Last of Hamilton Bequest on show at Kelvingrove

Last of Hamilton Bequest on show at Kelvingrove

The last of the 92-year Hamilton Bequest of oil paintings to Glasgow Museums has gone on show at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

TAITMAIL  The pit and the panjandrums

TAITMAIL The pit and the panjandrums

Both our national opera houses are in trouble this week, in quite different ways. One of the issues might have huge repercussions, the other smaller ones.

Dancing into the classroom

Dancing into the classroom

Diane Parkes on a DanceXchange initiative that is taking dance into Birmingham classrooms

Antarctic Copperfield star of Dickens show

Antarctic Copperfield star of Dickens show

This battered copy of Charles Dickens’s novel David Copperfieldi s what kept half of Captain Scott’s team entertained as they wintered in an ice cave while their leader led the expedition for the South Pole in 1912.

Worthing’s theatres and museum to cut free from council

Worthing’s theatres and museum to cut free from council

Worthing’s three theatres and museum, currently owned by Worthing Borough Council, are to go it alone.

Arts worth more to UK economy than agriculture

Figures released today by Arts Council England show that the arts and culture have grown by £390m in a single year, overtaking agriculture as a contributor to the UK economy.

Bristol ‘our most cultured city’

Bristol ‘our most cultured city’

Bristol has come top of a list of 20 best UK cities for arts and culture, with London only fourth.

Liz Stevenson takes over at Keswick

Liz Stevenson takes over at Keswick

Theatre by the Lake in Keswick has appointed Liz Stevenson as their new artistic director to work with executive director James Cobbold.

Dukes loses artistic director post in shake-up

Dukes loses artistic director post in shake-up

The Dukes in Lancaster is losing its artistic director, Sarah Punshon, as a result of cuts in its local authority funding.

ACE’s £3m more for diversity

ACE’s £3m more for diversity

Arts Council England has committed another £3m to encourage organisations run by BAME and disabled people.

Music agent joins diversity struggle

Music agent joins diversity struggle

A classical music agency has set up a foundation to support diversity and inclusivity in the arts.

Michelangelo comes to Hampshire

Michelangelo comes to Hampshire

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s painted masterpiece, is to come to Winchester this summer in a photographic project under licence from the Vatican.

Morris’s Cotswolds ‘heaven on earth’ to get £6m upgrade

Morris’s Cotswolds ‘heaven on earth’ to get £6m upgrade

Kelmscott Manor, the inspirational Cotswolds retreat of William Morris and his family, has opened for its last season before the start of a £6m project to secure its future.

THE WORD  Can the arts help bridge Britain's divides?

THE WORD Can the arts help bridge Britain's divides?

Jill Rutter, director of strategy and relationships at the think tank British Future, is co-author of its new report Crossing Divides: How arts and heritage can bring us together.

Blake – by himself

Blake – by himself

This is believed to be the only self-portrait by the poet, artist and visionary William Blake (1757-1827), which will be seen in public in the UK for the first time in a Tate Britain exhibition this autumn.

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

Three Queens, Westminster Hall, February 1952, by Ron Case.

Campaign to fight mental illness crisis among musicians

Campaign to fight mental illness crisis among musicians

Two-thirds of our musicians, three times more than the general public, suffer from depression and need help, according to Help Musicians UK, amounting to a crisis.

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE	The growing challenge of creative ambition

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE The growing challenge of creative ambition

Moya Maxwell, executive director of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance since September 2018 having come from the Royal Institute of British Architects, on the joys and hardships of managing a small arts company

THE WORD  Looking in the mirror of art

THE WORD Looking in the mirror of art

Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC’s director of education, reflects on the 14-18 NOW legacy creative skills programme, Make Art Not War

 Students decide to ‘Make Art Not War’

Students decide to ‘Make Art Not War’

Thousands of 16-18-year-olds have responded to the challenge “What does peace mean to you” with works of art.

TAITMAIL   Arts in print – a critical juncture

TAITMAIL Arts in print – a critical juncture

By Patrick Kelly

A tweet from a frustrated music critic announces the shrinking of arts coverage in the venerable Glasgow daily, the Herald.

Manchester – for the Greater Good?

Manchester – for the Greater Good?

Patrick Kelly takes a look at Greater Manchester’s first cultural strategy.

Robin gets another string….

Robin gets another string….

Robin Hood, the Grade II listed statue outside Nottingham Castle, is to get a new bow after it was vandalised.

MY STORY Enter the unexpected – Judith Dimant goes Wayward

MY STORY Enter the unexpected – Judith Dimant goes Wayward

Wayward is a new production company specialising in new work from unexpected sources. Its first production opens at the Barbican Theatre on March 28, an adaptation by the Irish playwright Enda Walsh of Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, starring Cillian Murphy. Wayward’s founder and producer is Judith Dimant

Why the hell not?

Storme Toolis burst onto the national scene three years ago in BBC TVs New Tricks, one of the few disabled actors to appear on screen whose disability is not a feature of the plot. now the 23-year-old has taken on one of the most demanding roles in the shakespearean canon – in a production of which she is creative director and which is the subject of a forthcoming television documentary

Redefining Juliet
Tim Bowie and Storme Toolis as Romeo and Juliet

Playing Juliet is something I have always wanted to do. I knew it wasn’t a matter of talent, ambition or luck as other actors may find – the reality is that disabled actors like me have never even been considered for mainstream romantic roles, much less the iconic role of Juliet.

She represents a starting point in casting. You can’t get bigger than Juliet if you want to challenge the universal image of young beauty and romance on stage. If no one would let me get past the casting call, I had to do the casting myself. So I devised Redefining Juliet – a play which casts six different women as Juliet who would normally never get the role. It takes Shakespeare’s major speeches for his young heroine and interjects them with verbatim accounts written by each actor, highlighting how they are perceived by others as women who just can’t do romance and love. The actors challenge the conventional casting of people like them, whether they’re small, or fat, or black, or tall, or deaf. Or like me, in a wheelchair. We had our showcase at the Barbican and the making of the play is the subject of a BBC4 documentary on May 1, part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Festival.

Redefining Juliet uses the character of Juliet as a springboard to address a range of issues that women face in casting. In the play, we talk about body image, sexuality, the limitations placed on actors who are different in any way. Casting decisions are routinely made on your appearance – you need to have the right look for a role, you have to fit the part according to the conventions surrounding it. But that approach only serves to support preconceptions about what counts as sexy and who can be an object of desire.

The women who are believed to fit that description come from a very small stable. I’m fed up of size eight white women with shoulder length light brown hair getting all the young romantic leads, and Juliet in particular. I want to broaden the horizons of who can play Shakespeare’s most iconic heroine. I want to challenge why tall women don’t get to play vulnerable characters, why very small women aren’t seen as objects  of desire. Why the hell not? The most important thing about playing a lead Shakespearean character is that the audience believes in her and believes in how she feels.

We need to trust these audiences more. They have the capacity to be open-minded when we confront them. When they encounter a Juliet who doesn’t fit their ideals of beauty, it probably matters in their heads for the first few minutes. But if she does the job, if you’re convinced by her acting that she’s desirable and in love – she’s Juliet. If these actors can convince the audience they are fully committed to Juliet’s journey, then we’ve succeeded in telling her story.

When I looked at the text of Romeo and Juliet I found that any physical description of Juliet is absent. She could look like any of our diverse actors. Shakespeare himself has nothing to say about her appearance – he doesn’t care whether she’s tall or short, fat or thin, white or black. (Remember, this supposedly waif-like woman would have been played by a man anyway.) The important thing about the character of Juliet is that she’s beautiful, driven and feisty. The women I cast in Redefining Juliet are all of these things.

I knew Juliet was a part for me, but the only way I can make that happen is by putting on the play myself. The sad reality is, in the current state of casting in our industry, all six of us who are Juliet in Redefining Juliet will probably never get to play this romantic lead again. But by claiming Juliet for all those fine women actors who’d never usually get past the casting call, I hope casting directors’ and audiences’ eyes are opened to the possibilities that women of all sorts of difference can play sexy, desirable, romantic roles. We can be all of these things. Just let us act.

Redefining Juliet - So You Think You Know Who Can Play Juliet? Think Again! will be broadcast on BBC4 on May 1 as part of the Shakespeare Festival.
Twitter @redefinejuliet

www.manyriversfilms.co.uk

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