Bieito’s Birmingham journey through Shakespeare’s forests
Acclaimed yet notorious Spanish director Calixto Bieito this week directs a specially commissioned play as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.
Forests uses original verse from Shakespeare's woodland and heath scenes, taking theatregoers “from the calmness of paradise to the uncertainties of purgatory and finally into the flames of hell”.
The production forms part of Birmingham REP's autumn and winter off-site season. It’s staged in the theatre in which the REP’s founder Sir Barry Jackson produced the first modern-dress Shakespeare production more than 80 years ago: the Old Rep on Station Street, Birmingham.
This radical interpretation of Shakespeare brings together the forest scenes from more than 20 of his plays and sonnets, from the forest of Arden in As You Like It through to the moving trees of Birnam Wood in Macbeth and ending in the bare wilderness of the cliffs of Dover in King Lear.
Forests marks the Catalan director's return to the UK for the first time since 2004. His previous UK theatre productions include Hamlet and Celestina for Edinburgh Festival and Birmingham REP, and Macbeth at the Barbican.
Bieito says of the play, "The forest has always played a dramatic role in English literature and no more so than in Shakespeare's work.
“Many of Shakespeare's literary references to nature focus on the forest's life-giving and protective qualities, but as in fairy tales and folklore, Shakespeare also uses the forest in his plays to represents man's greatest fears of danger, death, destruction and evil. It is Shakespeare's rich material that inspires Forests.
“Theatre has to be a unique experience. You have to feel different emotions, be surprised and discover new things about yourself and the world. I hope Forests will do exactly this for the audience.”
Forests will be performed in Catalan and English with surtitles and features four English and three Catalan actors.
George Costigan played Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Library Theatre, Manchester and Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman at York Theatre Royal. For Birmingham REP he’s appeared in Hamlet and Of Mice and Men.
She also played all the major female roles in The Histories Cycle, for which she was presented with the What's On Stage award for best actress in a play for her portrayal of Joan of Arc, along with the Laurence Olivier Award for best ensemble performance and the Evening Standard editor's award.
Hayley Carmichael most recently appeared in Hamlet and Sweet Nothings at the Young Vic and Bliss at the Royal Court. As co-founder of Told by an Idiot, she has both devised and performed in almost all the company's productions including the lead in Casanova at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Christopher Simpson's recent theatre work includes LeanerFasterStronger at Sheffield Crucible and Little Platoons at The Bush Theatre.
The cast also includes Catalan actors Josep Maria Pou and Roser Cami who played Lady Macbeth in Bieito's Macbeth at the Barbican. Joining them will be Barcelona singer-songwriter Maika Makovski.
Forests will be designed by Rebecca Ringst. Costume design is by Ingo Krügler, lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Dan Hoole.
It is a co-production between Birmingham REP and Barcelona Internacional Teatre in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It opens at the Old Rep on Friday (31 August), with press night on Tuesday, 4 September. It continues until Saturday, 15 September.