- Antipodal Shakespeare: Remembering and Forgetting in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1916–2016 by Gordon McMullan, Philip Mead, et al.
"'Antipodal' … is not synonymous with 'Antipodean'" (i.e., "taking place in Australasia") but rather indicates "geographical opposition, the sense of a shared if imbalanced history and culture" (12, 13). The global and local—antipodal—memorializing of the death of Shakespeare four centuries ago, and of Anzac troops in 1915, twine about each other in this collection in surprising ways that we have, since the 1916 Tercentenary, forgotten as often as remembered.
Gordon McMullan's "Forgetting Israel Gollancz: The Shakespeare Tercentenary, the National Theatre and the Effects of Commemoration" continues previous work to celebrate Gollancz's achievements in preserving Shakespeare from "forgetting or misremembering" (59). McMullan deftly demonstrates the "surprisingly antipodal nature of the commemorative moment [in 1916] in three ways: through the coincidence of the Anzac matinee of 25 April and the Old Vic Shakespeare celebration of the same day and time, through certain contributions to Gollancz's Book of Homage, and through the remarkable emergence of the Shakespeare Hut on the ground acquired for the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre" (60).
Philip Mead again addresses the tussle between raising a memorial statue of Shakespeare in Sydney in 1916 and doing "something to encourage Australian literature and dramatic art" (66–67). The compromise was "a Shakespeare wing at the New South Wales National Library" and a bust of Shakespeare. The privately funded rival Shakespeare memorial to "an imperial ideology of Englishness" is for Mead the "pathology of remembering" (72). He interrogates the afterlife of this statue through two images: one of it situated within the carefully landscaped Shakespeare Place, facing a remodeled entrance to the Botanical Gardens; and another of its later violation by urban vandalism, depicted in Jeffrey Smart's Cahill Expressway. "Viewers of this painting tend not to notice what has happened to Shakespeare" says Mead, "that is, what happens to cultural memory and civic art" (84).
Ailsa Grant Ferguson reconfigures earlier essays on the Shakespeare Hut in Bloomsbury. "One of many YMCA huts across London and at the front" (91) providing accommodation, cheap meals, and a hot bath—this hut was an architecturally [End Page 256] mock-Tudor "Arcadian 'merrie old England' worth fighting for" (100) for New Zealand soldiers (the image on page 103 shows clearly the Maori welcome "KIA ORA" emblazoned over the fireplace). Weekly performances featured famous Shakespearean actors, although the Shakespearean scenes occurred within variety shows. Only Allied servicemen in uniform were admitted, an "audience consisting mostly of Anzac soldiers" (105). On 23 April 1919, for instance, the teenage actress Fabia Drake, "cross-dressed as Henry V" (89), declaimed the Agincourt speech to four hundred Anzac soldiers (serving as both her audience and Hal's army) at a gala performance. The Shakespeare Hut was "named, clearly, as a memorial object yet the entertainment that took place within it formed a significant element in its commemorative function" (109). The concluding section, "Forgetting the Shakespeare Hut," is no doubt even more fully addressed by Grant Ferguson's recent publication, also for Bloomsbury Arden, The Shakespeare Hut: A Story of Memory, Performance and Identity, 1916–1923.
Mark Houlahan notes the complementarity with Grant Ferguson of his research in the New Zealand archives. But examination of letters home from "approximately three hundred soldiers" (128) reveals that not one mentions Shakespeare performance at the Shakespeare Hut. This "relative lack of evidence," as Houlahan says, "offers some resistance to the impression … that the poet's works were of primary importance to all who passed through its doors" (129). Nonetheless, he notes wide knowledge of the Hut in New Zealand during WWI, and the continuing activity of the Shakespeare Clubs. He finishes with a coda on the recent "Pop-up Globe" in Auckland (140), which is literally antipodal to the lost original in London—and temporary, as was the Shakespeare Hut.
Kate Flaherty is the only contributor to...