In 1981 at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, Ariane Mnouchkine directed a production of Richard II using her own French translation. Inspired partly by Antonin Artaud's dictum that 'the theatre is oriental', she told an interviewer: 'When we decided to perform Shakespeare, a recourse to Asia became a necessity.' She spoke of trying to find an antidote to the 'psychological venom' which infects western acting; wanting to break from the realistic tradition, she relied on a combination of Shakespeare's text and Asian form. Accordingly, she ignored the play's specifically English, national, resonance, instead importing movement, costumes and a hieratic style borrowed from Japanese Kabuki and Noh, interlaced with Balinese and Kathakali influences plus various styles of Asian music. The result was a blend designed to reveal the play's 'sacred and ritualistic aspects' and the chief means were the disciplined bodies of the actors and the words. Colette Godard describes the effect: the actors face the audience, 'knees flexed . . . hands ceremoniously spread. With their heads held erect, almost never looking at each other . . . they project their lines directly at the audience’. The words ‘come across with incredible clarity . . . It’s as if these weren’t characters, but bodies traversed by a single voice’. But the temperature is not uniformly cool: at the end, Bolingbroke ‘dares [to] kiss the lips of the murdered king, before laying himself out . . . tiny and fragile at the centre of an enormous bare carpet’.
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