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Shakespeare in the Theatre:
Cheek by Jowl

“Peter Kirwan’s account of Cheek by Jowl’s ground-breaking work on Shakespeare is as stylish as it is meticulously researched. With rich interview material woven into a consideration of the company’s landmark productions, Kirwan’s analysis is sensitive to design, rehearsal process and the importance of collaboration to the company’s ethos. This book takes the reader on an evocative journey through some of the most exciting European Shakespeare productions of the past quarter-century.”

Pascale Aebischer, University of Exeter, UK

By Peter Kirwan
Published by Bloomsbury, 2019

Bloomsbury has published Shakespeare in the Theatre: Cheek by Jowl by Peter Kirwan. Find out more about this new scholarly study of Cheek by Jowl’s work.

Shakespeare in the Theatre: Cheek by Jowl is the first book-length scholarly study of the work of one of the world’s leading theatre companies. Drawing on new interviews with the company’s present and past members, detailed archival work, and analysis of twelve case studies of productions, Peter Kirwan’s book unpacks the innovations and legacy of Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod and their collaborators over four decades of practice.

The book celebrates Cheek by Jowl’s work in English, French, and Russian, pairing productions that illustrate a particular aspect of the company’s work. The book begins with the origins of a Cheek by Jowl production, examining the rehearsal room experiments of The Winter’s Tale (2016-17) and Donnellan’s script of Lady Betty (1989) to see how the company’s style first takes shape.

Subsequent chapters examine the company’s signature interplay of bodies and space (The Duchess of Malfi, 1995-6; Macbeth, 2009-11), the acclaimed gender experiments of the all-male productions (As You Like It, 1991-5; Twelfth Night, 2003-), and the approach to editing and cutting the texts in an approach often described as ‘filmic’ (Cymbeline, 2007; The Tempest, 2011-). Interviews with actors, creatives, and the producing team give insight into the decisions made, while analyses of the productions root the book’s arguments in what was seen on stage.

The company’s more recent innovations in design of detailed sets forms the focus of a chapter on environments (‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, 2011-14; Ubu Roi, 2013-15), and Donnellan’s recent emphasis on the importance of ‘empathy’ closes the book with discussions of Much Ado about Nothing (1998) and Measure for Measure (2013-).

This book traces the unique elements of the company’s work that transcend language, decade and playwright, making a case for Cheek by Jowl being among the most important interpreters of Shakespeare and his contemporaries today.”

Dr Peter Kirwan is Associate Professor in Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham.

Shakespeare in the Theatre: Cheek by Jowl is available to buy from Bloomsbury.