Monday, August 01, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing

I don't want to sugar coat this for you. The Guardian serves up a heaping helping of idiocy a la carte [scroll down]:
Why do theatre companies in former British colonies perform Shakespeare? They do so because English is the language of their governing classes, and by continually re-performing his works they assert their connection to a cultural legacy that makes them feel superior to other people. Why do theatre companies in Japan and Germany and Brazil perform Shakespeare? They do so in order to demonstrate that they, too, can appropriate the flagship commodity of the world's most powerful culture. They do so to show that their local talent can compete on an international playing field. They do so in order to be invited to tour in Britain and the United States.
Wait. I'm confused.

Is this why all theatre companies in these many, many countries perform Shakespeare? For that is truly astonishing. I couldn't even tell you the precise motivations behind all the Tennessee Williams productions in Cook County, but Mssr. Gary Taylor most assuredly has his finger squarely on the pulse of post-colonial artistic psyches, plus, apparently, Japan, Germany, and Brazil.

And who is this "they" that he refers to? Is it the Artistic Director or more likely the Producer of Brunei Regional Theater Troupe that so desperately longs to appropriate the flagship commodity of the world's most powerful culture? It's really hard to say. And what is this powerful culture, specifically, of which Shakespeare is the most valuable commodity? Western culture? Shouldn't the Greeks at least compete for that title? Are the Germans on the outside of Western culture? Or are we talking British culture, which in terms of global power is, forgive me, a pale shadow on the ass of the culture of Britney Spears. Again, I'm not certain.

And, while we're at it, why do the Russians perform Shakespeare? They do it a lot, you know. Is it for the same reasons as Bangladesh? If so, I'd like to notify one of our literature professors in college who offered an entire class on Shakespeare's influence on Pushkin. She ought to get a head's up that Pushkin was merely asserting his connection to a cultural legacy that made him feel superior to other people.

Do not, Gary Taylor, do not make me wax rhapsodic on the enduring universal power of Shakespeare because it's been a long day and I do not fancy ending it by impersonating Harold Bloom. I'll just say that if South Africa can look to a culture as different as Ancient Greece, and take Antigone and turn it into the living, devastating work of art that it deserves to be, the Sri Lankans might be able to muster the cultural sophistication to see something of value in mother-effing Shakespeare you ignorant imperialist twit.


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