We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Earlier this week, the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, noted
cesspool venue for nuanced cultural commentary, weighed in on a question that has long vexed us here at the Washington City Paper: whether Shakespeare without words can properly be considered Shakespeare.
Taking as his inspiration the upcoming Synetic Theater revival of its movement-driven Midsummer Night’s Dream, noted
twat troll theater expert James Bovard decries the use of NEA grants to fund the “grunts, grimaces, and grins” produced by a pair of husband-and-wife nepotists—“raised in Soviet Georgia,” which should have given us a clue—who’ve made a career of wresting the spoken word from the cold dead hands of the Swan of Avon.
Rather than responding with a photo of Midsummer’s Bottom, post-transformation, the Synetic forces replied with a measured explanation of their approach. To them we say: Pfaugh! Art may truly be Art only when it is Pure, produced in strict accordance with the Wishes of its Originator. By Whom we mean God, because all True Art is the Product of Divine Inspiration, and should be produced in the original English.
Herewith, other egregious fakeries perpetrated upon the public in the name of creativity:
Roméo et Juliette, opera by Charles Gounod
This is not even good Italian, much less English. Shakespeare talks about a nightingale, dammit, not a rossignol; however will the audience get the symbolism? Also, Juliette, we have news for you: The composer may have given you an aria called “Je Veux Vivre (I Want to Live),” but you’re still going to die. Alone.
Any production featuring women
What is this, amateur hour? If you’re not dressing men up in atrocious makeup and grating falsettos to play the Bard’s ladies, you’re not really doing Shakespeare as the era intended. And don’t even think about giving his females sympathetic tweaks: Every true Elizabethan scholar knows that the Shrew, Lady Macbeth, and pretty much every queen in the canon are simply written as awful people, and should be portrayed as such. NEXT!
Slimmed-Down Treatments for the Magic Lantern
(That’s the cinema, you dolt.) The Bard is not for the faint of heart nor the short of attention-span. Amendments and abbreviations are rightly consideredby all serious aficionados as anathema. Auteurs not prepared to follow the example of Kenneth Branagh and turn in a four-hour Hamlet using all the available wordsneed not apply.
Throne of Blood, The Bad Sleep Well, and Ran
Just how irreverent are legendary Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa’s glosses on Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear, respectively? Well, for one thing, they’re in Japanese, eschewing the Bard’s immortal verse entirely. For another, they’re set in Japan. Harold Bloom, the author of Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, called Throne of Blood the best screen Macbeth ever, even though Orson Welles and Roman Polanski both made perfectly good versions in English. Dr. Bloom was clearly mistaken.
She’s the Man
Reducing Twelfth Night to a slapstick soccer comedy is an affront to the sophisticate’s tradition of donning gender-inappropriate wigs and binding breasts for laughs. That stars Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum are now more famous for their respective legal troubles and fab abs further dooms this bastardly adaptation. At least its screenwriters had the sense to keep Shakespeare’s character names.
Smug man photo via Shutterstock