Sussex researcher plays her part at Shakespeare’s Globe
A Sussex researcher’s work on the family world of Tudor and Stuart England is helping to inform productions for the new season at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.
Shakespeare’s Globe, rebuilt close to the site where the Bard first staged his plays, launches its main theatre season on 7 June, with plays that place household and sexual politics and domestic drama centre stage.
Actor Mark Rylance returns to the Globe to take the title role in Richard III and to reprise his role as Olivia in Twelfth Night (both Original Practices productions, featuring all-male casts and the clothing, music, cosmetics, dance and settings of the period). Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew complete the season.
Amy Kenny, a research student and an Associate Tutor in the School of English, divides her time between personal research and her work as a researcher at the Globe.
Amy has already done some research for the casting director on Richard III. “They would have had younger adolescents playing the female roles originally,” explains Amy, “so I did some research on the types of players that would have performed these roles, what size and body type they were, what pitch their voices were, what age they were, how tall they were, all of that.”
Amy has now had input on 15 productions in total. She explains: “Any time an actor, director, casting director, costume designer or props master has a question about Shakespeare’s plays, early modern attitudes or beliefs, or social history or the context of the plays, they come and ask the research department.”
For her Sussex doctorate, Amy is looking at Shakespeare’s representation of the family and how he depicts marriage, childhood and adolescence. She is comparing her findings to the beliefs about families at that time – looking specifically at conception, gynaecology, reproduction and medical beliefs. “So, in various plays” says Amy, “I’ll be looking at how the family is interacting with each other and how it is depicted.
“Having a practical application for the scholarship that I do is very exciting. Last year for Much Ado About Nothing they were really interested about family relationships – in uncles and cousins and marriage – things that my research looks at directly, so my work fed into the play.
“I produced research documents for the director about women and marriage and patriarchy and just how feisty a character like Beatrice could be, and how much say women had in the marriage market. It’s the most visible thread between what I’m doing and what’s going on onstage.
“I always love seeing elements of the plays I’ve worked on come out on stage in a prop, a costume or even a relationship.”
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