Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran has hit back at claims from theatre critic Dominic Cavendish that “woke” casting choices are threatening the future of Shakespeare.
Doran said that the regendering of traditionally male roles in Shakespeare provided “opportunity” for new interpretations and argued that people of all genders, racial heritages and social backgrounds should see themselves reflected on stage.
In a blog post published by the RSC, Doran said: “Perhaps those who are uncomfortable with women playing men will also soon be a thing of the past, but they are taking their time; after all Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon over a hundred years ago.
“Regendering is not a policy at the RSC, but it is certainly an opportunity. There are many times when the roles Shakespeare wrote are not specifically defined by their gender characteristics.”
Doran added: “Dominic Cavendish fears that the woke wolves are beginning to police Shakespeare, and that ultimately they will apply a sort of politically correct censorship which will render the plays unperformable. I can’t agree with that.
“I think directors, especially some of the freshest and most radical today, many of whom are women, want to reveal what is most urgent, most resonant and sometimes most challenging in his work, and address those issues head on.”
His comments were responding to an article by Cavendish in the Telegraph headlined “the woke brigade are close to ‘cancelling’ Shakespeare”.
In the article, Cavendish said: “We’ve seen greater diversity in casting and much gender-flipping. Fine, OK.
“A traditionally cast production is now a rarity, ever more unthinkable. That’s less fine.
“Doesn’t it suggest that those getting funds to promulgate his work are in some way embarrassed by it, or are so worried about being labelled reactionary – or worse – they duck the fight?”