It seems obvious to state that the conditions of performance and reception of a Shakespeare play produced for film on the one hand, and stage on the other, are going to be different. However, exploring some of these differences will provide us with a useful way into learning about Shakespeare on film. To start with a very broad contrast between the two forms of production, it has been said that ‘in the theatre we accept theatricality; in the cinema we demand actuality’ (Manvell, 1979, 266). This requirement for an impression of actuality, or reality, is directly linked to the fact that film is a recorded medium of performance, a completed ‘product’ that is played back to cinema/DVD/Blu-ray/internet audiences watching in a space and time entirely remote from the original performance. Very obviously, a film audience can play no part in affecting the performance they are watching. By contrast, in the theatre where the performance is continuous and live, there is always some kind of interaction between the stage and the live audience. Consequently, if a narrative film (as most Shakespeare film adaptations are) is to communicate accessibly and coherently with the film audience, it needs to be made as realistically involving as possible, for an audience that will always be ‘virtual’. As we all know, a continuous film performance is made from many smaller bits of filmed performance, edited together.
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