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Five Unlikely Shakespeare Adaptations

Shakespeare is one of the UK’s greatest exports – translated in to over 80 languages, with hundreds of performances worldwide very year, he plays a significant role in our theatrical cannon and is a constant source of inspiration for artists and movie and theatre makers today.

So we’re incredibly excited about The Macbeths, a challenging and cutting-edge re-telling of the Shakespearean classic coming to the Byre on Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th October. Produced by The Citizen’s Theatre, and directed by Dominic Hill (loved locally for his work at Dundee Rep), it’s a raw and often brutal look at the two key figures in the show, and the marriage that unites them. Tickets are £17.50 for adults, and just £5 for students.

Making something completely new and beautiful out of a piece that is so well know requires a very special approach. So, to celebrate The Macbeths and what promises to be a truly awesome show, here are some of our favourite re-tellings of Shakespeare’s work.

The Lion King – Hamlet

A young prince’s father has just been killed by his uncle, who then tries to get in close with his mother. The uncle – and the new king – then does his best to alienate the young prince. He even sends him away for a bit. But then the young prince comes back, takes revenge on his creepy uncle, and then they all live happily ever after.

Or the young prince dies. Depends on which version you’re reading.

That’s right, The Lion King and Hamlet are eerily similar – on the second disc of the film’s Platinum Edition, the film makers even cite Hamlet as being an inspiration for the characters and the story line. Now it’s the highest grossing show ever on Broadway, and the film has been translated in to 44 different languages.

Gnomeo and Juliet – Romeo and Juliet

As you would imagine, his one isn’t super complicated. It’s basically Romeo and Juliet, but with gnomes.

First off, it’s got an utterly star-studded cast, with voices from by James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Jensen, Stephen Merchant, and Ozzy Osbourne. Second, it’s aimed at children, so it’s a great way to introduce your little ones to Shakespeare.

Third – and by no mean at all least – it is fun. A lot of fun. You can’t not fall in love with those tiny little gnomes with their silly hats and their garden feud. If the film seems silly, it is, but that’s what makes it a great watch.

Hag Seed – The Tempest (a novel)

Hag Seed is a novel by Margaret Atwood that re-tells the story of The Tempest through the eyes of Felix, an ex-artistic director who has been wronged, and is seeking revenge. It’s unusual to see this kind of adaptation, especially because it jumps across media so significantly – there is a bit of a clearer route from stage to screen, than from stage to page.

But in fact, there are plenty of novels like this – Hogarth Shakespeare is a branch of the Hogarth publishing house that specialises in publishing Shakespeare’s works re-told as contemporary novels. This was one of the most well-received of their catalogue, making it on to the New York Times Bestseller list, but if you’re interested in how people adapt Shakespeare in unusual ways, then check out their whole selection here.

10 Things I hate about You – Taming of the Shrew

If ever there was a Shakespeare play ripe for adaptation in to a modern high-school setting, it’s The Taming of the Shrew. A young girl who is not allowed to start dating until her older sister – standoffish and largely un-dateable – starts dating as well? The implications of wanting to be a part of the ‘popular’ crowd and concerning over social image sounds like a purely pubescent issues.

Add in a frankly dreamy iteration of Heath Ledger serenading our leading lady (Julia Stiles) with a charming and funny rendition of ‘You’re Just too Good to be True’ until he is chased off the football field, and you’ve got me absolutely hooked. Great performances from Ledger and Stiles are accompanied by a wacky cameo from Allison Janey to make this my guilty-pleasure Shakespeare adaptation.

Sons of Anarchy – Hamlet

This crime-drama TV show aired for 7 seasons, and followed the story of an outlaw motorcycle gang in central California. Focusing on the story of Jackson “Jax” Teller, it focuses on themes of brotherhood, loyalty, and redemption, all framed with a healthy dose of violence and murder. Pretty Hamlet-esque if you ask me. have already put out a very convincing and quite entertaining article on this subject. They cite multiple sources to show the connections between Hamlet and this brutally modern tragedy, drawing convincing connections between characters, and overall making a really strong point. Oh and also, they mention that Kurt Sutter, the show’s creator has stated on multiple occasions that it’s based on Hamlet. So that ties that up.

If this eslection of Shakespearen  adaptations has left you hungry for more, then come down to the Byre next week from Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th October to see another ground-breaking adaptation in the flesh.

The Macbeths runs at the Byre Theatre from Tuesday 9th  to Thursday 11th October. Tickets are £17.50 for adults, £15.50 for concessions, and £5 for students. They can be booked online via our website, or by calling our box-office on 01334 475 000.