7 July 2006

One of Australia’s most acclaimed international stage directors, who will address The University of Queensland-hosted World Shakespeare Congress next week, sees the Bard’s religious “neutrality” as an antidote for modern tensions.

Gale Edwards, who will deliver a keynote speech and run master classes for actors during the Congress, described Shakespeare as an ambassador and a statesman for our times.

Ms Edwards predicts the Congress, which opens in Brisbane next weekend, will breathe contemporary life into Shakespeare’s works, exciting students.

“Shakespeare was a living breathing artist, not an academic, closeted away in an ivory tower,” Ms Edwards said.

“He speaks to us in a contemporary voice, about our modern world, and causes us to reflect on our humanity in complex ways.

“This is why Shakespeare is so central to our culture, our arts, our society and our definition of ourselves, as human beings.”

Ms Edwards said UQ’s success in bringing the Congress to Australia was “a coup”.

“It’s thrilling that artists and lovers of Shakespeare from around the world will come to Australia for this 2006 World Congress. Australians have long been passionate exponents of Shakespeare, and audiences have always displayed an appetite for his works.”

To hear Gale Edwards speak about Shakespeare go to: http://www.sjc.uq.edu.au/shakespeare/gale_edwards.mp3

The University of Queensland’s Executive Dean of the Faculty of
and Congress Convener, Professor Richard Fotheringham, said Gale Edwards was ideal to talk about ‘Shakespeare in performance today’, her keynote address.

“Gale Edwards’ inclusion in the program highlights the calibre of talent at the Congress,” Professor Fotheringham said.

Other VIII World Congress keynote speakers will include Queensland-born author David Malouf and former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and political prisoner Professor Anwar Ibrahim.

Ms Edwards has directed four times at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Great Britain, and has directed Shakespeare and classical text around the world. Her Royal Shakespeare Company productions of The White Devil and Don Carlos were chosen to go to Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

She has also directed The Taming of the Shrew and The Duchess of Malfi for the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Chichester Festival, Hamlet and Richard III for the Washington Shakespeare Theater. In Australia she has directed The Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, The Tempest, Coriolanus, As you like it and Romeo and Juliet.

Ms Edwards is an example of that rare theatre director who happily transcends genre, directing West End musicals for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh, as well as an extensive range of operas, including Mary Stuart for the English National Opera, and contemporary and classical plays.

Ms Edwards has been honored with three Sydney Critics’ Circle awards, three “Mo” awards for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre, three Melbourne Green Room Awards, an International Emmy, a Sydney Critics’ Award for her recent production of Festen, and a centenary medal from the Australian Federal Government for outstanding contribution to Australian society.

Ms Edwards will address the Congress on “Shakespeare in performance today” at 9am on Monday July 17. She will also feature as a panelist with three other international directors in one of The Shakespeare
Sessions at 7.30pm on Tuesday July 18. Writer and broadcaster Phillip Adams will facilitate discussion on the question “Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?”. This session will be open to the public.

The VIII World Shakespeare Congress will be held at Brisbane City Hall from July 16 to 21, 2006.

For more information on the VIII World Shakespeare Congress go to: www.shakespeare2006.net

Media contacts: VIII World Shakespeare Congress Senior Program Manager Melissa Western (telephone 07 3365 1125, melissa.western@uq.edu.au), or Fiona Kennedy at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 1088, mobile 0413 380 012).