Call for Papers: British Shakespeare Association, Queen’s Belfast, 2018


Shakespeare Studies Today

Queen’s University Belfast, 14-17 June 2018 (

The Belfast Tempest

Shakespeare Studies is one of the most rich and dynamic areas of interdisciplinary enquiry. It embraces historical explorations of Shakespeare’s canon, ranges across four hundred years of world theatre and performance history, and is continually renewed by Shakespeare’s iconic status in contemporary culture, film and media. Shakespeare draws together academics, teachers, theatre professionals, practitioners, readers and enthusiasts. At the same time, Shakespeare is a global commodity, reinvented in every culture and nation, meaning that his work prompts world-wide conversation. Following on from the 2016 celebrations, the 2018 BSA conference offers an opportunity for academics, practitioners enthusiasts and teachers (primary, secondary and sixth- form teachers and college lecturers) to reflect upon Shakespeare Studies today. What does Shakespeare Studies mean in the here-and-now? What are the current and anticipated directions in such diverse fields of enquiry as Shakespeare and pedagogy, Shakespeare and race, Shakespeare and the body, Shakespeare and childhood, Shakespeare and religion, Shakespeare and economics, Shakespeare and the law, Shakespeare and emotion, Shakespeare and politics, Shakespeare and war and Shakespeare and the environment? What is Shakespeare’s place inside the curriculum and inside debates around theory, queer studies and feminism? Where are we in terms of editing and materiality, and where does Shakespeare sit alongside his contemporaries, male and female? How does theatre practice, performance history, adaptation, cinema and citation figure in ever evolving Shakespeare Studies? In particular, this conference is keen to explore the challenges facing Shakespeare Studies today and to reflect on newer emergent approaches. Reflections on past practices and their reinventions for the future are also warmly welcomed.

Plenary Speakers include: Prof. Pascale Aebischer (University of Exeter), Prof. Clara Calvo (University of Murcia), Prof. Richard Dutton (Queen’s University Belfast), Prof. Courtney Lehmann (University of the Pacific) and Prof. Ayanna Thompson (George Washington University).

UK Premieres include: Veeram (dir. Jayaraj, 2016), a South Indian film adaptation of Macbeth, and Hermia and Helena (dir. Matías Piñeiro, 2016), an Argentine adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BSA 2018 also includes: Q+As with theatre director Andrea Montgomery (The Belfast Tempest, 2016) and film directors Jayaraj and Matías Piñeiro.

There are four ways to participate in BSA 2018:

  1. Submit an abstract for a 20-minute paper. Abstracts (100 words) and a short biography to be submitted by 1 October 2017 to
  2. Submit a proposal for a panel session consisting of three 20-minute papers. Abstracts for all three papers (100 words each), a rationale for the panel (100 words) and short speaker biographies to be submitted by 1 October 2017 to
  3. Submit a proposal for a performance / practice or education workshop or a teachers’ INSET session. For a workshop, submit a summary proposal outlining aims and activities and a biographical statement. For an INSET session (either a one-hour event or a twenty-minute slot), submit a summary proposal and biographical statement. All proposals to be submitted by 1 October 2017 to
  4. Submit an abstract to join a seminar. The seminar format involves circulating a short paper in advance of the conference and then meeting to discuss all of the papers in Belfast. Abstracts (100 words), a short biography and a statement of your seminar of preference to be submitted by 1 October 2017 to include:

Digital Shakespeare: Histories/Resources/Methods’ led by Dr Stephen O’Neill (Maynooth University);

Shakespeare and Act/Scene Division’ led by Dr Mark Hutchings (University of Reading);

‘Shakespeare and the Book Today’ led by Prof. Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford);

‘Shakespeare and his Contemporaries’ led by Dr Lucy Munro (King’s College, London);

Shakespeare and Early Modern Playing Spaces’ led by Prof. Richard Dutton (Queen’s University Belfast);

‘Shakespeare and Europe’ led by Prof. Andrew Hiscock (Bangor University) and Prof. Natalie Vienne-Guerrin (University of Montpellier III-Paul Valéry);

Shakespeare and Film’ led by Dr Romano Mullin (Queen’s University Belfast);

‘Shakespeare and Marx’ led by Dr Matt Williamson (Queen’s University Belfast);

‘Shakespeare and Morality’ led by Dr Neema Parvini (University of Surrey);

‘Shakespeare and Pedagogy’ led by Dr Lindzy Brady (University of Sydney) and Dr Kate Flaherty (Australian National University);

‘Shakespeare, Performance and the 21st Century’ led by Dr Erin Sullivan (Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham);

‘Shakespeare and Religion’ led by Dr Adrian Streete (University of Glasgow);

‘Women, Shakespeare and Performance’, led by Prof. Liz Schafer (Royal Holloway, University of London)

A number of Postgraduate / Practitioner / Teacher Bursaries will be available to cover the conference fee. When you submit your abstract / proposal, please indicate if you would like to apply for one of these and if you would like to attend all of the conference or Saturday only.


The BSA is proud to announce its next the locations, institutional partners and themes of its next three conferences:

Shakespeare Studies Today, 14-17 June 2018, Queen’s University, Belfast

Shakespeare: Race and Nation, July 2019, Swansea University

Shakespeare in Action, July 2020, University of Surrey

The BSA is pleased to invite proposals to host our 2021 conference.

To apply, send a completed proposal form to

Download the Proposal Form

More info:


Reading: Prospero’s Prison

In this session with filmmaker and dramaturge Tom Magill (left) chaired by Prof. Mark Thornton Burnett of Queen’s University Belfast (right), we will be discussing his film-in-progress, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest entitled Prospero’s Prison. This is a modern adaptation based around themes of revenge and reconciliation and shows how Shakespeare’s play is of relevance to a post-conflict Northern Ireland. There will be an opportunity to read aloud an outline of the plot as a group, and volunteers will be very welcome. During and after the group reading, we’ll be discussing how the adaptation can be taken forward: again, contributions are encouraged and invited!


Place: Performance Space, Linen Hall Library Belfast

Time: 2.00-4.00

Date: 18 October 2016




Report: Shakespeare Lives in Belfast

Guest post by Ilana Gilovich, Queen’s University Belfast, reporting on her participation in events in the #ShakespeareLives in Belfast programme from 21 to 23 April, including the Discover Shakespeare event at the Ulster Museum and the Terra Nova Tempest production

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“Alas, Poor Yorick!” The speaker was a boy no older than five, grasping a skull in his slightly quivering hand. Whether he shook from Bard-induced excitement or from the strain of holding a skull aloft, I wasn’t sure. Regardless, he must have felt sufficiently inspired, for several minutes later he was seated at the drawing station, frantically coloring a skull into being. Yorick’s cranium wasn’t the only object of fascination that afternoon—the Discover Shakespeare event at the Ulster Museum was replete with roses, swords, cauldrons, crowns, quills, and other iconic items mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Children and their families could play with Elizabethan toys, write with traditional ink and parchment, construct their own Elizabethan ruffs, occupy a throne for a moment or two—even chat with the woman strolling past, dressed in full Renaissance finery. There were also numerous activities intended to engage children directly with Shakespeare’s text—participants could draw the likes of Caliban or Ariel based on Shakespeare’s own descriptions, recite selected monologues from his plays, or explore the Ulster Museum as a whole, armed with a treasure hunt matching Shakespearean quotes to other exhibits of interest.

It came as no surprise, however, that the source of greatest enthrallment was the performance itself—organic Shakespeare by and for youth. I confess I became as ensconced in the action as the three-year olds sitting beside me; such is the enduring power of Shakespearean drama. A group of teenagers performed truncated versions of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both of which emphasized scenes of community and collaboration. The giddy triumph with which the Mechanicals traipsed through the forest, and the Witches cackled over their cauldron, was infectious. The children in the audience were remarkably still and attentive, tilting forward to watch as several fairies chanted Titania to sleep. If Shakespearean performance could capture the imagination of teenagers and toddlers alike—and it certainly seemed to that afternoon—the Bard was well worth celebrating, even after 400 years.


I had done my fair share of Shakespearean celebration earlier that week, having danced in Terra Nova’s Belfast production of The Tempest. Staged in the Titanic Quarter within the T-13 warehouse and involving a plethora of local musicians, dancers, singers, and poets, the performance never ceased to feel like an immersive spectacle to me. In Shakespeare’s narrative, Prospero and Miranda live in near-isolation on a remote island; yet I could not have felt more encompassed by new and captivating people as I rehearsed on Terra Nova’s island set (comprised of sand, boulders, and a pond). The group of community dancers included performers from Spain, Poland, Mexico, Russia, and Australia, and the overall cast contained an even greater diversity. As an American newcomer, participating in The Tempest allowed me to experience a Belfast beyond the Queen’s University campus, and exposed me to the cultural vibrancy this city has to offer. Director Andrea Montgomery’s conceptual interweaving of Belfast’s shipbuilding history and the nautical motifs of Shakespeare’s work infused his text with local, contemporary significance. In undergoing my “sea change” and crossing the Atlantic, I was presented with the “rich and strange” realm of Terra Nova; one that rejoices in the cultural relevance of Shakespeare’s plays. Although the “insubstantial pageants” of the previous week have faded, Shakespeare’s legacy is alive and well in Northern Ireland.

By Ilana Gilovich, Graduate Student at Queen’s University Belfast

This is part of the ‘Shakespeare Lives Across the Island’ programme, which can be downloaded here. More #Shakespeare400 and British Council #ShakespeareLives events can be found on the blog using the tag #ShaxIRL400. Follow us on Twitter at @ShakesinIreland.

Review: Belfast Tempest

The Belfast Tempest Review, by Scott Russell

April 20th-23rd, 2016, T13, Titanic Quarter, Belfast

Set amongst a series of timeframes, from Renaissance to the Victorian era, the Belfast Tempest attempted to promote a thrust of togetherness through celebratory nostalgia, and racial and gendered difference. While this concept was muddied through an incompatibility between modern social liberality and Shakespeare’s glaringly imperialistic text, the adaptation’s sound, set design and most performances were strong throughout.

As the play’s maritime opening approached, a black-clad Prospero, complete with staff and tome, directed his spirit cum servant, Ariel, towards the building of a steampunk ship; the fairy in turn commanded grimly attired labourers, as they banged tools and fixed together sheets of metal until the nautical shape formed. Queen Alonsa’s entourage then boarded, and were soon shaken by the play’s titular event. Young dancers took on the form of the wind and rain, as purple and blue lighting effects and loud drums galore distorted the ship’s shape with spectacle. None of the original text’s somewhat superfluous dialogue entered the scene, allowing the history of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry, and the power of Ariel’s illusion, to stand in focus.

While Prospero is described as “master of a full poor cell”, and seemingly controls characters with his magical “art”, his interpretation of Ariel – “which art but air” – was enhanced in this adaptation; alliteration linked both his power to enchant and his ethereal form. Ariel (Patrick McBrearty) was in constant motion, galloping energetically across the set, and flittering his fingers in clockwork stirrings at every moment; his flamboyant laughter matched the vigour of his step. Despite Prospero looming over the already-tortured sprite with the threat of further pain, Ariel exuded power regardless. Puppeteering had entered into his array of skills, as he charmed Ferdinand into the form of a human marionette  during Act 1 Scene 2. This, including the aforementioned tempest, rendered Ariel’s command of magic as almost miraculous, and placed doubt upon Prospero’s ever-mentioned “art.”

Contrasting greatly with the gentle “air” of Ariel was the “earth” of Caliban (Gary Crossan). The sprite’s light-coloured ruff and doublet were antithetical to one of a decidedly more grubby palatte for Prospero’s “poisonous slave”. Tattered shoes, greased hair and a rough beard completed his ramshackle appearance, and madness decked his demented portrayal; Caliban would scramble clumsily back and forth along the set’s faux beach. Prospero’s enslavement had truly broken this island native, with his soliloquies being set up as internal ramblings, instead of spiteful curses. Whispering sound effects heightened this trait, penetrating Caliban’s twisted mind and inciting both fear and obstinacy: “His spirits hear me/And yet I needs must curse.”

It is then a shame that this livid dread failed to be given context through the mouthpiece of Prospero (James Doran). Sound issues plagued his portrayal, whether through technical faults or poor acoustics due to the unorthodox location (a Belfast warehouse). While the performance retained the command of Prospero somewhat through his ever-constant presence on stage, as well as through his powerful body language, the true authority of Prospero comes from rhetoric. Even in spite of his textual commands and parental characterisation, The Tempest is a play utterly concerned with word usage: “Silence! one word more/Shall make me chide thee”, and poignant language: ” We are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep.” To have this dialogue spoken at such a low volume was truly disappointing, and an unfortunate disservice to the text.

Other incongruities occurred in the form of the play’s primary message: the promotion of difference in the interest of togetherness. While this is a certainly a laudable ideal, and although The Tempest’s plot ultimately ends with harmony at the forefront, the text is somewhat unsuitable to the altering of racial or gender roles. Placing Ferdinand into slavery while being performed by a black actor produced disconcerting connotations; and substituting Antonio for Antonia (the piece’s villain) conjured up Renaissance images of female evil, as she led the male Sebastian towards murder through sexualised body language. Prospero’s statement of “my false brother/Awaked an evil nature”, strengthened this characterisation. Heightening difference, in this case, marginalised its minority roles even further.


Photo credit, Neil Harrison

The play’s stage and setting did much to distract from its dubious intent, as the wide warehouse was put to good use in creating a believable seaside locale. Naturalistic noises were produced by dockside seagulls, and the iron support frames provided a visual marker for Belfast’s industrial heritage. Prospero’s cave was a Giant’s Causeway-like menagerie of books, expertly fitting the character’s erudite persona, and the sand, flora and still pond created a believable space for Caliban’s “best springs”.

Despite an intercultural mission statement proving implausible from the outset, the Belfast Tempest was an enjoyable experience, bringing together sights, sounds and naturalism to an interesting quarter of Belfast. Prospero, while the focal point of the play, was outdone by his two subordinates. Ariel, in particular, shone as a piece of magic amongst the tempest.

This is part of the ‘Shakespeare Lives Across Ireland’ programme, which can be downloaded here. More #Shakespeare400 events can be found on the blog using the tag #ShaxIRL400. Follow us on Twitter at @ShakesinIreland.

Preview: Belfast Tempest, Terra Nova Drama


by Scott Russell, Queen’s University, Belfast

The Tempest, a late romance that explores  the thematic wonderings of race, love, and patriarchal control is often labelled as ambiguous. Is Prospero an overreaching imperialist, a solicitous father or a repentant representation of the Bard himself? Caliban, in particular, often personifies this  ambivalence, with dark and monstrous interactions, between himself and others, breaching the play’s domestic mode; disrupting its harmonious ending with the threat of being “pinch’d to death.” The Belfast Tempest, a brand-new adaptation by Terra Nova Productions, attempts to break down these somewhat sinister boundaries through an emphasis on local yet diverse communities. To quote Andrea Montgomery, Terra Nova’s Artistic Director, this version shall “showcase Belfast as a City moving towards a bright, creative and intercultural future – which offers so much potential and opportunity to all its citizens.” Togetherness is to be brought about through racial, gendered and cultural difference.

While speaking with several of the play’s cast members, I was given an opportunity to ask about The Tempest‘s altered gender roles. Four of its principle characters (Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio and Stephano) are being portrayed by female actors this time around. Moninne Dargan, stressed the  timeless nature of her character (Gonzala), accentuating her characterisation in performance, rather than her gender: “The essence of the character is the same. It’s a loyal character; the character is providing a little bit of balance and tends to look a bit on the bright side. So once you find out who the character is and what their relationships are with the other characters, then just look at the point that it’s a woman and take it from there.” The positivity of Gonzala’s “charity” and “gentleness” will shine through despite the Jacobean expectation of her gender’s marginalisation, and silence, at the behest of her male counterparts.


This debunking of preconceived Renaissance norms, in the spirit of communal optimism, is further heightened through Nicola Gardner’s interpretation of Queen Alonsa. After asking Gardner about her thoughts on his gender reversal, she seemed positively elated: “I think it’s fair to say that this is a fantastic opportunity, and that Andrea Montgomery has not only produced an inter-cultural production, but she’s also given females a chance to interpret characters that have always been traditionally played by males. So being given that opportunity — the first thing I did was to get to grips with Alonso [King of Naples] as a character — to find out all about him, and then to simply make Alonso into Alonsa, a Queen. Using my imagination, I am now a Queen of quite a large region, and I have Dukes, I have children who are princes and princesses, etcetera. That hasn’t been done before, in history. I think I must be the first Queen Alonsa ever, and that certainly is something that is very special.” Gardner’s words not only indicate an empowered spirit at the thought of playing a female, high-status role, but they also signal an enhanced perspective on community. The Queen of Naples has been characterised as a figurehead, a mother and a potential jointress for Miranda’s suggestive “score of kingdoms” in the final scene.

Alonsa’s difference does not end at gender, however, as she is also played by a black British actress. In most productions, save for Caliban, who is more than readily associated with African slavery, almost all of the principal characters are conceived as white. In the interests of shattering racial stereotypes, which promote animality, distance, and fear whenever referenced in Shakespeare’s works, Terra Nova Productions has sought to place ethnic disparity at the forefront of its drama. Speaking on the matter, Gardner stated that “What we’re doing is embracing diversity, and as Stephen R. Covey said, “Diversity is looking at our differences, which makes us stronger.” And that is what I feel is happening here within this production. It’s brought together all of Northern Ireland in a fantastic way, and it’s showing Northern Ireland that the country isn’t white. It’s brown, it’s black, it’s yellow, it’s all colours. And what you’ve got here is an international society now, and this play reflects it, which is great, and it’s fantastic to be in a production that really embraces diversity.”

Despite The Tempest, as well as Shakespeare’s Othello and The Merchant of Venice, constantly drawing attention to its racial or ideological others, Terra Nova has truly reversed this concept through its non-normative casting, and its mission statement of togetherness.  While this certainly seems to empower its actors, it also alters character and text in the spirit of positivity, which will no doubt strengthen the audience’s perception of community and custom. The Tempest‘s enigmatic island has become a site for intercultural discovery.


Shows run until April 23, with matinees on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23.

Tickets available here

This is part of the ‘Shakespeare Lives Across Ireland’ programme, which can be downloaded here. More #Shakespeare400 events can be found on the blog using the tag #ShaxIRL400. Follow us on Twitter at @ShakesinIreland