'Yes, I have gained my experience' (As You Like It, 4.3.23)

Kenneth Branagh and Adapting the 'Shakespearean' Actor

in Critical Survey
Author: Anna Blackwell1
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The focus within adaptation studies on embracing intermediality should necessitate exploration not only of other mediums worthy of critical attention such as video games, opera and radio, but also of different adaptive sites: in particular, the body of the actor. More so than with any other author, there is a mode of performance associated with Shakespeare's work that is employed popularly and academically to encompass an individual actor's entire career. This association actively erases an actor's diversity and reduces the performance of their body to a single, definitive function. Actors such as Kenneth Branagh thus remain intimately connected with not only their personal interpretations of Shakespeare, but the playwright in general as a cultural, historical figure. Even when Branagh directs Thor, the Marvel studio comic book adaptation, press reactions and reviews of the film demonstrate the inseparability of his Shakespearean persona from his professional identity as a whole. Of interest, therefore, is the way in which the 'Shakespearean' title is used: what implicit values are ascribed through its usage, what cultural systems perpetuate this attribution, but also what new avenues of critical exploration and what new texts are opened up by acknowledging the actor as the site of adaptive encounter and what traditional concepts of the adaptive text are disturbed.


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