Shake it up

Unbound is a modern take on Shakespeare’s female characters like Ophelia (above). 

“ALAS, poor middle-aged white male. I knew him well…”

Women take centre stage in Unbound, a reinterpretation of Shakespeare in which females are empowered and don’t take any nonsense from men.

Using dialogue cut and pasted from Shakespeare’s entire canon, Blank Space Productions have created a lively and clever work that better reflects women in the 21st century.

Creative director Bridget Le May says they initially tried to come up with a story based around archetypes in Shakespeare’s plays, but kept hitting narrative problems with weak female characters.

“We love the characters and the words, but not how disempowered even the most notable women in Shakespeare were,” Le May says.

“Take Lady Mac. She is completely driven and the stronger of the two in her partnership. She doesn’t baulk at Macbeth killing Duncan in her own house – but then goes veritably insane and then takes her own life when he continues to kill. 

“This is one of Shakespeare’s most fearsome characters and even she has to enlist a man to achieve her goals and loses her mind when it doesn’t go to plan. It is Macbeth who is given the soldier’s death.”

The first act of Unbound looks at the problems faced by women in a patriarchal society with all the classic Shakespeare dialogue and tropes like love, plots for the crown and characters dropping like flies. 

While act II is full of dance and colour, touching on the hopes and desires of women and “dislodging binary perceptions of sex and gender. It connects to what is unique and free in us as individuals and as a community,” Le May says.

“There is much less text but every moment finds its roots in Shakespeare’s works.” 

Formed in 2016, Blank Space Productions are all about “transformation”, aiming to change and inspire society through their challenging and unorthodox works. Their 2016 debut EDGE was no-holds barred immersive theatre, and they are currently toying with the idea of creating a “live game that explores human limitations”.

But right now they are busy preparing for the opening night of Unbound at the Blue Room Theatre on August 24.

Le May is quietly confident Shakespeare would enjoy seeing his work spliced and diced for the 21st century.

“Shakespeare was so progressive for his time. A voracious artist who constantly tried new things, invented words and repurposed other people’s work,” Le May says.

“I genuinely believe if he was around today he would still be at the cutting edge of art practice. I hope he would be grateful that we are updating some of the more dated moments and moving them forward into the future with us. 

“If he knew we were still performing his work even while we rile against it, I hope at the very least he would be flattered. 

“And realistically, like any adaptation, he would probably love some moments and cringe at others. It is fun to speculate but you can never truly know someone from their writing. 

“Writing mirrors the reader in many ways so we tend to see ourselves as much as we see the creator. “

Unbound is at the Blue Room Theatre in Northbridge from August 24 – September 4. 

Tix at blueroom.org.au/events/unbound/

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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