“In this play, I defend the idea that Elizabeth I was the author of many Shakespeare’s plays”, explains Lois Blanco, citing the basis of the play he has written and directed for the 2016 Fringe, in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
This ‘solo show’ is performed by Paula Blanco, a Spanish actress embodying seven different characters: four of Shakespeare’s central female characters, William Shakespeare himself and reigning monarch Elizabeth I.
Venue: Paradise in the Vault, 11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD
Tickets: £8.00 (£6.00) (£20.00 F)
Dates: 15-20, 22-28 August
Time: 17:00 (1H)
Lady Shakespeare is a show that took the myth of William Shakespeare’s authorship as a pretext to speak about the possible femininity of the bard.
The question we made ourselves was : What would have happened if William Shakespeare was a woman? What would be the result of him being Queen Elizabeth I? After this, we realised that some Shakespeare’s female characters reflected an image of the Queen in four different periods of her life - ranging from Measure for Measure’s Isabella – an image of the queen as a young girl witnessing her mother condemned to die – through to Lady Macbeth, a more mature queen, full of insecurities, who has committed some terrible acts and is desperate to reveal her true nature.
Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
We think that theatre is a source that brings to the audience a big range of possibilities and which can make people think and discuss about some ideas which wouldn’t be discussed in day-to-day life.
Our show is an example of this discussion as we give Shakespeare’s female characters more importance than what they naturally have and also give the audience the opportunity to speak about some topics: Shakespeare’s authorship, the relevance of women in society, the complexity of women, their insecurities and their constant disguise in society.
How did you become interested in making performance?
I, particularly, as an actress became interested in making performance due to a personal committment with the world of Arts. I perceive that in Spain, the country where I come from, Arts haven’t got the relevance or the status they should have, specially Theatre. I think that bringing performances of high quality and also about universal topics is a way to make people think and change, in some cases, their minds.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
The process was based on improvisations about the 7 different characters played by Paula Blanco. The play’s collage-like narrative travels from character to character, mixing music with voiceovers to uncover both Shakespeare’s and Elizabeth I’s worlds. As it is a collage-like narrative the process was quite different from what the performance would finally be.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We want the audience to travel through time and to experience different moments in these character’s lifes. It’s a very emotional play which encourages the audience to laugh and cry, to enjoy and deteste, to be more human and to understand women’s world without judging.
The poetry immersed in the play is also a travel to the beauty of words and a message to those who would like to understand the real truth behind words.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The collage-like narrative is one strategy to shape the audience experience, as it’s a way to make them jump from one scene to the other within a few minutes.
The voiceovers and the music give the audience the possibility to travel through their imagination and to explore textures that the text on its own wouldn’t bring.
Lady Shakespeare (teaser). WhoareyouWilliam Company from Paula Blanco on Vimeo.
The actress, who is another character, is a link which helps to understand the show much better and to link one idea with the next one.
The Shakespearean characters range from Measure for Measure’s Isabella – an image of the queen as a young girl witnessing her mother condemned to die – through to Lady Macbeth, a more mature queen, full of insecurities, who has committed some terrible acts and is desperate to reveal her true nature.
“We try to bring Shakespeare’s female characters, who represent different moments in Elizabeth I’s life, to the front line of this play, where they can be better understood”, says Paula. “The play’s collage-like narrative travels from character to character, mixing music with voiceovers to uncover both Shakespeare’s and Elizabeth I’s worlds. Key themes of feminism, identity and gender stereotypes are at the heart of this playful drama, which, though it is read entirely in English, has been performed across Spain with Spanish subtitles.
“As a playwright I needed to get to know Shakespeare more deeply. I wanted to get acquainted to him in a metaphorical way”, explains Lois Blanco. “The focus was to explore and strengthen the female side of the famous bard, bringing it to the present moment, playing with the idea that he could have been a woman.”