One of the problems with the Brechtian account of Shakespearean performance is that in its focus on the impact of locus/platea interplay on the audience’s meaning-making processes, it tends to underemphasise the same phenomenon’s role in the creation of audience pleasure.1 Theatre director Mike Alfreds has noted that critical discussions of performance tend to ‘batten onto a play in literary terms’, agreeing or disagreeing with a director’s ‘interpretation’ while failing to describe ‘what it was actually like to be there at that performance, what really happened between the actors and audience’ (1979: 8). This is certainly as true in Shakespeare studies as it is in any other branch of theatre criticism, where it may be due in part to the fact that the productions which tour most widely and are thus available to the highest number of critics are precisely those which take the least notice of their audiences. In his book New Sites for Shakespeare, John Russell Brown suggests that major international productions often become fixed, consumable products; he criticises the polished but inflexible ‘packaging’ of Richard Eyre’s Richard III (1990) for the way in which ‘the audience was given a production by a director/dictator who had subdued individual freedom’ (1999: 145–7).
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