The Measure for Measure Project

In January 2017 we launch The Measure for Measure Project, another in our series of one-term courses centred around Shakespeare’s work. Participants on the course then have the opportunity to continue to performance in summer 2017.

What does the course involve and what’s it like to participate? These are the thoughts and feelings of some previous participants in Shakespeare courses, as well as of Richard Spaul, tutor and artistic director.

What does the course involve?
Richard says: “Over the ten weeks, we take as wide an interest in the play as possible, looking at narrative, character, language.

We work as individuals, pairs and in small groups finding multiple ways in which text might be performed. We often bring in other text, perhaps from the modern era, perhaps also including wider media, music and physical theatre.

We certainly don’t try to find any sort of ‘definitive’ or correct performance’ – quite the opposite. But we do always try to shed light on the material and bring new qualities out of it. The primary focus is always on ‘acting’ and how to do that well and enjoyably.”

Previous participants add: “A Shakespeare course… is different every week… is a full body activity… gets you learning to put every fibre of your being into speaking the text… has you linking movement and voice in unusual ways… allows you to play around with Shakespeare… gets you learning from Richard but also from everyone else… involves you physically, emotionally, vocally, interpersonally.”

Shakespeare can be difficult; is this course for everyone?
Richard says: “A prior knowledge of Shakespeare isn’t necessary. Yes, you do need to learn some lines but the approach works well for all ranges of experience.”

Previous participants add: “Richard takes things slowly and supports at every level… the class allowed me to explore at various stages of challenge… the class showed me that the possibilities of Shakespeare are inexhaustible… I found it fabulous working with the text, even as a non-English first language speaker… I realise now that Shakespeare is current, fresh and inspiring.”

The focus of January’s course is Measure for Measure – why that play?
Richard says: “Different plays come into focus in different eras. Currently we’re facing a pretty terrifying rise in authoritarian government and Measure for Measure is very much about that. Equally the sexual behaviour of powerful men – including one who has just been elected President of the United States – is right at the forefront of things now and this is the world of Measure for Measure. I started looking at the play and thought “We need to do this one.”

Will participants have to perform?
Richard says: “The course itself focusses on exploring the play; it’s wide-ranging, fairly unpressurised and involves learning new techniques and approaches. There is no performance at the end of term.

“However participants on this course will be invited to join the company for a summer performance. That phase will be about filtering, structuring and perfecting the work and then performing under pressure. But that is not what everyone wants to do and the January course is rewarding and enjoyable whether or not you go on to perform.

What are the challenges … and the rewards… of an in situ: Shakespeare course?
The participants say: “This … is a million miles away from being a subdued, cerebral, lecture-based course… has been a stretch in every way… has led me rewardingly outside my comfort zone… is an opportunity to step outside of myself and play around with Shakespeare… lets you work with likeminded people… offers a welcoming, friendly, cooperative and non-judgemental setting…. is a whole new way of looking at
Shakespeare’s work… makes you get to grips with your potential.”

These are the (lightly edited) words of Richard Spaul, tutor/director, and participants of previous Shakespeare courses: Cyrus Pundole, Joe Kao, Jonathan Holburn, Katrina Nuttall, Marta Meszaros, Mat Wollerton, Maxine Fay, Silvano Squizzato, Susan Quilliam.

The Measure for Measure Project:
A 10-week course exploring Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
Dates: Tuesday January 17 – Tuesday March 28 (no class Tuesday February 14)
Times: 7.30 – 10pm
Venue: St Philips Church Centre, Mill Road, Cambridge.
Cost: £200/£150 (concession)