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Exploring The Archive: Shakespeare at SLT

It will come as no surprise that William Shakespeare is South London Theatre’s most performed playwright. As well as nearly 40 fully fledged productions of his plays, SLT has presented about a dozen Shakespearean shows in the form of adaptations, excerpts and parodies. Indeed one of these, extravagantly titled The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth, has twice graced the stage of Bell Theatre.

If Pericles (1968) seems a rather unorthodox choice for a newly opened amateur theatre, SLT’s subsequent Shakespearean endeavours have encompassed the full gamut of his most popular works. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been programmed four times, with extracts and abridged versions also performed – most recently as half of the SLT youth show at St Luke’s earlier this month. The perennially popular comedy Much Ado About Nothing has enjoyed three outings, as have the tragedies Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, often in radically innovative and varied forms.

At the other end of the scale, 15 works from the official canon have never been performed, including most of the Henries, a number of early plays and the rarely performed Cymbeline. Only time will tell which neglected Shakespearean riches SLT will unearth in future, but a couple of comedies are still up for grabs (Love’s Labours Lost and All’s Well That Ends Well), along with the Roman tragedy Antony and Cleopatra.

Shakespeare has inspired a rich cavalcade of SLT stagings since we opened nearly 50 years ago, spanning all time periods and none. With production aesthetics ranging from hey nonnying men in tights to black-box Tarantino-esque badassery, these shows have delighted – and occasionally baffled – our audiences. Long may he inspire our members to stage engaging versions of his plays – full of flair, wry wit and the deep understanding of humanity that underscores his work.

– Dave Hollander

Visit the SLT online archive by clicking here.