As the Dublin Shakespeare Festival kicked off last night, festival director Paul Testar shared what he’ll be keeping his eyes peeled for over the next two weeks. Whilst the main production ‘An Indian Tempest’ takes place every night on the Trinity Campus, the Shakespearean frolics are all over the city, from fire juggling and Improv to Elizabethan culinary delights at ‘Come Dine with Ye’.
So, what’s new that we can expect this year now that the festival is in its fourth year?
Well the first year the main performance was in the rose garden with about two hundred seats – very small, and very cosy, then in the festival’s second year we brought it out in to front square with about three hundred seats . Last year we started building roofs and seating banks – sort of an imitation of the Globe, or a building site Globe perhaps. This year we’ve just kind of developed on that – we thought, sure, why not make it a little bigger because last year was so successful that it sold out every night. Whether we’ll sell out every night this year remains to be seen!
We’ll soon find out! What do you think prompted your own interest in Shakespeare, and got you into coordinating the festival?
Well I’m an English student so it was probably quite a logical step, but in a weird kind of way it was my interest in the festival which overtook. It’s organised by ‘The Players’, the Trinity Drama Society, and I got into this more just by it being part of the Players calendar. I signed up and joined in with the festival and that’s what opened up all the excitement of it.
Is there an overriding theme to the festival?
Being students ourselves we’re not really in a position to artistically judge anyone so there isn’t really a theme. We only have the one professional performance, so elsewhere it’s really anything that anyone wants to put on. We try and extend as far out in the country as possible, to as many different drama groups to do anything anyone wants. This year there’s a take on King Lear called O’Leary, with Michael O’Leary characterised as the King which should be pretty cool.There’s a performance of a Terry Pratchett – last year they used his book Weird Sisters as a kind of spoof on Macbeth, so it’s following on from that. Then there’s straight up performances of all sorts, like Two Gentlemen of Verona. Some of the ideas are really really cool, and some of them are thrown together – It’s got a nice kind of DIY feel to it.
Organised Chaos perhaps?
And which event are you most excited about?
I’m definitely very excited about the main performance. To have got a company that is so established is a huge coup for us. I’m very excited about the light entertainment series, some of the things going on there – we have an Improv comedy gig; a Shakespearean improvised comedy – that should be a lot of fun. I’m also really looking forward to putting on a show on that’s going to be going to Edinburgh later in the summer– it’s a post apocalyptic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And once everything’s up and running I’m looking forward just to having a chance to go out round the city and actually watch some of the stuff that we’re putting on – I’m going to try and go out and see a good couple of things every day.
It really is city wide isn’t it? I saw that there were things on in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Stephen’s Green and the Christ Church Crypt – are any of the locations particularly appropriate for the plays?
We usually just ask people which one they want. We offer the crypt to people because obviously its really atmospheric and tends to suit Shakespeare. Also this year we’re in the main area of Christ Church as well – in one of the little chapels besides the altar – should be very cool.
Do you think schools have a tendency to turn us off Shakespeare?
At least when I was at school I felt that the teachers I had were always really aware of that -it’s got such a stigma that they are determined to make it really accessible. Even the smallest things like those textbooks which have the play in Shakespearean language on one page and straight prose on the other make a massive difference. I suppose sometimes it gets to the level of being patronizing which you never want, you see some really naff things. But what’s really nice for me is things like tonight’s performance especially if you’ve done Shakespeare through school because you’re seeing something so different being done; a very novel, visual kind of performance, a real take off the ordinary classical style that we usually see.
And what do you think Shakespeare’s relevance is to us all today? Any unlikely ties to Dublin perchance?
I’ve actually looked into this a bit, because I had to say something at the launch and I wanted to look and see if Shakespeare had any connection to Dublin, and he really really didn’t! Nothing. No little anecdote anywhere! But I mean there are things; they say Shakespeare may have invented like the stage Irish drunk.
I think that perhaps then the only way it’s relevant is just because the language is still so enjoyable, so nice to hear. And something which we’ve got going this week is a guy wandering around with a video camera trying to get as many people reading sonnets as possible. Hopefully we’ll get a complete collection – quite optimistic I know! But it’s amazing just watching people read them off – people who don’t study poetry or drama or performance; you can see them enjoying the words and enjoying the reading of the words, and in that case it’s definitely still relevant.
And finally… any particular Shakespeare quote to sum up events?
I’d have to go with the tagline I guess; all the world’s a stage – all the city’s a stage, I think it’s written on my T shirt. All the city’s a stage. Or …Come thee and watch?! Pay thou twenty quid for our performance?! That should be in there somewhere.
The Indian Tempest, a production by the Footsbarn Theatre Company, is on every night in Trinity Front Square until the 16th of June. For all other events throughout the festival go to http://www.dublinshakespeare.com/
Images by: Grace Healy