Sonnet Book

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OP Songs and Sonnets by Shakespeare

How does OP affect singing and reciting?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that OP is the great leveller of the Shakespeare playing field. By that I mean a possible re-exploration of the canon without resorting to conceptual renewal, be it sci-fi, zombie, colonial plantation.

The OP accent is not about historical revisionism. (An utterly impossible task anyway you look at it. And more so, thanks to literary theory and criticism of the late 20thC). It is about re-connecting with the words: with the energies and synergies inherent in the phrasing, the puns, the rhymes.

Firstly it offers a re-calculating of the folio and quarto texts. (What constitutes a final text? How does cutting a play affect the original piece? What is then the original play)?

Secondly it asks for a re-visiting of accepted emendations by generations of scholars. (not that they are necessarily wrong or bad in any way. Does the punctuation play a part in the rhythm of an actor’s part)?

Lastly it begs a re-interpretation of the purpose of playing Shakespeare. (Is he really an untouchable cultural demi-god author? Or do these plays, does this play live only in the lines of the characters and their necessary interaction)?

But OP is strongest in levelling the playing field on a global scale in the realm of accent. RP will continue to be the accent of the English stage ie British English theatre elite. (and ffs it is a wonderfully expressive accent, despite it’s lack of balls). Australian, New Zealand, American, Canadian actors, to name but four of the direct recipients of RP as THE standard for speaking Shakespeare, now have a choice of another accent closer to the first soundings of these words and phrases. And in that accent lies a new sense of discovery about how to interpret these same.

Not better, not re-creating an unachievable lost past, just a choice using their accent to produce a new OP accent; in their town or city’s Original Practice using cue-script acting and original pronunciation. The old accent meets the new digitised world. The new-old accent creates an old-new performance language. A language nota bene, which informed those same-different English accents in the first place.

It occurs to me we have been increasingly mentally mouthing these words, century after century. Deifying what is after all a sham. A travesty of a mockery. Words need to live and breathe in ever newer environs. Think on them as much as you want, yet speak these old words new, trippingly on your tongue, as well as reading them, again and again!

We are performing songs and sonnets at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre this thursday the 17th July. There may still be tickets available. If you don’t believe these written words, come and hear his, and decide for yourself. Show starts at 7pm.

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