We went into the first lockdown the week that our Shakespeare: Perspectives students were due to go on their trip to see The Taming of the Shrew, and, as happened in Shakespeare’s times, the theatres closed, and many people found their livelihoods in jeopardy. Emma Brimelow reflects on the resilience of the theatre community during this pandemic, interviewing Robert Myles, who set the standard for Zoom Shakespeare with his The Show Must Go Online project. As her blog post reveals, innovation and creativity did not come to an end, and she got to review a unique production after all.
What a lot of people hoped would be ‘the best year of their lives’ has slowly turned into one for the books, and sadly not in the way we had hoped. Covid-19 arrived in late January for the UK, and no later than two months after this around a third of the world has been put into some form of lockdown, Great Britain being no exception. On the 23rd of March, Boris Johnson announced everyone who isn’t an essential worker must stay inside and isolate, and many businesses are currently suffering due to forced closure, the theatre being one of them. In the past I’ve enjoyed watching numerous productions, my last being Dick Whittington and His Cat at Romiley Forum, and so I found myself missing the theatre experience. Luckily, Robert Myles has a solution for those of us who are missing out!
Created in less than a week in response to covid-19, ‘The Show Must Go Online’ was thefirst platform to produce Shakespeare for an online audience using online actors. Created on zoom and streamed on YouTube, TSMGO has been named “the most prolific creator of online theatre” by various academics (Medium, 2020), and after watching their production of The Taming of The Shrew it’s clear to see why. The shows stay true to the nature of theatre, including adding intervals, pre- and post-show discussions and adding virtual applause to the Zoom productions on YouTube. The quick response to the pandemic amazed me, with the first show airing the first week of the official lockdown, however I was lucky enough to get in contact with Rob Myles, who shared an exclusive insight into the process of creating TSMGO so fast.
Rob stated that the idea came to him pre-lockdown and was simply an idea until his initial tweet about creating the platform blew up. The first show The Two Gentlemen of Verona aired just six days after that tweet was made, and since then to this day eight more shows have been broadcasted. Rob stated, “We were able to move so quickly because myself and my producing partner Sarah Peachey both work in innovation when we’re not working in the arts, where fast deadlines and online conferencing are both commonplace,” meaning that he was surrounded by a strong support network to get TSMGO going as quick as possible. However, he also told me that “it would have been nothing without the response from actors and theatre makers” which he claims are still reaching out to him today about appearing in future productions. Rob has helped over 150 currently unemployed actors from all over the world, allowing countries to come together and rejoice in such difficult times.
Before I saw any of the live shows, I admit I was sceptical. I’ve seen a couple of Shakespeare productions, including more recently Macbeth at The Royal Exchange Theatre, and wondered how a play would function without the scenery and the costumes, and even more important…the interaction between characters. After watching TSMGO’s rendition of The Taming of the Shrew, I was surprised to see just how well the production flowed. The core of the success of the plays are the actors, who week by week learn a new script off by heart in less than six days, yet still manage to perform with such fluency and enthusiasm!
In the productions, the actors try their hardest to DIY costumes and props, some even including their dogs in the readings! In the reading of The Taming of The Shrew, I particularly enjoyed the couple of stunt doubles (who were isolating together) performing the fight between Katherina and Petruchio. It was staged extremely well and brought an aspect of humour to the reading. To put it simply, Rob Myles and his cast are doing all they can to make the best out of a bad situation.
The first production, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, brought in nearly 35,000 views (Ludmon, 2020) and Rob tells me that “thankfully the interest remains just as strong.” They are currently working through every Shakespeare play in chronological order and anticipate that they should make it through every one of his works by late November. You can support Rob and his team of actors through their patreon, which I have linked below and become a theatre patron yourself:
Update: The Show Must Go Online are still going strong! Check out their latest production Cymbeline. All their productions are available online on YouTube.
Check out The Taming of The Shrew for yourself here:
And Estella Green’s review for us here.
Myles, Rob. Personal Correspondence via Email. 9th May 2020. Used with permission.
Adam Kirkbride reflects on the English Literature Research Showcase which took place on the 12th of March 2020.
It is the third year that YSJ hosts this exhibition, on the theme of art and disability, showing the works submitted for the Anglo-Italian Eleanor Worthington Prize of 2019, on the specific theme: DISABILITY PRIDE. HIDDEN DISABILITY
Please find attached the flyer announcing the exhibition, and a detail of the work by Monica Marshall, the YSJ winner of the Mark Bailey special prize.
You can find out more about Monica Marshall’s work here in Benjamin Longbone’s review of last year’s exhibition.
The Civic Party will also be attending.
There will be a sign language interpreter at the event.
(Free wine too!)
As a new semester begins, join us for a look back at the many highlights of life on the Literature Programme in 2019, all recorded here on the Words Matter blog!
Adam Kirkbride reports back on last week’s trip to York Explore Library and Archives.
“All The World’s A Stage”
Director Kimberley Sykes combines pantomime, audience interaction, puppetry and musical elements to create a fantastical, almost Brechtian approach to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production of As You Like It.
For the past eleven weeks, I’ve constantly been reminded in lectures and seminars that Shakespeare’s plays are texts that were written with the intention to be performed on a stage, not to be read in a classroom. My Shakespeare: Perspectives module’s two-day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon proved that there’s more to the Bard’s plays than just text to be analysed. Shakespeare’s plays offer escapism, a chance to get away from reality with friends or family and I was lucky enough to escape to the Forest of Arden in the most recent production of As You Like It. Continue reading ““All The World’s A Stage”. Mollie Pigott reflects on the RSC’s production of As You Like It (Shakespeare: Perspectives Trip 2019)”
On Monday 20th May, staff from the Literature and Creative Writing programmes were delighted to celebrate with our third-year students, who have just finished studying for their degrees. We would like to wish all of our finishing students a hearty congratulations and fond farewell!
An estimated 1.5 billion people – 20 per cent of the world’s population – speak English today. While there are many Global Englishes, not all ‘Englishes’receive equal recognition and respect.
To counter this, York St John University staff and students will celebrate the wonders of Global Englishes, showcasing their heritage and vitality through an introduction to literature, food and other traditions and customs.
Come along and meet researchers from the University’s School of Languages and Linguistics and the School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy and discover more about how Global Englishes have developed and continue to evolve.
Last week many of our students struck off to Straford-Upon-Avon as part of our Second Year Shakespeare: Perspectives module! Below, Julie Raby introduces the trip — stay tuned over Easter for more posts on the tip by our students!
On Monday 25 March, Literature Lecturers Adam James Smith and Jo Waugh delivered an event at the York Literary Festival titled ‘Satire and the Future: Can The Satirists Still Save Us?’ Words Matter Blogger Charlotte Crawshaw was on the scene!
By Charlotte Stevenson
On Thursday 28th March 2019 at 17:00, FT/002, York St. John Feminist Society will be hosting a free screening of Oscar nominated motion picture, Hidden Figures. The movie tells the story of mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson who produced defining work which made possible numerous NASA successes during the U.S. Space Race and beyond.
Continue reading “Hidden Figures Screening: March 28th”
It’s LGBT History Month in February and we have some great events. How about coming along to this:
Trans and Non-Binary History and Acceptance, 13 February, York St John University
A talk with Kit Heyam. Former co-ordinator of the York LGBT History Month, and experienced trans-awareness trainer, Kit will return to York St John to share stories of trans and non-binary history and acceptance. Kit identifies as a non-binary transgender man and co-ordinates the Rainbow Plaques project.
This event is free and is open to all. The talk will be 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute Q+A.
Book via Eventbrite here.
This week, as a new year begins, we are taking a look back over the past 12 months and celebrating everything that’s happened here on the Literature programme this year. In this post, we’ll be rounding up the big stories from the blog. We don’t have room to mention them all, but here are the ones that made a real splash on the blog!
Tomorrow be hearing what you said about your time with us in 2018.