Cruel to be kind: Laughter and madness on the Shakespearean stage Event as iCalendar

(English, Drama and Writing Studies, School of Humanities)

23 May 2019


Venue: Lecture theatre G36, Old Government House

Location: 24 Princes Street, Auckland

Professor Bridget Escolme | Queen Mary University of London | Alice Griffin Fellow in Shakespeare Studies

Incarcerated mad people in early modern plays are often objects of humour and curiosity, which can strike an audience today as outmoded, voyeuristic and offensive. Bridget Escolme’s work on figures of ‘emotional excess’ has explored comedy, power and identification in such theatrical moments. The audience may be provoked to laugh at the madfolk in the early modern drama, but what happens when the mad can laugh back?

In this lecture, Escolme argues that in the day-lit and candle-lit early modern playhouse, where audience members are a visible part of the spectacle, power relationships are always complex and ambiguous. Her talk explores issues of laughter, power, historical difference and mental health in the theatre, four hundred years ago and today.

Bridget Escolme is Professor of Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. Her previous published work has explored the relationship between performer and audience in Shakespeare production, and examined how theatre manages extremes of emotion. Her new book, Shakespeare and Costume in Practice, will explores how costume produces and critiques constructions of the past. She also co-convenes Queen Mary’s MSc in Creative Arts and Mental Health, a collaboration with the Centre for Psychiatry, Wolfson Centre for Preventive Medicine. Her articles on mental health and drama have appeared in the medical journal The Lancet. She has also worked as a dramaturge, a director and a Theatre in Education practitioner.

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