Buenos Aires Times

Ireland’s Denis Rafter gives porteños a Master Class of Shakespeare tinged with green

Rafter told the Times, but also the easiest – every artist is always going to be different and thus the personal angle comes automatically.

Monday 13 November, 2017
Denis Rafter.
Denis Rafter. Foto:Cedoc.

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Irish actor-director Denis Rafter needed to draw a fine line in his Master Classes on William Shakespeare on his first visit to Argentina (and indeed Latin America) – to give that genius a personal (and Irish) touch without ruining the original, as so often happens.

That individual touch is the hardest thing in the world, Rafter told  the Times, but also the easiest – every artist is always going to be  different and thus the personal angle comes automatically.

The Irish connection is a longer stretch but Rafter had his answer  pat for his Master Class in the Salón Dorado of the old City  Hall –  if Shakespeare could name one of his most powerful characters “O’Thello,” then he must have Hibernian roots.

The other theme of Rafter’s visit, Oscar Wilde, needs no such  repatriation – indeed the playwright was born just 10 minutes’ walk away from Rafter’s own Dublin birthplace.

Rafter rhymes with laughter, the Times told the visiting actor – is  Wilde’s famous wit the essence of his appeal?

But Rafter seems more interested in the tragedy of Wilde, in the  last stages of his life – and not only as a victim. Rafter paints a  more complex picture – of how Wilde was also the architect of his  own destruction, provocatively flaunting his homosexuality and  creating the evidence against himself, suing his persecutors before  they took him to court. And yet Wilde still remains a genuinely  tragic figure beyond the frivolity at which he excelled.

Back to Shakespeare and his Master Class – which was delivered in fluent Spanish (apart from the numerous Shakespeare extracts, of  course), thus broadening his appeal. Although never in this subcontinent until last month, he has been a frequent visitor to  Spain for almost half a century – since 1969 when Franco still ruled – and in his interview with the Times he showed himself deeply disturbed over the ongoing crisis of Catalan separatism, with both  sides crossing the line in his  opinion. As for the Master Class, a  verbal description cannot do it justice – it has to be seen (and heard with Shakespeare’s timeless  words occasionally breaking into music delivered with a very Irish  tenor). The man is an actor – with almost no costume change but an abrupt switch in body language, he climbs right inside his  various characters, mostly regal (Richard II of the “hollow Crown,” a  heroic Henry V, a villainous Richard III and, of course, Prince Hamlet). Come again, Denis.

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