& Juliet director Luke Sheppard and actor Miriam-Teak Lee have argued that creatives “need to be brave” when staging Shakespeare in order for his work to remain relevant.
They were speaking at the WhatsOnStage Awards 2020, where & Juliet, which is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, won six categories.
Sheppard told The Stage: “We really revere [Shakespeare] as an artist, as a figure of history, but we feel that he’s been around long enough and he’s established enough to take a little bit of gentle bending around the edges.
“As a director I often feel, and sometimes I get told, that maybe Shakespeare plays aren’t for me. I’ve managed to direct for 10 years and my phone has never rung asking me to put on a Shakespeare play.”
Sheppard argued that Shakespeare is sometimes seen as a “sacred space we shouldn’t interfere with”.
He added: “Increasingly I think that landscape is changing in order for his work to continue to have relevance, which I’m sure he would love.
“We need to continue to be really brave in how we treat it, because the cannon is strong enough [to take it].”
Lee echoed Sheppard’s comments, adding: “I think it’s so important to re-imagine [Shakespeare].
“[With & Juliet] no one is taking anything away from Romeo and Juliet, that will always be what it is, no one’s ever changing that, but it’s like imagine if there’s this new scenario in the 21st century – what would that look like?”
The comments follow recent debate around how Shakespeare should be treated in the 21st century, with actor Juliet Stevenson arguing that his works should be performed in modern dress and that some of his plays should be “buried and forgotten”.