Shakespeare Republic reviewed in Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation

Thank you to Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation for publishing the insightful and in-depth review of Seasons One & Two of Shakespeare Republic and to Tony Tambasco for putting fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper) to write and craft such a fascinating response to the work (as evidenced from the below quotes, taken from Tony’s review).

Shakespeare Republic uses the twenty-first century’s cultural questions of race, gender, and identity as lenses for understanding Shakespeare’s plays … in two seasons, and with a third on the way, I expect Shakespeare Republic will continue to provoke discussion and debate about what Shakespeare has to offer the 21st century.

Shakespeare Republic was created in 2015 by Sally McLean, an Australian actor. McLean’s professional credits include the BBC Music and Arts Department in London, the Australian Shakespeare Company, and many other film, television, and theatrical production companies. McLean’s combined expertise is on full display in Shakespeare Republic, which features both a critical eye and ear to Shakespeare’s text, and high production values for a series of this kind. Under McLean’s direction, the thoughtfulness of the cinematography is equal to that of the series’ interpretation of Shakespeare’s characters.

Both cross-gender casting and re-gendering characters are common practices at some of the world’s largest Shakespeare companies, but Shakespeare Republic elevates re-gendering characters to the degree that the actor’s gender always feels like a creative choice, whether the actor’s gender expression agrees with the written character’s or not. It is no small accomplishment that a cisgender, female Phebe succeeds in being as much of a creative casting choice as a cisgender, male Queen Margaret is.

The combined specificity and brevity of Shakespeare Republic‘s filmed scenes invites the viewer to imagine what the complete production might look like, providing further grounds for discussion and debate for how the events of the play should unfold in the world of the films … In this manner, the vignettes are themselves a metaphorical gauntlet thrown down to the viewer, daring them to imagine what a full production in this world might look like.

Shakespeare Republic disrupts and refracts traditional approaches to Shakespeare’s plays, presenting original narratives at the intersection of Shakespeare’s words and our world in an accessible way … As it becomes clear that these characters are not necessarily Shakespeare’s characters, or even confined by the text of his plays, I find myself wondering where McLean and her team are going with their overarching narrative. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay any artist is that they left me wanting more, and Shakespeare Republic has done exactly that.

It is always intriguing to see how other practitioners and academics respond and relate to the work and we are always glad when, overall, they have enjoyed it!

You can read the full review here: