Florence plays host to Shakespeare Week

FLORENCE - The Tuscan capital, and in particular the British Institute, organised a diverse array of cultural events in English dedicated to the famous English poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare. These took place on April 16-20.

 The theme of this year’s week was Measure for Measure. (1603) In the 1970’s the BBC produced a series of 37 Shakespeare plays for TV broadcast. Measure for Measure was the first critical hit and showcased how effective Shakespeare could unfold on a small screen.

 On the first day of the festival I was awarded the privilege of viewing this same production. Desmond Davis, cameraman-turned-director, created the perfect balance between intimacy and grandeur.  Although one of Shakespeare’s more disturbing comedies, Measure for Measure proved appropriate to discover and discuss in the current climate, given its exploration of morality, sexuality and power dynamics.  The film was shown in the English version with English subtitles.

 The following day there was a public reading of this same drama. Set in Vienna with a duke who, despite his power and authority, is reluctant to clean up the city lined with brothels and debaucheries. The reading which was primarily in English welcomed all other languages.

 One of the more interesting events was the cultural programme: Measure for Measure and the quest to overcome sexual tyranny. One of Shakespeare’s more complex comedies, it is often referred to as a “problem play.” The main objective of the talk was the proposal that the problem does not in fact lie in the script but with the male critics who have trouble recognising how the play puts on stage and to a certain extent on trial- various sexually abusive hypocrisies. Coercions, and self-contradictions of patriarchal government.

 This was led by Eric Nicholson, an actor and professor at NYU in Florence and Syracuse.

 In the evening there was a screening of Dominic Dromgoole’s Measure for Measure (2015) with Julier Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Angelo Kurt Egyiawan and Isabella Mariah Gale. It was previously filmed on the Globe stage, London.

 Tea and cakes accompanied by lutenist and theorbist Gian Luca Lastraioli’s Elizabethan music was a wonderfully British end to a fantastic week.

 All events took place at the Harold Acton Library, Lungarno Guicciardini.