The interpretation of Shakespeare by Ariane Mnouchkine and the Theatre du Soleil
This thesis is an account of 'Les Shakespeare', a cycle of three plays by Shakespeare produced by the Theatre du Soleil, Paris (1981-4), translated and directed by Ariane Mnouchkine. The Introduction sets Mnouchkine’s Shakespeare productions in the context of those of her contemporaries and relates them to Shakespeare's twentieth-century production history in France. Particular reference is made to her experimentation with Far Eastern theatre forms: the concept of theatrical Orientalism is defined, of which 'Les Shakespeare' is a manifestation. Chapter One is a chronological history of Theatre du Soleil productions (1964-1980), company development and characteristic uses of form and style. Chapters Two, Three and Four give a detailed account of 'Les Shakespeare'; Richard II, La Nuit des rois, and Henry IV (premiere partie). These chapters concentrate on the development of a new theatrical language inspired by Oriental theatre forms. Chapter Five thus sets out Mnouchkine's Orientalist approach to theatre, in terms of acting, music and scenography. The Conclusion assesses the uniqueness of Mnouchkine's Shakespeare and focuses on her subsequent application of theatrical Orientalism to the Soleil's post-Shakespeare cycle work, and on the presentation of twentieth-century history in the Shakespearian manner. It interprets theatrical Orientalism as a desire for formalism which appears paradoxically, after a succession of unscripted plays, with the Theatre du Soleil's return to the text.