It was such a buzz! A cast of fine actors gathered around a table yesterday, reading aloud the stage adaptation of my novel, ‘Shakespeare’s Rebel‘. Bard on the Beach, Vancouver’s Summer Shakespeare festival (and one of the most successful such festivals in North America) is considering it for their 2015 season. After the reading, which delighted actors, listeners and nervous playwright alike, I think it’s in with a good shot.
Writers are often advised against adapting their own work. And it is hard to take a story told one way and re-imagine it for a very different medium. Of course, I began as a playwright and have spent my life in the theatre as an actor so I had a bit of a head start. But I was truly lucky to have a great mentor – Martin Kinch, one of the top play development people in Canada. He pushed me gently in all the right directions.
In 1991 I came to Vancouver not knowing a soul, planning on hanging out in a beautiful city for a summer and then going back to England. After a series of extraordinary encounters and much happenstance within six weeks I was playing Oberon in ‘A Midsummer Nights’ Dream’ at Bard on the Beach. I doubled the role with Theseus, King of Athens. Usually fairly thankless, he does have the one great speech, ‘The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet.’ I always think it is Shakespeare telling us what he truly believes is his craft, what it is he does.
“And as imagination bodies forth/The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen/Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name.”
But for that poet, the shapes he’s downloaded from the ether are turned back into the spirit they came from… by actors speaking them. It’s an energy loop: words set down as shapes, given a name, spoken aloud, released back out for an audience to absorb. When it works, there’s nothing like that moment when that connection is established in a theatre.
Here’s hoping that I get the chance to hear my ‘airy nothings’ released again soon.