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Philosophy and theatre

uclzean4 June 2014

Friedrich Nietzche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Forty minutes into Tom Stern’s (UCL Philosophy) UCL Festival of the Arts lecture he had the audience humming a drone-like melody and clapping their hands in time. A 12-strong tragic chorus concealed their faces with masks and turned to the stage as two volunteers recited the opening lines of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex.

CREON: Before you came, my lord, to steer our ship of state, Laius ruled this land.

OEDIPUS: I have heard that, but I never saw the man.

CREON: Laius was killed. And now the god is clear: those murderers, he tells us, must be punished, whoever they may be.

OEDIPUS: And where are they? In what country? Where am I to find a trace of this ancient crime? It will be hard to track.

The audience continued to hum and clap but the hedonism was soon interrupted due to a complaint from a conference in the room below. A pity as it interrupted the near completion of the Apollonian unity Nietzsche had envisioned these events to be about. We had, at least, tasted what it would have been like to be at a religious worship of Dionysus that took place in amphitheatres over festival periods in Ancient Greece.

Stern is fresh from the publication of his book entitled Philosophy and Theatre which investigates how the two relate. He began by providing background into the history of both. This inevitably led to Ancient Greece, the birthplace of western philosophy and western theatre. ‘The tradition begins here. Both are Greek words. Philosophy means the love of wisdom  and theatron means a place for viewing’.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are temporarily revived in the Bloomsbury Theatre

uclektm25 February 2014

UCLU Drama Society poster

UCLU Drama Society poster

It’s complicated, but bear with me. Here are some concentric circles of theatre: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead  is a 1966 play by Tom Stoppard. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are characters from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (but you can just call it Hamlet because everyone does) written somewhere between 1599 and 1602, maybe.

From 20 February to 22 February, the UCLU Drama Society performed a production of the play by Stoppard containing the elements of Hamlet as they appear in both original texts, but adapted and modernised to an extent, appearing without full Elizabethan costumes or set.

Amid these elements, the direction of Rob Beale found something that approached a fresh take on representing the void at the heart of the play.  (more…)

Lost and found in translation: honorary British dramatists

Clare Bowerman8 May 2013

What does it take for a foreign language playwright to become an ‘honorary British dramatist’? What is the difference between a translation, an adaptation and a version? Theatre-lovers and the generally curious enjoyed the chance to ponder these questions at a talk on translation on the London stage by Dr Geraldine Brodie on 7 May, the first day of UCL’s inaugural Festival of the Arts.
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