Shakespeare Everywhere- Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa is one of the most influential filmmakers in not only his home country of Japan, but the entire world. With a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Kurosawa received accolades from around the globe, including a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award!


Akira Kurosawa, pictured with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, after he accepts his Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1990.

Known for being a completely hands-on director, Kurosawa was involved in the writing, directing, and editing of all of his films. Shakespeare was a continued source of inspiration for him, as he released three films between 1957 and 1985 that were inspired by the Bard’s works.

Throne of Blood (1957) was inspired by Macbeth.

The Bad Sleep Well
(1960) was inspired by Hamlet.

Ran (1985) was inspired by King Lear.

Kurosawa managed to create fresh and original adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, while still staying true to the original themes and stories of the plays he drew inspiration from. Do you agree? Why or why not? Leave us a comment!

Shakespeare Everywhere- Shakespeare in Bollywood

The stories, themes, and characters in Shakespeare’s plays are not limited to only Western audiences. His works are celebrated and adapted all over the world (and have been translated into over 80 different languages!)
Indian filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj has adapted and directed a trilogy of films based on Shakespeare’s plays. Maqbool (2003) is based on Macbeth, Omkara (2006) is based on Othello, and Haider (released later this year) is based on Hamlet. These films have been incredibly popular with audiences and have breathed new life into stories we have enjoyed for so many years.
Like many of us, Bhardwaj struggled with breaking through the Elizabethan language barrier, not allowing him to fully appreciate the Bard’s work. He explained this in an interview with The Times of India back in 2012:

“During my early days, Shakespeare was a scary thing because his language scared me and if you watch my movies that have been adapted from his works, you will see that I have taken a lot of creative liberty in making those movies.” But, he says, he was stupid. “When I finally started understanding his plays, I bought all his plays and read them in a year,” he said, adding, “Now I realize, I can live my life based on Shakespeare’s works, spend my life reading him,” said Vishal.

Check out the trailers for the films in the trilogy below!

Maqbool, 2003

Omkara, 2006

Haider, 2014

Adapting Shakespeare for Dance

We are all aware that Shakespeare’s plays are adapted for stage and film, but they are also adapted for dance! As The Toronto Star’s Michael Crabb states: “His wonderful plots and vivid characters are attractive to choreographers with an interest in narrative.”

One element that makes Shakespeare adaptable for dance is the deep emotional investment of each character. It is this deep emotion that helps drive the narrative of the plot in a wordless performance of his texts. Romeo and Juliet is often adapted for the stage, likely because the story lends itself well to the structure of a ballet, particularly the pas de deux. Listen to choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and two dancers talk about the National Ballet of Canada’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

While Shakespeare’s plays are adaptable, not all of his plays are considered suitable for dance adaptation. This is due to the complex interrelations between characters, the nature of the historical plays, and the changes in time and space within some of his plays. However, some choreographers are tackling these “undanceable” plays with much success. One example is Christopher Wheeldon’s A Winter’s Tale, which “weaves together music and design to plot a path through the narrative problems, and pretty much achieves the right balance of dance and storytelling.” (Judith Mackrell, The GuardianCrystal Pite takes a different approach to adapting Shakespeare by exploring motifs with The Tempest Replica.

Choreographers and dance companies have been adapting Shakespeare for more than three centuries, but often revisit the same plays: Hamlet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Judith Mackrell suggests that they “consider the network of sexual and moral relationships at the heart of Measure for Measure – so much juicily tense and visceral human material to choreograph. Or Macbeth, whose dark, saturated imagery could be fantastically evoked through dance, lighting and digital effects. Or As You Like It, with its nesting box of love stories and fabulous central female role.

Which of Shakespeare’s plays would you like to see adapted to dance?

Some upcoming Shakespeare dance adaptations in the Toronto area include:
The Tempest Replica
, Bluma Appel Theatre, May 7 – 11, 2014
Romeo and Juliet,
National Ballet of Canada, June 20 – 22, 2014

To learn more about dance adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, here are some links to websites, essays and articles: