Queen╩╝sMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions
  • Author: Peter Cockett
  • Textual editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Peter Cockett. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Editors (Text): Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Peer Reviewed

    Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions

    SQM Company Style - Conclusions

    The disruptive effect of the original practices on the SQM productions is not necessarily obvious in the final product witnessed by the video and the live audiences. Since performance demands a series of singular choices the result is productions that seem finite and contained. The research space for critical reflection opened up in the rehearsal room is not readily apparent in the final performances. Furthermore, comparable performances could have been achieved through a conventional approach to rehearsal. But then the research product, the performances, would have been determined in advance and the production process would only have been used to demonstrate already held assumptions. The process as designed did work from research premises about the company but had enough flexibility to allow for alternative perspectives to emerge. In my annotations to the editions, I have tried to give insight to the organic rehearsal experiment that produced these performances, acknowledging the limits of the experiment╩╝s efficacy as research, but also pointing to tangible experiences of the work in action I feel hold relevance and might contribute to our understanding of the Queen╩╝s Men and their creative performance process.

    The process itself is responsible for the generation of a distinct performance style of the SQM company which might best be characterized as broad, playful, and distinctly masculine. Rather than fostering a division between actor and audience, the performances took on an egalitarian quality where all were engaged in experiencing the same story. The actors were the leaders of the revels but they were also men of the people: commoners playing princes, clowns and kings for the delight of commoners like them. The style rose out of the working process in which a modern company of male actors responded to the text, while working in conditions that approximated those of the original company. Whether this style is an indicator of the original company's performances is impossible to assess; but the SQM performances attained a consistency and efficacy that was persuasive to me, and, when combined with historical documentation of the original company, builds a clearer picture of what it might have meant when the Queen's Men came to town (Cockett 2009). Pamela King expresses this well in her review of the company's three performances at McMaster University:

    [B]y the end of the run I was appreciating the dynamics of the company in the way perhaps one watches a football team, so that I was watching not just a play, but that particular, and increasingly known, configuration of bodies and skills engaging with a play for my discrimination and enjoyment. And that was surely a successful recreation of something as particular as it is ephemeral about the early London stage (King 10).

    The open, interactive, knockabout quality of the SQM productions is not something that we commonly associate with Shakespeare today. Is this an indicator that the Queen's Men plays are substantially different from Shakespeare's and demand a different kind of performance? Or is it due the fact that we now accord Shakespeare a level of reverence when approaching the performance of his plays and apply principles of human psychology to the interpretations of his characters because he, after all, invented humans (see Bloom)? I am inclined to believe it is the latter. The difference between the SQM productions of Queen's Men plays and typical mainstream productions of Shakespeare is a difference in the approach to the performance process, rather than a difference between the ways Shakespeare and the Queen's Men approached writing, or the ways the Chamberlain's or King's Men and the Queen's Men approached performance. Shakespeare and the Queen's Men are not our contemporaries, but they were contemporaries of each other.