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Role Of Dramatic Text In Performance

2713 words - 11 pages

With Reference to Two or More Examples Discuss the Role of Dramatic Text in Performance

The role of dramatic text in performance is not a question that has a simple, straightforward answer. A dramatic text is a text that has been written for it to be delivered by some form of media, for example theatre, film or television. A performance text on the other hand is a version of the dramatic text, which is what ultimately gets performed. Therefore, to put it simply, a performance text is a version of a dramatic text that has been annotated and altered for the actual performance. This complicates the role of dramatic text, as there can be various different performance texts just for one ...view middle of the document...

One of which can be that it is regarded more as a stimulus for performance, rather than being the performance itself. In 1603, when Hamlet would have first been performed, there was a much more significant focus on the text itself in the performance, purely because the audience were hearing the story about the Prince of Denmark for the first time. This is unlike today where Hamlet is now known as ‘one of the few literary heroes who live apart from the text ... his name means something to those who have never seen or read Shakespeare’s play’ (Kott, 58). Robert Wilson’s reworking of the text of Hamlet is a great example of how he took a text with many characters and a lot of depth and turned it into a one man show, Hamlet: a monologue, in which he acted, directed and designed. Despite this being a play in which the visual and aesthetic elements play an important part and there being a change in the delivery because of it being a one-man show, ‘it’s worth remarking that the entire text of Hamlet: a monologue is drawn from Shakespeare’s play’ (Lavender, 173). This highlights how Shakespeare’s text is still of huge significance in this performance. This is also the case in other productions as well, for example Nicholas Hytner’s production of Hamlet at the National Theatre in 2010 very much revolved around the text. Whether the text is used in its full content or just as a stimulus, it is the text, which is the driving force behind the performance and essentially it is this, which the audience recognises and will come to hear.
When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet over 400 years ago, he would have had a vision for the performance just like directors will in todays society. However, nowadays the director will have a concept in which they have imposed upon Shakespeare’s play, so the dramatic text, it could be argued, takes a secondary role to that of the aesthetic and concept. This was very much the case with Ian Rickson’s version of Hamlet at the Young Vic Theatre in 2011. With this production, Rickson had used his ideas to inform the entire production and Henry Hitchings accurately noted in his review of the performance that ‘the approach is remorselessly high-concept … instead of being a political reading of the play, this is intent on unlocking its Freudian darkness.’ This was the complete antithesis to what the Globe audience would’ve experienced as the Young Vic Theatre had a pre-show experience to immerse the audience into the world of a psychiatric unit to convey Rickson’s central theme in his concept of the play, madness and lunacy. Robert Wilson’s adaptation of the text was also similar to what Rickson did by changing the text. However, the difference between Wilson and Rickson is that Rickson used the dramatic text as a means of working with and highlighting his concept where as Wilson isn’t ‘directing [Shakespeare’s] work … he just utilizes’ (Lavender, 163). Wilson is working parallel and with the text, he isn’t interpreting the text...

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