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Critics, actors and academics to probe the pains and pleasures of Shakespearean theatre criticism

Theatre directors, reviewers, students, actors and academics from universities, including the University of Warwick and Nottingham Trent University, are set to gather at a first-of-a-kind conference dedicated to analysing and debating the current state of Shakespearean theatre criticism. Over a hundred delegates from as far afield as Japan and the US will gather on 5-6 September at The Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

The conference will include a keynote speech from Michael Billington, who has been The Guardian’s theatre critic for almost four decades. What promises to be a lively panel will pit critics Michael Coveney, (The Independent, Whatsonstage.com) and Andrew Dickson (The Rough Guide to Shakespeare) against internationally renowned theatre practitioners, director Tim Supple and actor and director Janet Suzman. Both Suzman and Billington are Honorary Graduates of the University of Warwick.

Organising the conference is Dr Peter J Smith, reader in Renaissance Literature at Nottingham Trent University, Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of learning at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Dr Paul Prescott, Associate Professor in English at the CAPITAL Centre, University of Warwick.

According to Paul Prescott, ‘For many people, a review is all they know of a Shakespeare production. Reviewers can have the power to close a show and to determine what the future will remember. But, with the rise of the blogger critic, our sense of who should review and where reviews should appear has changed radically. This conference offers a rare chance to take the pulse of this vital cultural activity. It promises to be a major event.’

Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Michael Boyd also endorses the conference: ‘[American and UK critics] appear to be less interested than their continental peers in analysing what a piece of theatre is and why, than determining whether it is worth seeing or rushing dinner for.  Should we moving further towards serious analysis or celebrating the entrepreneurial cut and thrust of the best of English criticism?  Worth a debate, I would say.’

Delegates will also have the chance to review Boyd’s own RSC production of As You Like It on the Saturday evening of the conference.

Along with seminars and short paper sessions from delegates, academics such as Peter Holland, Professor of Shakespeare Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and Carol Chillington Rutter, Professor of English at the University of Warwick and theatre reviewer for Shakespeare Survey, will also be speaking.

Note for Editors: For information on how to book places at the conference email: Katherine.Ledwidge@shakespeare.org.uk

For Further Information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick +44(0)2476 523708 
or  mobile/cell +44(0)7767 655860
p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk
twitter: @peterjdunn

 PR94     PJD  3rd September 2009