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).
Berkoff understands the essence of the story and the
power of the medium. Berkoff´s adaptations and direction
are spectacular theatre.
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´.
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.
[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,
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".
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".
As always, mime is a major
drive in Berkoff's direction and imagination
The woman behind the power- the
mother, played by Linda Marlowe
in Deutschland Berkoff writes about
staging Shakespeare in Germany. The photos are from
the DVD of the Tokyo Globe production of 1997.
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".
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.