Women and Shakespeare

S4: E4: Emily Ingram on Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props

December 23, 2023 Varsha Panjwani/ Emily Ingram Season 4 Episode 4
S4: E4: Emily Ingram on Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props
Women and Shakespeare
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Women and Shakespeare
S4: E4: Emily Ingram on Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props
Dec 23, 2023 Season 4 Episode 4
Varsha Panjwani/ Emily Ingram

In this episode, the artistic-director of 'Some Kind of Theatre', Emily Ingram, talks about Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props.

Find out more about her company here: https://www.somekindoftheatre.co.uk

For a complete episode transcript, click http://www.womenandshakespeare.com

Interviewer: Varsha Panjwani
Guest: Emily Ingram
Researcher: Farah Elrakhawi
Producers: Isabella DeJoy & Chance Ortiz-Sorrenti
Transcript: Benjamin Poore
Artwork: Wenqi Wan

Suggested Citation:  Ingram, Emily in conversation with Panjwani, Varsha (2023). Emily Ingram on Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props. Women & Shakespeare [Podcast], Series 4, Ep. 4. http://womenandshakespeare.com/

Twitter: @earlymoderndoc
Insta: earlymoderndoc
Email: earlymoderndoc@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, the artistic-director of 'Some Kind of Theatre', Emily Ingram, talks about Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props.

Find out more about her company here: https://www.somekindoftheatre.co.uk

For a complete episode transcript, click http://www.womenandshakespeare.com

Interviewer: Varsha Panjwani
Guest: Emily Ingram
Researcher: Farah Elrakhawi
Producers: Isabella DeJoy & Chance Ortiz-Sorrenti
Transcript: Benjamin Poore
Artwork: Wenqi Wan

Suggested Citation:  Ingram, Emily in conversation with Panjwani, Varsha (2023). Emily Ingram on Shakespeare, Popular Culture, and Props. Women & Shakespeare [Podcast], Series 4, Ep. 4. http://womenandshakespeare.com/

Twitter: @earlymoderndoc
Insta: earlymoderndoc
Email: earlymoderndoc@gmail.com

Varsha: Hello dear listeners, welcome to Women & Shakespeare. I'm your host, Dr. Varsha Panjwani, and in this mellow wintertime, I'm thinking about objects and remembrances. Earlier this year, I lost someone very dear to me and was asked if I want something from their flat as a token of remembrance. If you have had to part with someone dear, what things of theirs have you kept?

Varsha: What is hard to let go and what is hard to keep? What token do you give to a friend to remember you by? In a painful scene in Hamlet, Ophelia brings remembrances to Hamlet. She says, ‘My Lord, I have remembrances of yours,/ That I have longed long to redeliver./ I pray you now receive them’. It is a [00:01:00] classic, heartbreaking breakup scene.

Varsha: She's bringing things to her lover who seems to have forgotten her. I often wonder what those remembrances are, because these will tell us about the nature of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, something that we know very little about. My students and I often discuss this. If she's bringing in letters, we feel that they had an intimate, emotional, perhaps even an intellectual, relationship.

Varsha: If she's bringing back dried flowers that he has given her, these might turn into the same flowers that she hands out later in the play. If it is a hoodie, as my students imagine a modern production, then it is a possibility that Hamlet and Ophelia have spent nights together, and this is why Polonius and Laertes have been alarmed. I have always been fascinated about the ways in [00:02:00] which such props can tell different stories in the theatre.

Varsha: So, it is my absolute pleasure to talk to my favourite props maker/ storyteller, and theatre maker, Emily Ingram. Emily Ingram is a Scottish-based theatre director, published writer and poet, performer, and props maker. She's the artistic director of the company, Some Kind of Theatre, which has initiated amazing projects such as Shakespeare on the Sofa and Theatre on the Sofa.

Varsha: During COVID lockdown, Emily worked for a wonderful Shakespeare project, The Show Must Go Online, as a props maker. She has directed, written, and performed numerous shows, and has been extremely generous to take out time from all this to hold props-making workshops for my students. I spoke to her on one such visit to my class. 

Varsha: Emily, it's so delightful to see [00:03:00] you in person. I'm so inspired by your projects and you've done some wonderful online workshops for my students. So I'm really relishing the chance to talk to you today. You're very welcome to Women and Shakespeare

Emily: Thank you. That's, that's so kind. It's really, really nice to be here.

Varsha: So when did you first encounter Shakespeare, and what was the nature of that encounter? 

Emily: Right, there's the official answer that I give people in interviews and things like that, and then there's the less official answer, and I'm gonna give you both because the first time I encountered Shakespeare was – my brother's two years older than me – he was in a school play which was a musical jukebox version of Twelfth Night and it, it was bad.

Emily: It was, it was so bad. It was, a year six, like age 10 and 11, school production of Twelfth Night, modernized language. It was, it was cheesy. It was dreadful. And I loved it. I loved the character of Feste. I loved the character of Viola. I was drawn to [00:04:00] Viola in a way that I think quite a lot of neurodiverse women, like, do get drawn to Viola.

Emily: So I loved it. I thought it was amazing. I was like, yes, this is what Twelfth Night is about. Jukebox musical, Queen songs, all of that. And then two years later in English class, we had an anthology of different works. And at the back for the older year groups, there was a section from Macbeth.

Emily: It was a section from Act Two, Scene Two. And we were told, 'oh, no, no, no, that's, that's the older years. We're focusing on, on this section'. And I read ahead under the desk, and I read that section of Macbeth in the Shakespearean language. And there's something about the shared lines between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, the rhythm of that, the sort of in medias res of that scene of, you know, we've just done this thing together, what do we do now? That really grabbed me, like the pace of it just felt extraordinary.

Emily: I went, 'oh, this is what Shakespeare is. I get it now'. And I read every single Shakespeare text I could get my hands on. I was, 10 [00:05:00] or 11. Started with The Tempest, moved on to Macbeth. I just loved it. You know, didn't understand all of it. But from the rhythm of it, I could kind of get the idea of it.

Emily: I loved those strong characters. I loved the fantastical, larger than life way that people acted in Shakespeare's plays and I, I just, found it fascinating. So that's, that's the sort of official answer that I give when I'm trying to sound  cerebral and things like that.

Emily: And, the sort of Queen songs and Shakespeare and jukebox musicals, like, you know, it's sort of two completely contrasting things. 

Varsha: I can see because a lot of these sort of things come into your work later, the honouring of Shakespeare's work, the absolute getting of it, but also doing a very popular culture version as well, so it's interesting that whatever you started with, it can still be seen in some of your work.

Emily: I think it's really exciting to find the elements of Shakespeare that resonate with pop culture because I don't think we need to take Shakespeare as seriously as society perhaps encourages us to. [00:06:00] I think obviously there's really beautiful language there, but Shakespeare was a pop culturalist of his time.

Emily: And, what was popular in the Elizabethan era to some extent still is now. People still like to laugh, they still like larger-than-life characters, they still like these fantastical storylines, and I, I think it's okay to lean into that and to find those pop cultural elements. 

Varsha: Oh yeah, you don't need to tell me that. I saw Bollywood Shakespeare and fell in love with it, so I am all for popular culture Shakespeare. So Emily, you are truly a theatre maker because you're a theatre director, a writer, performer, and properties maker or props maker. However, I remember you saying that your theatre training has not been typical or traditional. Is that right? And if so, what was your route into theatre? 

Emily: Yeah, that's totally right. I didn't go to drama school. I didn't train as a props maker or as a director. [00:07:00] And I went down the university route instead. I studied English Literature and Portuguese at the University of Edinburgh, forgot to leave Edinburgh when I graduated, and continue to make theatre in the city.

Emily: And, that literature background absolutely has helped me in the way I direct and the way I analyse text and create text as a writer. So I don't feel like I'm at a disadvantage for not having gone to drama school. And quite often when younger theatre makers are asking me about what route they should go down, I think, if you've got an interest in theatre, whatever you do is going to lend itself to that journey, whether you become an engineer and go to theatre later in life, like, even that very scientific way of looking at things is going to lend itself to theatre. Because, you know, theatre's sort of about everything. Everything that you learn in your life is something you can use for the stage to some extent.

Emily: And perhaps that's a bit of a nebulous answer, but, I [00:08:00] am very passionate about encouraging people to think about non-traditional roots into theatre. I don't think drama school is the only way. 

Varsha: That would be so encouraging to people. And you're right, there are many, many different collaborative skills in theatre, so anything can be used, really.

Emily: And Shakespeare's definitely been part of the journey that I've had into becoming a theatre maker. I studied Shakespeare very extensively when I was an undergraduate at Edinburgh University, the first few productions that I created were Shakespeare productions.

Emily: I'd learnt a lot about my craft and about myself as a director and as a writer through looking at the way Shakespeare builds tension, looking at the way he shares dialogue between characters and, forms really intense relationships very fast between characters and establishes how we should feel about them fast. Shakespeare's absolutely been a part of that journey for me. 

Varsha: So your company called Some Kind of [00:09:00] Theatre also has a travelling arm, Shakespeare on the Sofa. That project to me is so interesting. Please tell us why it started and how it works. 

Emily: So, Some Kind of Theatre, we're a touring theatre company, we're based in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a beautiful city full of very inaccessible old buildings, some of which have been converted into theatres, and that some members of the disabled community literally cannot get into to see theatre.

Emily: And so, when we were putting on productions during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we thought about ways we could take work out to people who couldn't access things in venues for whatever reason, whether they were living in a care home, whether the venue wasn't accessible to them. And we created this idea of bringing Shakespeare into people's living rooms.

Emily: And this was all pre pandemic, of course. And we started doing it, and we had uptake from all sorts of different groups of people, [00:10:00] something we just weren't expecting. Some of whom had children who were really interested in Shakespeare, but in Scotland, the school holidays are a little bit different. So, you know, the fringe is happening while they were back at school and they just wanted an evening Shakespeare play for their little kids.

Emily: Sometimes it was care homes with residents who hadn't seen theatre for, you know, a decade or more. Sometimes it was people who couldn't, as I say, access our venues. And it was really interesting just to see the wealth of different people who wanted to engage with Shakespeare.

Emily: Obviously the pandemic had stopped us taking work into people's living rooms, but as the lockdowns have ended, We've been taking work into community centres and village halls and libraries and public record offices, and not just bringing work to individual families or groups, but bringing Shakespeare to wider community groups.

Emily: And it's been again, really exciting to see the different audience groups who've wanted to come and engage not just with Shakespeare, but we've expanded. It's now Theatre on the Sofa as well as [00:11:00] Shakespeare on the Sofa. We've been taking other work out and it's just been really extraordinary to see how ready people are to engage with live art again, post lockdown. 

Varsha: I'm so thrilled by this model of working because usually our stereotype is if people don't go to the theatre, we sort of assume that they are not interested in theatre. And I’ve been thinking very hard about no, who is it who can't go? And turns out, a huge population can't go, whether it is traveling with young kids or disabilities, as you've just said. So I'm really a fan of your project. 

Emily: Thank you so much. That's really kind to say. 

Varsha: And your company also produces shows that, as we were talking about, mixes popular culture with Shakespeare. I'm thinking about some of the titles, The Steampunk Tempest. I'm also thinking about The Pirate Julius Caesar.

Varsha: And then, one of my [00:12:00] favourites, William Shakespeare's Tragical History of Frankenstein. What is the thinking behind these shows? And also, what kind of audiences do these shows attract? 

Emily: So, the thinking behind these shows is that Shakespeare lends itself really well to pop culture themes, as I said earlier.

Emily: But also, we found a really interesting thing when we put on The Tempest, which was our very first show as Some Kind of Theatre. Originally, we were just going to bill it as The Tempest, and it was going to have steampunk themes. And we, we did a little bit of audience research, and actually, we found that audiences who had never seen Shakespeare before said they were more likely to go and see it if it had that steampunk adjective at the front.

Emily: So we went, fine, we'll do one show where we try this and see how it goes. And, you know, The Steampunk Tempest sold out every single night of its Fringe run. We had a plethora of bookings for Shakespeare on the Sofa and you know, when we're talking to audience members who'd stayed [00:13:00] behind at the bar afterwards, they were saying, ‘I probably wouldn't have gone to see a Shakespeare, but it was steampunk, you know, you guys gave us a leaflet before the show and said it was family friendly, so we came along’, and it was really exciting to know that. 

Emily: So again, when we put on a pirate-themed Julius Caesar, you know, Caesar lends itself well to piratical themes. It's an environment where things get sorted out by people stabbing one another. There was also an electoral system on pirate ships that sometimes got overturned. It worked well with the themes. But when we put ‘pirate’ in front of Julius Caesar's name, suddenly families were willing to come along because they went, ‘Oh, this will be accessible to our kids’.

Emily: The third year we put on a Shakespeare at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we just called it Twelfth Night and we had such different audience groups. Like, we did it as an experiment, it was a Victoriana-style Shakespeare. It definitely had a strong aesthetic theme. Dived into pop culture, was quite steampunky, but we went, ‘Let's see what happens’.

Emily: And we got what [00:14:00] you would expect. A more traditional Shakespeare show to bring in in terms of audience demographics and audience numbers. So we definitely found it does make a difference offering that non-threatening, fun adjective at the start of the title. And I don't mind offering that change to the Shakespeare title if it brings people in.

Emily: If it's a gateway drug for bringing people into Shakespeare, I don't think it's a problem. We've had some people sort of, who are more perhaps from a traditional academic approach to Shakespeare, who've asked us about it over the years. But it's something I am really happy to do if it brings people to Shakespeare.

Varsha: Yes, and I think that's really important because as we've discussed before, Shakespeare is cultural currency, right? I mean, recognizing Shakespeare references all the time or even saying that, ‘Oh yeah, I've seen a Shakespeare show’. It's such a cultural currency that if we make people [00:15:00] scared or gatekeep or deprive people out of it, it's really depriving people out of gaining that cultural currency. So I'm with you. 

Emily: We absolutely didn't simplify the language of any of these shows. We are still using Shakespeare's language, cutting it down to about an hour in length, but still keeping the original text. And we were exploring quite complex themes with these shows.

Emily: With The Steampunk Tempest, we were taking a very anti-colonialist approach to the way we staged the show. With Caesar, again, we were dealing with quite complex themes around hierarchy, power, elections. We staged it in 2017, so there was a lot going on in the world that was related to those themes.

Emily: You know, we were still exploring very complex things, but we were inviting people in with those adjectives we were using in the title. And I'd do it again. 

Varsha: Yes. And I think people assume it's dumbed down if it's exciting, but I don't think that has to be the case. And in fact, some of the best [00:16:00] shows I've seen manage to thread both of those things together, right? Like there is an idea that you have to be cerebral and boring in order to be clever. But I think there's nothing to it. 

Emily: And, at the end of the day, theatre is entertainment. If your Shakespeare production is putting your audiences off then you're not doing your job right as a theatre maker. You're not honouring the fun of Shakespeare's work. 

Varsha: Absolutely. Emily, I really want to talk to you now about your role as props maker. You once said that making props is deeply tied both to your feminist and sustainability ethics. Might you explain how?

Emily: Yeah, I think the best way of explaining how is to start with an artist and an academic whose work I find really, really inspirational. When I was about 20, I knew I wanted to be a director. I hadn't really found what my style was, what my craft was, but I just happened to stumble [00:17:00] across an exhibition in a gallery by a Russian 20th century artist called Elena Polenova.

Emily: And she was an early 20th century Russian artist who explored craft and she used a lot of domestic objects in her work. Rather than fancy embroidery thread, she'd use things like straw, she'd use really domestic, really everyday materials. And this exhibition showcased her work and also the work of other early 20th century Russian artists with similar styles.

Emily: And I was really excited by the way domestic objects were used in their work, but I walked away from that exhibition with a question that wouldn't leave me alone. And the question was, why do we make that distinction between art, which is often, you know, the work of dead white men from long ago.

Emily: And why do we make a distinction between art and craft, which is often associated more with women, [00:18:00] particularly working-class women? And that question wouldn't leave me alone. And the ways that we as a society value those things differently wouldn't leave me alone. 

Emily: Shortly afterwards, I was reading an essay by the academic, Annette Kolodny, ‘Dancing Through the Minefield’, and she talks about the way that women's writing has often been lost or undervalued historically because it explores domestic themes or religious themes as a way of speaking out because women's writing has quite often been closely censored and so women haven't been able to expand to different topics.

Emily: Aemilia Bassano is a really strong example of that with her religious writing which she used very politically. And again, the question wouldn't leave me alone. Why are we valuing these things differently? As I said, I was early in my directing career, I was starting to try and find my style. And the next production I was making, I didn't have a huge amount of budget.

Emily: I just had what was available to me in my tiny apartment in Edinburgh. [00:19:00] And I started looking at ways that domestic objects could be used. Because I think there's something powerful in reclaiming that. I think there's something powerful in saying, this wooden spoon, yeah, it's a domestic object. Yeah, it's an object of the household.

Emily: But it can be a pen. It can be a sword. It can be more powerful things than that. And also it's a more sustainable way of making theatre. Big commercial productions that use a set once and then discard it. Although those sets are very impressive, those scenery elements are really impressive, I don't think that's a way of making work that I want to engage with because the environment is important to me.

Emily: We've only got one of it, and making work in a way that honours the environment is crucial to what I do and I think object theatre, that practice of using domestic objects as other things, is a way of doing that. 

Varsha: I really love that idea as well because it creates all sorts of associations in our mind, doesn't it? That, why are we undervaluing the ladle with [00:20:00] which, you know, a woman stirs a pot? Why can't it be as powerful as a sword? These are important things, both. 

Emily: And also, to use the example of the ladle, that's something that creates things that nourishes people, that feeds people, that sustains people. And that's a hugely powerful thing that shouldn't be undervalued. That work that's traditionally fallen to women should not be undervalued because it's what keeps us going. It's what keeps us alive. 

Varsha: And speaking of these props then, do you think that props are important storytelling devices in Shakespeare?

Emily: Absolutely, and I love talking about this. Props are important in Shakespeare because they can change the course of a play in a moment. You know, Malvolio's life gets changed, gets ruined because of a letter. Viola finds out that Olivia is in love with her because a ring gets thrown at her.

Emily: Desdemona and Othello's marriage essentially gets brought down by a handkerchief. Yes, it's brought down by some complex manipulation on [00:21:00] Iago's part, and a lack of support from the society around them. But the central thing to that is the handkerchief. There's so many examples within Shakespeare.

Emily: Flowers in A Midsummer Night's Dream bring people's downfall about – a  pair of donkey's ears. Shakespeare knows objects are powerful, and he uses that so effectively in his work. 

Varsha: During lockdown, you were working on this wonderful Shakespeare project, The Show Must Go Online, as a props maker. Now the project undertook to perform all Shakespeare plays exclusively online, because that's all we could do during lockdown. So what was your role as props maker when it was all online? 

Emily: So my role was thinking about what people might have in their houses during lockdown that they could turn into props. And my role was also thinking about not just, ‘Oh, you've got some cardboard. Great. We can make a cardboard sword’, but how we could do that meaningfully. And how we [00:22:00] could think about domestic items in a way that would speak to the stories.

Emily: And that was a really exciting role because I'd get people Whatsapping me or emailing me with pictures of their kitchen utensils going, ‘This is a knife I've got. Do you think, like, this is a decent murder weapon?’ All sorts of bizarre things in my inbox, all hours of the day and night, because we were working with people from across the world, all different time zones, people going, ‘Is this kitchen foil too shiny? Or can I make a ring out of this? Will it be okay?’

Emily: Like all sorts of weird and wonderful things. But it was also exciting because people were very much trapped in their homes and they were just trapped with the stuff that was there and being able to say to them, no, you've got the tools to be theatre makers with what you're locked down with.

Emily: You know, lots of actors when theatres shut down, kind of closed in on themselves a bit and went, ‘Well, if I'm not performing, if I'm just in my flat. What's the point?’ And there was a lot of that in the early days of The Show Must Go Online

Emily: People were feeling really dispirited and [00:23:00] really frightened, and being able to empower them to create work with what they had available to them and say, ‘Look, you're a brilliant performer, and you've got some silver foil. You can be, you know, a fantastic warrior in Macbeth's army. There you go’, was a really exciting thing to be able to do. 

Varsha: It really is very touching as well that, you know, if they are good actors, they'll make us believe. And I saw all of those shows and I believed in them. What were some of your favourite props on this Show Must Go Online project?

Emily: So the one I keep coming back to is the helmet in Henry V. We thought really carefully about how to costume the soldiers. And at last we emailed all the soldiers and went, Has everyone got a kind of a beanie hat, like a woollen hat in their wardrobe? And everyone said yeah. And I gave them a template for how to make a visor for that out of cardboard.

Emily: And they [00:24:00] did, and if you look at that scene, they all kind of look like they're roughly in some sort of uniform, but because it's a woollen hat, it's not a helmet, it's not metal, there's a kind of fragileness to it. 

Emily: And during the St. Crispin's Day speech, there's something really powerful about these people looking very frail, despite the fact that they're, you know, armoured up and have their cardboard swords and spoons and things ready to fight. There's something really interesting about how fragile they look. And, you know, obviously, during the First World War, lots of people were encouraged to knit hats and things for soldiers and send them to the Front.

Emily: And there's little echoes of imagery of the First World War in that. And yeah, just the fragility of that is interesting. The sort of the kind of false glory of war as well is something we really wanted to explore in that scene and by having echoes of the First World War I hope we managed to visually set that out.

Varsha: We wouldn't think of beanie hats for [00:25:00] visors, but by doing that, we sort of. unleashed something there. So that's beautiful.

Varsha: You've also done some amazing props making workshops with my students, which I am recommending to everyone who's listening this podcast. They are great. Your techniques really help in thinking about the shape of the play through props. So I wonder if we could do a mini version of some of the exercises that you make the students do, so that everyone can think about props deeply?

Emily: Absolutely. Let’s.

Varsha: Great. So shall we pick Hamlet and you tell me what to do. 

Emily: So one of the things I do at the start of a props workshop is I ask participants to go through the play and make a list of the props in it, including any metaphorical [00:26:00] props even if it's not a literal one that a character holds in their hand.

Emily: If it's something that they describe metaphorically, I encourage them to put that in as well because –  I'll come to that later. So, have you got your props list? 

Varsha: I have, but it is going to be a partial list because if I thought they were sets or costumes, I excluded them. I didn't quite do the metaphorical ones. I also excluded sound effects. But I have a list, so I'll, I'll say that out loud. 

Emily: And one of the things I get participants to do if they want to, is read them in a very dramatic voice. If they want to do a poetry voice, they're absolutely allowed to. Or if they just want to read it in their natural voice they can as well.

Emily: So I'll leave that up to you as to which you'd like to do. 

Varsha: Great. Thank you for that challenge.

Varsha: Political papers, sword. Money and notes. Political state papers, letters. Hamlet's book, Ophelia's book. Remembrances, gifts, [00:27:00] letters. Crown, poison, gifts, lights. Recorder, sword. Rosemary, pansies, fennel, columbines, rue, daisy. Letters. Spades, skulls, skull, dead body, letter. Fencing foils, wine, cups, pearl, wine cup.

Emily: Thank you so much. And what I ask participants to do is to think about the kind of play that those objects might appear in and the kind of texture that gives us. So at the start of Hamlet, we've got lots of political papers. We've got lots of really official things.

Emily: And then we've got this contrast. We've got these really personal objects. The books, the letters. And then again, we've got things from a much different world from the start of the play. The spades and the skulls and the rosemary. And... I don't need [00:28:00] to tell you that Hamlet's a play of contrast between the very political and the very personal, but looking at the props list makes it more obvious than ever.

Emily: And including the metaphorical objects in there can be a really helpful thing because sometimes characters think they're in a different play from the one they're in, and Hamlet certainly does to a certain extent during the course of the play. And again, I ask participants to think about the texture that creates and ways to honour that texture in each of the individual props.

Emily: So you've got that very, very official stuff. How do we reflect that in the very personal objects? And I ask participants to think, if you were designing this show, how would you make these very antithetical objects meld into one unified visual for the play, or would you choose to make it a play of contrast?

Emily: Would you choose for the Gravedigger scene to be strikingly visually different from the rest of the play? And what would it do if you chose to do that? [00:29:00] And again, I don't need to tell anyone here that the Gravedigger scene is a very different scene from the rest of Hamlet, but thinking about the visuals of that and, and how that can support your production overall, I think is a really exciting thing to do.

Varsha: Making a list really helped me because although I had noticed these, you know, skulls and dead bodies and decay in Hamlet, what I hadn't quite noticed although I've read these scenes a number of times, how quickly they come after pansies and daisies. What I also hadn't noticed is how much paper is there in this play, so that told me that it's a very bureaucratic world as well.

Emily: Absolutely, and I think it's interesting that you've noticed the speed in which things change in Hamlet, because obviously, Hamlet, we spend a long time watching the central character not making decisions and procrastinating, but things are progressing very, very fast in [00:30:00] that play. And again, that can show us that Hamlet's in a very different world to the rest of the play and it can help us lock into a theme that we perhaps might forget about otherwise as theatre makers.

Emily: And there's hundreds of other examples you can find in Shakespeare plays. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a really exciting one. Yes, you've got the floral imagery, the cobwebs, the fairy wings, and all of that. But you've also got swords mentioned at the very start. Theseus saying, ‘I wooed thee with my sword’.

Emily: Serpents in Hermia's nightmare, one of those metaphorical props. And those contrasts of light, airy imagery help us to remember, Midsummer Night's Dream is a dark, dark play with very sharp edges to it. There's so many different examples that we could explore if we have more time.

Emily: But I hope that this can give people listening an exciting place to start from, and an exciting way to start thinking about how to bring those Shakespearean opposites into the way they think about design in [00:31:00] Shakespeare's work. 

Varsha: Yes and not only about design, I think that it really helped me understand the play, navigate the play, and just gave me a different way to navigate the play in a language of props almost, so thank you.

Varsha: My producer tells me that we are running out of time, so tell us about your fun projects next? 

Emily: Thank you so much for asking. One of the very first object theatre pieces I created is called The Grandmothers Grimm. It's about how women contributed to and were raised from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale anthology, and it's a show I've been touring, lockdowns aside, for a very, very long time. It's coming back, and I'm really excited about it.

Emily: There's also a production I currently have with a circus company and with my company, Some Kind of Theatre, called Persephone Earth Sky Above Below, and it uses the Persephone myth and circus and found objects, including plastic [00:32:00] textures, to explore climate change and intergenerational conflicts. So lots of object work, prop work and things like that. 

Varsha: This sounds so exciting, and we absolutely can't wait to see them. Thank you so much, Emily, if we could give Emily a round of applause.

Varsha: That was Emily Ingram talking about Shakespeare and popular culture, accessibility in theatre, and Shakespeare's props.

Varsha: Our next episode, which will air in the new year, will feature playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, who we spoke to about her phenomenal successful plays, Red Velvet and Hamnet. So, dear listeners, that's a wrap for 2023. Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember to tune in to Women and Shakespeare, streaming at Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Varsha: If you want to [00:33:00] listen to the podcast with a full transcript, head over to the website, www.womenandshakespeare.com. Until then, keep smashing the patriarchy.