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Steven Berkoff directing


Adaptations of novels or stories often suffer in a different media, and adaptations of famous works suffer from over-reverence. Compare the tame filming of the novels of Graham Greene with the film script written by Greene himself (The Third Man).  Like Greene, Berkoff understands the essence of the story and the power of the medium. Berkoff´s adaptations and direction are spectacular theatre.

1988 Salome

Berkoff Salome   Steven Berkoff in Salome

The moon has a strange look tonight. Has she not a strange look? She is like a mad woman, a mad woman who is seeking everywhere for lovers. She is naked, too. She is quite naked. The clouds are trying to clothe her nakedness, but she will not let them. She shows herself naked in the sky. She reels through the clouds like a drunken woman.

Berkoff in his most famous acting and directing role tackling Oscar Wilde's play. The play is performed in slow-motion, characters gliding slowly across the stage and savouring each word.  Berkoff plays Herod.  Berkoff´s production premiered at the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1988.  It was later revived with a new cast for the National Theatre in London, and after these performances it transferred to the West End.

Berkoff says "I decided the stage should be bare and allow the words to bounce of the hard surfaces without being softened or cushioned".

Tydeman and Price in their study of Salome state that Berkoff was developing an idea he had encountered in the work of the French mime artist Jacques Le Coq, according to which the chorus was ´able to be and reflect whatsoever you wished´, conveying ´atmosphere and emotion´.

Steven Berkoff in Salome

1994, 2005 Richard II

Berkoff Richard II

Berkoff directed Richard II in New York at the Anspacher Theater/ Joe Papp Public Theatre in 1994 and most recently Ludlow Festival, followed by performances at the Festival de Almagro, near Madrid, Spain in 2005.

“I knew [Daniel Craog] from England,” the 74-year-old Berkoff said from his London studio. “In the theater, I once auditioned him for the part of Richard II, which I was directing. And I turned him down. I thought he was too strong for the vulnerability of Richard. So when I met him on the set [of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo], I was a little embarrassed. I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and he replied, ‘Don’t be stupid – that doesn’t matter.’” (Naomi Pfefferman, Jewish Journal, 19 Dec 2011, click here).

In New York Michael Stuhlbarg played Richard, Andre Braugher was Bolingbroke, Earle Hyman was Gaunt, Herb Foster was York, Jack Stehlin was Mowbray, Elaina Davis was the Queen Isabel and Carole Shelley played the Duchess of York and the Duchess of Gloucester.  In Ludlow and Madrid Timothy Walker played Richard, Joseph Millson was Bolingbroke, Michael Cronin was Gaunt, Paul McLeary was York, Julia Tarnoky was Queen Isabel and Lisa Sadovy was the Duchess of York.

In Richard II in New York, Berkoff says "of course there is a smell of my `98 production of Hamlet in the simple use of chairs... Hamlet we made with atmosphere but this play is all debate.  Political.. historical.  Polemic.  We must find the metaphors in that".

1988, 1997 Coriolanus

Steven Berkoff in Coriolanus

Berkoff has directed Coriolanus a number of times, once with Christopher Walken in the title roles, other times with Berkoff himself playing Coriolanus.  Berkoff says "This is one of the trials of directing a play that you wish eventually to perform yourself. During the process the director and actor will have invented a mass of ideas and images that you will have to conscientiously reject, since you feel that they have a copyright with the author".

Steven Berkoff Coriolanus

As always, mime is a major drive in Berkoff's direction and imagination

Steven Berkoff Coriolanus

Linda Marlowe in Coriolanus

The woman behind the power- the mother, played by Linda Marlowe

In Coriolanus in Deutschland Berkoff writes about staging Shakespeare in Germany.  The photos are from the DVD of the Tokyo Globe production of 1997.

1970 Macbeth

Berkoff says "we decided the witches should be the servants in the castle of the Macbeths and the servants would somehow metamorphose into the witches".  There is an audio cassette available of the BBC Radio production. "I think you'd be a fabulous Macbeth" says the satire Linda to the satire Steve in "Dahling You Were Marvellous".

1980 Hamlet

Berkoff Hamlet Linda Marlowe  Berkoff Hamlet

Berkoff says "I chose Hamlet and staged it with utter simplicity as if we were dissecting the play under the lights of an operating theatre. Although I functioned as an actor it was a director's concept".  I am Hamlet is Berkoff´s account of the production.

The photo (detail) is by Roger Morton from Theatre, Berkoff is quoted from Theatre. The actress is long time Berkoff collaborator Linda Marlowe.  Below from the theatre programme.

Berkoff Hamlet

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