Persephone tackles Shakespeare
The Suburban, November 3, 2010 by Walter J. Lyng
For its next production, Persephone productions will take on William Shakespeare's seminal work Henry V.
"I have this company whose mandate is to give young professionals work opportunities and I love Shakespeare and I've always loved Henry V," says Persephone artistic director Gabrielle Soskin.
"It's truly a very contemporary perspective of the anatomy of war. I was intrigued to do it because when I was a very young girl-which was a very long time ago-we always saw Henry as a very patriotic piece."
While different takes on the source material have been presented over the years, Soskin says she hoped to unite different schools of thought with this production. "Olivier dedicated his film to the armed forces after WWII and I was brought up in the shadow of that," she says.
"Then the years went by and Kenneth Branagh in 1989 made a very different perspective looking more at the atrocities of war. I was interested to try and see if we could show the whole perspective-if we could show the ambiguity of Shakespeare. Is any battle worth dying for?"
With as big a cast as any Persephone production has ever featured, this play required seven weeks of rehearsals to reach the level of quality that Soskin says was essential to achieve. "I'm not one that feels that we can just put a show up," she says.
"it really is a play where the text comes to life and that takes a lot of work."
Not wanting to anchor the setting down in any one time period, various military uniforms from different wars were used as costumes in order to compliment the timeless nature of Henry V, which Soskin says is really an ode to Shakespeare's writing. "To me, Shakespeare is timeless," she says.
"The more I read it, the more I think, 'My goodness, generals are saying that today. Leaders are behaving like that today.' So we're trying to bring a sort of timelessness to it but with great respect for the richness of the language."