My family and I are gearing up to head back to the Stratford Festival this weekend, and both of the plays by Shakespeare which we’re seeing are plays we’ve seen before. They’ll be brand new for my partner, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing his reaction to them. But I feel like the question I often hear is “do you need to see that one again?” and my answer is always a resounding YES! Let me tell you why:
My first reason is because each and every production is unique; with every new director comes new ideas being explored. This is also the main reason why we still do Shakespeare, there is so much to unpack and explore in each play, that everyone finds something different to focus on and it brings new life and meaning to the work. Sometimes these visions work well, other times…not so much. But if we don’t take the time to at least try them out, then we don’t learn as much about ourselves as artists.
The other very important element is that YOU have changed, yes you dear reader, in the time since you last saw the production. Your life experiences influence not only how you view the world around you, but how you view art. So something that might not have had a huge impact on you at one point in your life might feel very different later on. For example, the first time I saw Hamlet, I was so enthralled with seeing this famous play which I had just studied in high school on stage, that I really didn’t allow myself to get emotionally carried away with the story. Now, (spoilers folks) every time Ophelia comes in singing and giving her flowers away, I loose it. I remember being at the 2015 production and crying from that moment until the end of the show; everything was hitting me in a way that I didn’t expect. But I had lost a friend to mental illness just 2 years before and had gone through a great deal of difficulties in my own life and so Ophelia’s madness felt totally different to me. Then I saw it in July and had a totally different experience; I was creeped out! The director did a great job of reminding us that this was a ghost story and I was sufficiently spooked and I loved it! I’ve probably seen Hamlet the most out of Shakespeare’s cannon, and yet I revel in the fact that I find something new to think about every time, something that changes the way I view the work forever.
As the world changes and we open our minds to what’s possible on stage, Shakespeare gets to evolve along side us; truly there isn’t another playwright I can think of whose work does that quite as well as the Bard’s. Part of the pleasure of being a theatre patron is the ability to find new joy, delight, or tragedy within Shakespeare’s works as we continue to experience them throughout our lives. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing All’s Well That Ends Well and Richard III again this weekend; it’s been several years since I’ve seen either play and I’ve certainly changed since I’ve seen them last. It should make for a memorable weekend of theatre.