Mistress, Maiden, Monster: A Modern Masque

Kat Carson is a woman on a mission. To encourage conversation about the role of women in Shakespeare's plays and how they are portrayed. From the most misunderstood female, to the most complicated, Mistress, Maiden, Monster explored three of Shakespeare's women through the use of a masque - a form of entertainment that was popular in the 16th and 17th Centuries that involved acting and dance to tell a story and showcase characters that resonated at the time with a mask being worn. Here, Carson adapted this now rarely used format (sans mask) to bring to life three Shakespearian ladies that are totally different from each other, yet extremely relevant to today's culture.

extremely relevant to today's culture.

Each character had a musical introduction from a lute player, as well as a song or two to start easing us into the themes of each character before a short summary to let the audience know who these women were. Beginning with Desdemona from Othello, Carson captured the feeling of being trapped in a situation where Desdemona was being targeted by her husband and Iago for being unfaithful when she wasn't. Whilst she is a pawn for Iago's jealousy, here Carson brought her plight to the fore in a way that made us think differently about her and her plight as she remembered a song her nanny used to sing before she died.

It then moved swiftly on after a carefully planned costume change to the role of Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew. One of Shakespeare's most complicated characters who is the majority of the time portrayed as someone who is humble at the end of the play despite being feisty and strong for most of the action. However, Carson subtly introduced the idea that she was still the same person, but a more toned down version of herself. This made the idea of the 'Shrew' more interesting and fascinating to watch, due to her now being a more refined version of herself in order to survive in a man's world.

Finally, the love struck Viola from Twelfth Night was the highlight of all three characters. The love the audience felt from her as she allowed her vulnerability to show when Orsino didn't show her the same love as she did for him (despite being disguised as a boy to survive). She also was not afraid to show her curiosity and genuine shock as Olivia fell for 'Cesario'. By doing this, Carson tentatively explored the idea of gender exploration and how Shakespeare may have been ahead of his time when writing this play in the sense of finding individual sexuality and where we may feel comfortable.

Mistress, Maiden, Monster is an exploration of Shakespeare like no other and we were left wanting more.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In this performance, we present the stories of three different female characters, from plays by Shakespeare; Desdemona (Othello), Kate (Taming of the Shrew), & Viola (Twelfth Night). Through these women, we pose questions about what their stories tell us about how women were viewed in Shakespeare’s time, and what this means to us when we see them today. What do Shakespeare’s stories tell us about how women are viewed in today’s society? Is what they say uncomfortable? Resonant? Relevant? We hope to create a dialogue with our audience and challenge them to think about how they view women. This performance is a modern reinvention of a masque, a quintessentially English form of court entertainment containing storytelling, music, and acting.

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