The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past

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Main article: Film adaptation. Archived from the original on 17 January Retrieved Los Angeles Times. The New Yorker. Appropriation in the arts. Collage Swipe Comic strip switcheroo Photographic mosaic Combine painting. Drama Film Literary Theatre. Cultural appropriation Appropriation in sociology Articulation in sociology Trope literature Academic dishonesty Authorship Genius Intellectual property Recontextualisation.

Categories : Literature Film Works based on works Translation studies. Hidden categories: Articles needing additional references from April All articles needing additional references All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from March Nonetheless, the depth of critical engagement with story Zipes insists on cannot be assumed to be part of the adaptation process: the implications of accepting a potential equivalence between adaptation and storytelling extend beyond insisting on creative license and, perhaps, defending the legitimacy of changes made.

Zipes argues that the telling of a story must be justified in the present, in ideological terms as well as for the fresh creative opportunities it might seem to invite; by extension, the adaptation that is eventually produced in performance must seem to its audience to be pertinent to the moment. Here, perhaps, the advantages and opportunities of a self-conscious intertextuality will be apparent: exposing the ways in which stories of different kinds intersect with one another—old and new, popular and literary, playful and doctrinaire, textual and more broadly cultural—underlines the fictional dimension of all narratives and suggests, in turn, that what seems authoritative can and should be countered and contested.

The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past

That perception of unlimited narrative possibility is sharpened still further in the context of live performance. Immediacy, creativity, spontaneity, participation in a shared event are all qualities that can be exploited to rouse, however temporarily, something akin to the resistant and utopian spirit that has significantly shaped storytelling tradition. Kneehigh was founded in , originally as a Theatre-in-Education company.

The group built their reputation through colorful, accessible shows influenced by popular performance forms: music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, participation and spectacle have all combined to shape their distinctive aesthetic. The fairy story by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen describes an orphan girl who longs for a pair of red shoes, which she obtains and then wears to church, to the profound disapproval of the community.

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The shoes are confiscated, but the girl steals them back: when she next puts them on, she can neither stop dancing nor remove them. In desperation, she begs an executioner to chop off her feet with his axe. He does so, carving her a substitute wooden pair on which she hobbles to the church only to find her entrance barred and the chopped off feet in red shoes dancing mockingly beside her.

Nonetheless, he maintained a fundamentally ambivalent attitude towards the powerful classes whose patronage brought him wealth and fame, and something of this equivocation can be traced through the body of his work and in individual tales. There are hints of suffragettes, concentration camps, anarchy, wise witches and kind butchers, and the fable as presented here is a blend of brilliantly simple visual richness and a kaleidoscope of ideas.

In part, such themes were conveyed through the aesthetic of the piece: the appearance of the performers—shaved heads, dirty white vests and briefs—itself spoke of a story stripped back in the telling to expose the absolute harshness at its core. This level of alienation—echoed in the use of battered suitcases that were deployed to establish makeshift settings, or from which items of clothing were unpacked—played with the possibility that characterisation was established temporarily, not psychologically identified; parts could be otherwise assigned, we were invited to suppose, on a different night.

Nonetheless, the appearance of a ritualised distribution of roles conveyed the impression that the ensemble accepted the responsibility to tell the story collectively. The act of telling was not limited to the words spoken, as writer Anna-Maria Murphy makes clear:. A living script grows with Emma and the actors, through devising, improvisation and the poems [authored by Murphy]. Each plays an equal part. The claim that any and every aspect of a production has a storytelling function is endorsed by The Red Shoes in overt ways—for instance, when songs were used to communicate plot developments, but it is also more profoundly true of theatre as a form.

The image of the shaved head reverberates historically and in the present, signalling exposure, humiliation and punishment, but also standing for the refusal to conform. As shown, intertextuality was established across the whole fabric of performance in The Red Shoes rather than being confined to verbal allusion.

By contrast, theatre can embed resistance to the problematic assumptions or moral stance of a text within a production, and without necessarily changing the course of the narrative. Consider this sequence, in which the Old Lady who is blind quizzes the Storytellers about the new shoes her adopted daughter has chosen:. By that momentary hesitation, spectators understand that the telling has turned against the tale. Brief as it is, the pause opens up a space of questioning: determination, not vacillation, is implied in this little gap.

It marks a point at which actors step back from character and narrative; here, as in the staging of those magic tricks that periodically arrest rather than promote the flow of story, the tellers remind us that sometimes you have to try to resist the tide. If everything in theatre tells the story, as Murphy says of Kneehigh, it follows therefore that anything can also, if desired, tell against the story.

Too often, critique of adaptation in general has emphasised lack: when literature is translated into, especially, visual drama, so much—narrative tone, metaphor, authorial perspective, the rendition of inner states—will it is said inevitably be lost. Yet, to consider adaptation in such terms is to ignore the opportunities the new medium allows.


Theatre brings more valuable and complex gifts to a telling than the obvious additions of colour, sound, or physicality. Because it is multi-dimensional, theatre enables layering, juxtaposition and provocative formal contradiction. Because it is always participatory, at least to some degree, theatre can choose to exploit the live ly and unpredictable qualities of audience engagement. In the fairy tale, the protagonist, Karen, is ultimately shown divine mercy but this comes hand in hand with death:.

He no longer carried the sharp sword, but a beautiful green branch, full of roses; with this he touched the ceiling, which rose up very high, and where he had touched it there shone a golden star. He touched the walls, which opened wide apart, and she saw the organ which was pealing forth; she saw the pictures of the old pastors and their wives, and the congregation sitting in the polished chairs and singing from their hymn-books. The church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow room, or the room had gone to the church. The bright warm sunshine streamed through the window into the pew where Karen sat, and her heart became so filled with it, so filled with peace and joy, that it broke.

Her soul flew on the sunbeams to Heaven, and no one was there who asked after the Red Shoes. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Adaptation of History , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Adaptation of History. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia.

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