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Shakespeare in vegetable underpants: Peter Stein and Peter Zadek’s opposing approaches to Shakespeare

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The moral and bodily demolition which World War II left behind.
  3. Multi-media images of cult icons once regarded as heroes and the reinforcement of the idea of a culturally-made and marketed ?hero.?
  4. Zadek's commitment to taking Shakespeare to the absolute extreme in order to evoke a genuine reaction.
  5. Zadek's attempt to deconstruct and de-centralize Shakespeare.
  6. The height of Zadek and Stein's rivalry.
  7. The role played bys costumes.
  8. Stein's approach to As You Like It .
  9. The sights that awaited the audience in the Forest of Arden.
  10. Conclusion.

?Shakespeare in underpants,? is how Peter Stein has described the work of fellow director and rival Peter Zadek, while the latter has called Stein's work boring and overly polished to the point that his actors become overcooked ?vegetables? (Patterson 132, 168). Both German stage directors, these two men share an affinity for Shakespeare but little else, and, as a result, their approach to the Bard could not be more disparate. At the most basic level, Stein emphasizes the textual and historical aspects of Shakespeare while Zadek focuses primarily on imagery; Stein works to construct Shakespeare where Zadek looks to destruct it. Despite their immense differences, or perhaps because of them, both directors have made significant contributions to audience perceptions and interpretations of Shakespeare, and, in the realm of theater, they are still considered revolutionary trailblazers of the tempestuous 60s and 70s.

[...] Wanting to prepare for an eventual Shakespeare performance, the entire ensemble began familiarizing itself with the history, writing, and skills of the Elizabethan period, order rediscover the world which Shakespeare inhabited and so understand the social and cultural forces that shaped his writing'? (qtd. in Hortmann 270). Nearly five years later, the fruits of their labor could be witnessed in a seven-hour show, Shakespeare's Memory?Pictures and Texts; the theatrical event, described in great detail by Peter Lackner, was a culmination of the extensive research the company had done individually and as a whole. [...]


[...] Educated and trained in England, he lacks the reverence that most German directors have for Shakespeare and claims that his experience at Oxford University working under Nevill Coghill taught him that the most liberating approach to Shakespeare is an unconventional one (Zadek 107). Returning to his homeland in 1958, he began raising eyebrows almost immediately, but it was not until a particularly unorthodox production of Henry staged in Bremen in 1964, that he really took the German theater by storm. [...]


[...] Michael Patterson, who attended the production, recounts his initial disappointment with the performance in Peter Stein: Germany's Leading Theatre Director, admitting that he and the rest of the audience were fooled into thinking they were watching bad theater until the spontaneous, vibrant Rosalind made them realize ?that the stilted playing proceeded from a deliberate and brave directorial decision? (137). The oppressively clunky court not only whet the audience members' appetite for something more artless, it also forced them to experience the characters' repression vicariously. [...]

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