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A Bardic Rite? Designing the Savoy Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Duration: 0:22:50 | Added: 05 Dec 2014
For a few nights in March 1914 if contemplating buying a theatre ticket in London, there was a brief chance when one could have seen Nijinsky dance at the Palace Theatre one night and the next the new Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the

Savoy Theatre. Had one had the rare chance to view the 1913 London performance of the Sacre and then the Savoy Dream eight months later, one might well have been struck by the mutuality of Harley Granville Barker’s and Sergei Diaghilev’s strategies as much as their distinctness. The ethos and practices of these two productions striving to achieve a ‘total work of art’ resonate and contrast with each other in the principles of collaboration in the two companies: the deployment of intensified simplification in performance to achieve the ‘gesamtkunstwerk’; the use of colour and supra-temporal effects to create stage decoration rather than pictorialism; the destabilization of gender and the imagining of the primitive was at the heart of both scenarios. This paper will recuperate the creative collaboration at the centre of the Savoy Dream, examining the neglected surviving design sketches of Norman Wilkinson as well as the interpretative contribution of Barker’s wife, Lilah McCarthy, to explore the continuities and ruptures between these rites of spring and midsummer.

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