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An interview with Guy Unsworth

Shakespeare in the Park makes its triumphant return in 2018 with the timeless political thriller – Julius Caesar. Inspired by the G20 and N.A.T.O. summits, this production sees Shakespeare’s political thriller brough to life against a backdrop of modern-day international relations and global current affairs. We speak with director, Guy Unsworth, on what we can expect, and the reason behind a modern adaptation.

  1. What can Singapore expect from your modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar 2018 is an exciting political thriller set in a modern day setting of the fictional intergovernmental alliance 'The ROME 7'. 
I think politics across the world and they way we experience it has changed a lot in the last few years. The media plays a much bigger part, and so there's something more theatrical about it. Somehow it's more exciting, more manipulative, more dramatic. When re-setting Shakespeare it's important to find the world and period which fits the specific play best, so whilst some plays wouldn't fit a modern production, Julius Caesar seems ripe for a contemporary setting. It's going to be fast and furious, with original music, a fantastic set, and lots of surprises along the way.

  1. Do you think it’s a trend for directors to modernise Shakespeare? Why?

I think the trend is to view the play within different contexts - varying settings and periods. These are timeless stories of relationships between some of the greatest characters ever written. Shakespeare's best quality is his understanding of humans and their feelings. It's therefore no surprise that these characters translate to other contexts. Culturally however, we are becoming more and more removed from Elizabethan England, and in this case, the Roman Empire. Therefore whilst the societal behaviour of those periods appears more and more foreign to us, modernising it, or at least updating Shakespeare to a world we recognise, allows Shakespeare's stories to shed a new light, and his characters to live again.

The 2013 production of Shakespeare in the Park - Othello with influences from modern warfare.

  1. Do you think Shakespeare’s plays can still be presented today as how it was during the Elizabethan period?

Yes I do, but I think it entirely depends on the play and what Shakespeare intended by it as to how effective that can be. His history plays document a particular time and often work best in their original context and his fictional tragedies, comedies and supernatural plays require theatrical imagination whenever they're rejuvenated. The important aspect, I feel, is to understand who he was writing for, and the nature of those shows. His audience played a big part, and The Globe theatre required imagination and scale (it originally seated 3000). I'm always amazed how filmically Shakespeare writes, which is largely to do with the architecture and flow of actors in the Globe. This is a huge help for productions on the scale of Fort Canning Park.

  1. Why is Shakespeare still relevant in today’s society? 

He's one of the greatest writers of all time. He understands humans better than any writer I know so it's very easy to relate to his characters, and he wrote timeless storylines which are both relevant and exciting today. When I was a teenager I found Shakespeare very difficult to get my head into, so whenever I direct it, I'm very keen to bear my younger self in mind. I want this to be slick and exciting - there are lots of surprises along the way!

  1. Tell us one reason why people should be excited for Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar.

This year, designer Richard Kent has created a set which is a 360 degree design that the audience can enter through, and at times will be apart of. There is no traditional ‘back stage’ this year, so the audience will enter the park and see the set as soon as they enter. It will sit in the park as a self contained sculpture and piece of architecture. With a fully designed view from every angle.

Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar runs 2 – 27 May 2018 at Fort Canning Park. Tickets are available via www.srt.com.sg/juliuscaesar

Published on: 12-03-2018


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