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Parlement of Foules – Shakespeare’s Will

Shakespeare’s Will

by Vern Thiessen

“l give unto my wife my second-best bed with the furniture.” So wrote William Shakespeare in his final will and testament. Scholars continue to debate whether (as we might at first think) this was an implicit insult to Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare humiliating her for something done or not done – and if so, what? Others have sought a positive interpretation…

Vern Thiessen, the Canadian dramatist, was fascinated by this, and decided to write his own take on the matter. In Shakespeare’s Will, it is Anne who speaks, and we hear her side of the story: how she first met Bill (as she calls him), their early days, marriage, and family life as their three children were born – and then Bill’s departure to London, ostensibly to stay there for a few months, but in fact to spend many years in the capital, developing a formidable reputation in the theatre world, with only very occasional – and extremely brief – visits to Stratford. We hear about their children growing up, and the fate of their only son, Hamnet. We also hear Anne’s description of his death (indeed, the play’s setting is a retrospective narration shortly after she has returned from burying Bill). We observe Anne’s encounters with other central figures in her life beyond the three children, through the refraction of Anne’s not altogether objective memory: her father, Shakespeare’s sister Joan, and of course Shakespeare himself.

In moving vignettes, Anne provides us with insights into one of the most fascinating marriages of all time, presenting an account which sparkles with humour and laughter, flares with tragedy and grief, flows with love and envy.

This is not historical fact, but rather one author’s response to the mystery of that sentence from Shakespeare’s will, giving a possible Anne her own voice – as Vern Thiessen himself writes in his notes to the play,

I have played “fast and loose” with the will and its meaning. Those readers seeking a play that sheds light on Shakespeare’s writings may be disappointed in my play. So too those audience members who desire a historical representation of Anne Hathaway’s life. I have done neither of those things. Instead, I have used the will as a springboard for my own imagination and my artistic goal – to explore the journey of a woman who faces adversity, rises above it, and ultimately rekindles faith in herself.

Written for one actress alone, Shakespeare’s Will in our version will be performed by three actresses, all at times embodying different aspects of Anne Hathaway, sometimes working with, sometimes against each other, in a verbal (and sometimes physical!) dance, underpinned by music.

The language is modern English, and so is readily accessible. There are two parts, and the total running time is approximately 90 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval.

Shakespeare’s Will

von Vern Thiessen

“Meiner Frau hinterlasse ich mein zweitbestes Bett.” So ungefähr steht es im Testament von William Shakespeare – und seitdem wird heiß debattiert und umstritten, ob dies eine Beleidigung nach dem Tod oder eine Ehre war…

Der kanadische Dramatiker Vern Thiessen hat dies aufgegriffen und seine eigene Interpretation auf die Bühne gebracht, indem wir zum ersten Mal von Anne Hathaway, der Frau Shakespeares, die Geschichte aus ihrer sehr persönlichen Perspektive hören. Sie hat ihren berühmten Ehemann soeben begraben und blickt nun über die Jahre zurück: wie sie William begegnet ist, ihre ersten Nächte, Tage, und Monate zusammen, die wachsende Familie, sein Aufbruch nach London und Einstieg in das Theaterleben, während Frau und Kinder allein in Stratford bleiben, die Gerüchte um seine Liaisons in London, dann der Rückkehr des erfolgreichen Stars nach Stratford, sein Tod… und nun sein Testament, das die ganze Zeit wie eine tickende Bombe ungeöffnet auf ihrem Stuhl liegt: was steht darin? Shakespeares Schwester glaubt, die Antwort zu wissen… und quält Anne damit.

So erleben wir Momente der Heiterkeit und Liebe, Verachtung und Enttäuschung, Hoffnung und Verzweiflung, Geselligkeit und Verlassenheit; wir erleben Anne selbst, aber auch ihre gehässige Schwägerin, ihren Vater, ihre und Williams Kinder – und Shakespeare selbst, aus einem ganz ungewöhnlichen Blickwinkel.

Wie immer bei den Foules wird die Geschichte musikalisch untermauert.

Das Stück wird am 18., 19., 28. und 29. November um 19 Uhr im Theaterhaus Schnürschuh, Buntentorsteinweg 145, Bremen in englischer Sprache gespielt.

Karten (12€; SchülerInnen und Studierende 8€) können direkt vom Theater (0421-55 54 10) bestellt werden.

Die Aufführung einschließlich Pause dauert zwei Stunden.

Performance Details

We invite you to come and watch Shakespeare’s Will – the Shakespeares’ story, from Anne Hathaway’s perspective.

When
18th, 19th, 28th & 29th November, 2014
Doors open at 6.30; performances begin at 7 p.m.

Where
Theaterhaus Schnürschuh [http://www.schnuerschuh-theater.de]
Buntentorsteinweg 145
28201 Bremen.
Tel. 0421-55 54 10

Public transport: No. 4 or 5 tram, Gneisenaustr. tram stop.

Tickets cost €12 (€8 for pupils and students), and can be reserved direct from the theatre under 0421-55 54 10.