“An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.”
– William Shakespeare, Richard III
Is Shakespeare still relevant? Does he still speak to us? Is he REALLY for everyone?
We are Shakespeare Republic and our answer to all of the above is one simple word – yes.
Yes, yes, YES!
WHAT IS THIS?
Created by Australian actor, Sally McLean in 2015, Shakespeare Republic is an internationally award-winning, female-led and culturally diverse anthology series produced by Incognita Enterprises that celebrates not just the world’s greatest playwright, but also his insightful understanding of the big issues of his time. Insights that still hold relevance today and form the basis for a truly diverse, inventive and epic journey into the nature of being human.
Shakespeare Republic has been the subject of several academic presentations and plenary panels at Early Modern Literature and Shakespeare seminars and conferences in Australia, the UK and USA since it’s launch in 2016 to now. Shakespeare Republic creator/director, Sally McLean’s first academic published work on Shakespeare, an essay exploring her methodology behind Shakespeare Republic and Shakespeare performance in general, was published in the UK by Routledge Press in 2020 as part of the academic collection, Playfulness In Shakespearean Adaptations edited by Marina Gerzic (The University of Western Australia) and Aidan Norrie (Warwick University, UK).
In more recent news, the third season of the series has been taught at Syracuse University, USA, was the subject of several paper presentations from academics at the Shakespeare Association of America and British Shakespeare Association Conferences (among others) and also has an entire chapter dedicated to exploring McLean’s process and the impact of the series in the upcoming academic collection, Lockdown Shakespeare: New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation being published as part of the Arden Shakespeare collection in the UK.
All three seasons of the main series (2015-2020) have also been invited to be included in the official curated collection at the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia in Canberra. The series was additionally featured in their web series showcase in 2020 and named as an “Acquisition Highlight” in their 2018 Annual Report.
WHY DO WE EXIST?
Our manifesto is simple –
Shakespeare Republic’s mission is:
TO ENGAGE NEW AUDIENCES with Shakespeare’s works through the use of “bite-sized” pieces of text, that reduce the anxiety many feel around attending a full Shakespeare play, thereby introducing new audiences to the work who might not otherwise engage;
TO EDUCATE AND ENTERTAIN MODERN AUDIENCES ABOUT THEIR WORLD using Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre text; and
CHALLENGE THE CONCEPT OF “TRADITIONAL” SHAKESPEARE, while still remaining true to his original text.
BUT WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS SERIES?
Built on the premise of taking a selection of Shakespeare texts and making them more accessible to modern audiences by setting each piece in a contemporary situation, while playing with gender and embracing diversity, our first award-winning season in 2015 included Hamlet as Media Advisor to a Government Minister, Juliet as one half of a same-sex couple in a Skype conversation, Phebe as an entitled Gen Y drunk texting, Macbeth as a politician about to metaphorically knife an opponent, a female Hamlet weary from the corporate cut and thrust and a performance of Sonnet 18 as a eulogy.
In 2017 we returned with Season Two with thirteen more episodes with everything from Viola as inner-Melbourne hipster to Jaques as a melancholic barfly to Katherina as an ambitious politician’s wife to Henry V as a member of a laser strike team – and everything in-between!
Brainchild of award-winning Director/Producer, Sally McLean, with a highly experienced crew carrying a combined total of over 170 professional credits to their names, Shakespeare Republic has now been officially selected for over 100 international film festivals, nominated over 90 times and won over 40 awards to date, and is an innovative and exciting ride through the works of William Shakespeare, featuring an international cast and a lot of love for the Bard.
WHO ARE YOU?
Shakespeare Republic is an Australian female-led, culturally diverse anthology series celebrating Shakespeare, his works and his enduring legacy, sharing new interpretations of his works via settings and circumstances that are familiar to a 21st Century audience.
Using the medium of a digital series, Shakespeare Republic is a journey through the works of William Shakespeare and his fellow Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights, with the aim of rediscovering, reinvigorating and occasionally re-interpreting these universal observations in a modern setting, through the lens of current events and social issues of our time.
A passion project of lead raconteur, Sally McLean, Shakespeare Republic was born out of her ongoing love affair with all things historical, dramatic and particularly Elizabethan. From her time spent at drama school in London to her thesis on Elizabethan theatre (for which she also spent time watching the building of the new Globe Theatre on Southbank, spending time inside it’s walls as history was recreated around her), to her time being mentored by Sir Nigel Hawthorne until his passing in 2001, her work in production with the BBC Music & Arts Department and then her work with the Australian Shakespeare Company over three seasons, she has spent the better part of her adult life discussing, performing and celebrating the Bard.
With the idea of what Shakespeare Republic could be still forming, Season One ensemble members Michala Banas, Alan Fletcher, Rowena Hutson, Billy Smedley and Ben Steel were then approached via text, email or coffee dates with the question “How do you feel about Shakespeare?”. Their answers covered the gamut from “Terrifying!” to “Brilliant!”, with a universal, “Yes, please!” as they all jumped on board with complete enthusiasm. Co-Producer, Perri Cummings, herself a passionate enthusiast of Shakespeare and all classical works, willingly joined the fray to assist with bringing the concept to the screen, joining Sally McLean and Billy Smedley to helm the project and so our journey began …
With Season One done and released, lessons learned and new ideas formed, so began preparations for Season Two. Growing from 6 to 13 episodes, once again Written and Directed by Sally McLean, produced by Sally McLean and Billy Smedley, co-produced by Shane Savage and Perri Cummings, Executive Produced by Robina Bamforth with Associate Producer Stephen Wyley, we began upping the scale and production values in a major way! Season One cast Michala Banas, Alan Fletcher, Sally McLean and Billy Smedley were joined by new Republic ensemble members, Stephen Costan, Nadine Garner, Dean Haglund, Christopher Kirby, Tariro Mavondo, Wahibe Moussa, Falon Ryan, Shane Savage and Phoebe Anne Taylor.
Filmed entirely by award-winning cinematographer, Shaun Herbertson on a RED Epic, each Season Two episode is linked to other episodes in the series via visual motifs, cast or locations, to give us a sense of seeing fragments of “one day in the life” of a modern, contemporary world where we all happen to still speak in Shakespeare’s language.
Season Three was created in response to the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns around the world in 2020. Again taking Shakespeare pieces and characters and setting them firmly in lockdown and self-isolation, the season used a 24 strong cast of actors, based in six cities around the world and explored the human condition during the worst pandemic in a century.
While still working with the text in the same way as before, this new season worked completely differently in how it was filmed. All actors were rehearsed via Zoom video conferencing by Sally McLean from her home studio in Melbourne and filming was also done in the same way – through the internet – with Sally directing the actors in real time via Zoom on their laptops or tablets, while they filmed themselves on their smartphones or cameras.
Post-production was also all done remotely – with the entire season completed without any of the team being physically in the same room at the same time.
The takeaway? Shakespeare speaks to us now just as strongly as he did 400-odd years ago when he first put quill to parchment.
We have also delved into the world of film, producing our first commissioned short film project Speaking Daggers, co-produced with Independent Schools Victoria for the inaugual Arts Learning Festival in Melbourne, which also toured the international film festival circuit, winning four awards and being officially selected for 22 international film festivals, including the iconic St Kilda Film Festival. Next on our creative agenda is the mini-series Dark Arcadia and the full Season Four of the series, which is in final development and takes the work in a different direction again, still maintaining the female perspective and the modern settings and remaining unbound by gender or race.
What will we find? How will this play out? Where will this take us (and you)?
As with all journeys, we won’t know until we get there – but we intend to have a whale of time in the process.
Stay tuned …
Shakespeare Republic … “All the world’s a stage …”