Skip to main content

Participants Testimonials

Philip Bird

Actor, director, and Higher Education Consultant at Shakespeare's Globe

"My main takeaway from the project was discovering how soon after Shakespeare's death people were prepared to amend his work. There has been a sense recently that his text is somehow sacred and not to be tampered with, but to find out that, within a couple of generations of the plays being published, producers and playwrights were inserting scenes, characters, storylines and music from composers like Purcell has been a real eye-opener. At what point in this process one can continue to say that a play is 'by Shakespeare', of course, becomes an interesting question. From a performance point of view, the workshop also raised questions about rehearsal practice, and the importance of cues and cueing. There wasn't much rehearsal preRestoration; did things change afterwards? Did things have to change, because of the increased complexity of the productions with their scenery, lighting and sound effects, opera and dance? As an actor, I found that I was frequently speaking lines which were cues for music to begin. Were the musicians solely dependent on my speaking audibly and clearly, or would there have been a book-holder/conductor figure? Were the musicians – or at least the leader of the band – able to see the action onstage? How much rehearsal was necessary to put on plays/operas of this nature? Once we start thinking about rehearsal we have to think about payment. Was there enough money to pay people to rehearse? The workshop was a joyous, fruitful collaboration and meeting of disciplines, both artistic and academic."

Tim Keenan 

Lecturer in Drama at Liverpool Hope University. He has written extensively on Restoration theatre including a book Restoration Staging, 1660-74 (Routledge, 2016). He is currently working on a database of Restoration stage directions 1660-1700. 

"Restoration theatre and drama has been unduly neglected. In the theatre, the same two or three plays are usually presented as saucy pantomimes in big wigs, while academic scholarship has for too long recycled tired clichés, or used critical criteria derived from Shakespearean drama as a stick with which to beat the age of Dryden and Behn. Despite off-the-scale historical criticism, Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare held the stage for two centuries and when given the chance have proved themselves to be popular with modern audiences. We are now, I think, at a turning point, at least academically, with several promising developments in Restoration scholarship underway, including the prestigious Restoration Shakespeare project. What excites me about this project is its commitment to examining these plays through practical workshops and live performance. I know for a fact, based on my own experience of directing Restoration plays and adaptations, that such an approach is bound to (re)discover facets of this drama that simply go unrecognised in conventional study. What makes this project unique, moreover, is its equal focus on music, both in and of itself and how it integrates dramatically. It was this that made the London workshops on Shadwell's operatic adaptation of The Tempest particularly fascinating for me."

Emily Barber

Actress who played the role of 'Innogen' in Cymbeline in the Sam Wanamaker playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe in 2016. Other credits include The Importance of Being Earnest (West End) and Trouble in Mind (Theatre Royal Bath).

"I had a such a wonderful week performing the role of 'Ariel' in Shadwell's version of The Tempest. Exploring the role through the beautiful music of 'Go thy way' was a truly magical experience, particularly in the candlelit playhouse."

"Listening to the input of the academics was invaluable. Realising the historical background, the logistics of the theatre space at the time, and the fact this would have been the first time Ariel would have been played by a female all helped build the groundwork of the scene. It was invaluable to hear from the musicians, to discover where they would be placed on stage (the balcony or next to the action), to discuss whether Ariel would have been an actor-musician leading Ferdinand onto the stage, and to learn about the baroque instruments and that specific style of singing. I found the collaboration from all arenas really interesting and useful, obviously different from the normal director-led rehearsal room we are used to, but I felt it overall enhanced the performance. Rarely do you get so many experts in their fields in one room helping to mount a scene! At times it could have felt like "too many cooks", but luckily because a lot of the discussions were diplomatically led by Will or Richard, it never felt overwhelming. It felt like great collaboration!"

Sarah Ledwidge

Professional singer and PhD musicology student at Trinity College, Dublin. Her research concerns the origins, early circulation and cultural significance of Shakespearean theatre music.

"Artists and scholars gathered in London in July 2017 to address one overarching question: can performances of Restoration versions of Shakespeare’s plays be meaningful for contemporary audiences? Workshop performances of scenes from Shadwell’s 1674 Tempest in the Sam Wanamaker Theatre confirmed that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Despite the many stylistic and practical challenges of staging Restoration Shakespeare in modern theatres, it seems that theatre-goers are keen to engage further with this neglected repertoire."

"While the incidental music and masques of composers Matthew Locke (c. 1621–77), John Bannister (1630–79), Pietro Reggio (1632–85) and Pelham Humfrey (1647–74) were well received, important points were raised concerning the effect of seventeenth-century demonic music for twenty-first-century auditors. How, for instance, can Humfrey’s ‘Masque of Devils’, with its frequent excursions into major tonality and generally gleeful character, be presented as frightening today? The posing of the question, in fact, probably helped to unlock Shadwell’s original intention, since it was concluded that while the appearance of the devils is frightening to the onstage villains, it is a source of amusement for the audience and for the devils themselves. In the case of the three un-notated musical flourishes which precede the devils’ entrance, however, a more modern musical approach was favoured; the instrumentalists experimented with extracts of Humfrey’s music versus dissonant, tremolo chords, the latter appearing to be the more popular solution. Thus a hybrid musical approach emerged as a possibility for the staging of this essentially hybrid genre."

"The question of the Restoration theatre’s dependence on spectacle (flying machines, elaborate scenery etc.) was an important component in the staging of the masques. The ‘Masque of Devils’ fared well in a workshop context, probably owing to the extrovert and easily recognizable characters of the devils, and also the masque’s significance to the plot. The more formal, meta-theatrical ‘Masque of Neptune’, however, seemed to perplex, and therefore possibly requires the support of costumes, props and scenery in order to fulfil its presumed dramatic function. The overall conclusion, nonetheless, was that, despite the inevitable budgetary constraints of the modern theatre, there are performance possibilities for even the most elaborate Restoration versions of Shakespeare’s plays."

"Ultimately, the project called attention to the benefits of research-led creative practice. Only by understanding Restoration Shakespeare in its historical context can artists seek to recreate its quintessence in ways that are relevant today, and only by garnering audience response can they measure their success."