted directly from great Italian writers like Boccaccio, Ser Giovanni and Bandello.
Latest news on our next planned production
We are currently raising funds for a planned production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in partnership with Creation Theatre Company in Oxford – a site specific, six-actor version directed by Bill Alexander in the Norrington Room in Blackwell's bookshop.
Shakespeare in Italy is seeking investors for a three year span of productions via a government run scheme Social Investment Tax Relief which will be administered by PWC.
Bill Alexander on The Merchant of Venice in Blackwell's:
“Of all Shakespeare's plays the one that has fascinated me the most and for longest is ‘The Merchant of Venice’. I first directed it for the RSC in the late ‘80s and have returned to it three more times over the years. I have set it in the Renaissance, in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and in modern times each one throwing different aspects of the play in sharper focus. I've cast it colour blind, complicating it's racial issues, and gender blind, emphasising its interrogation of sexuality and desire. Whether set in the Elizabethan or modern world it's a complex text that always seems to benefit from added complexity, deepening the impact of this remarkable play and it's dark heart.
Dedicated to focusing initially on the five plays set exclusively in Renaissance Italy ( The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and The Two Gentlemen of Verona ), we have forged a relationship with the Goldoni Theatre in Venice and the site specific, Oxford based company Creation. The culture and politics of Italy had a profound effect on Shakespeare's drama and part of our focus will be to explore the nature of that influence by playing in both countries and building cultural links between Great Britain and Italy.
Overtime it is hoped that the company and its productions will travel throughout Europe during a period of our history when artistic linkage to the continent will be more vital than ever. Shakespeare was, without doubt, a European in the deepest sense. His stories are mainly set in Europe and (apart from the History Cycles) have their narrative and intellectual origins in France, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Italy. With the Italian quintet in particular you can observe a new dramatic chemistry that blends an emergent British naturalism with the stylised bravado of Commedia dell Arte.
Given my long history with ‘The Merchant of Venice’ it seemed only natural that this play should be the one with which we began that exploration.
As well as being about race and class the play is also about wealth and the way money, love and the love of money interact with class and race to infect the human mind. I will create a modern world, theatrically heightened, to make a production that illuminates the psychological confusion and emotional upheaval (expressed both comically and tragically) that inevitably springs from the collision of sexual desire, parental love and the pursuit and worship of wealth.
Using a cast of only six actors the production will be designed to respond to the unique performance space situated within the Oxford branch of Blackwell's Bookshop. Focusing on a central group of characters at the heart of the play the production will create an atmosphere of unparalleled realism and emotional intimacy between actors and audience. The reimagining of the narrative arc and physical location of well-known scenes will emphasise those parts of the play that reflect most directly our contemporary relationship to issues such as wealth inequality, anti- semitism and the difficulty of forming lasting relationships in a changing and insecure world.
Production related workshops - Aliens Order
In the summer of 2017, we developed a project in Peterborough called ‘Alien's Order’ linked to themes from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It was made possible following our successful application to the Arts Council for our first grant. The central idea was the experience of migrant Italians living in the UK after WW2, many of whom had to register for an identification card called Alien's Order. Portia refers to the word in the court scene saying “if it be proved against an alien”.
We held workshops involving people of all ages at an Italian community centre, in primary schools, at the City Museum and with a language school. A local writer produced six short pieces of pop up street theatre which were staged at the two-day open air Italian festival in the city centre. We partnered with local organisations including Metal, who champion the need for investment in artistic innovation and provide practical support to practising artists.
Workshops will be offered to schools, colleges and community groups.
Our workshops will explore, amongst other things, universal themes such as race in ‘Othello’, race and religion in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, gender politics in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and family strife in ‘Romeo and Juliet.
They will also be linked to current productions.
For more information on our workshop programme for schools, go to Education and communities, go to Reach Out.
The company founders have presented Shakespeare recitals in the UK and Italy.
They gave a recital for the opening of Cartoleria 18, a new mental health project in Bologna. https://www.cartoleria18.it/wp/
It was also presented in the Comandini Theatre in Cesena, as part of the 7th Mantica Festival of Theatrical Research and Development, and at the Ducal Summer Festival in Urbino.
In 2017 we ran community workshops at the Electric Palace Cinema in the Old Town in Hastings. The aim of the work was to focus on relevant issues e.g. women in society, greed, ambition. Each person took a line in the scene, discussed the meaning of it and the scene was then cast gender blind and performed for the group. We worked on excerpts from Macbeth, As You Like It, King John, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Othello and Romeo and Juliet.