And yet, even he admits to finding Shakespeare “often dauntingly complex”. In a note in the Othello programme, Hytner confesses: “I cannot be alone in finding that, almost invariably in performance, there are passages that fly straight over my head. In fact, I’m going to admit that I hardly ever go to a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays without experiencing blind panic during the first five minutes. I sit there thinking: I’m the director of the National Theatre, and I have no idea what these people are talking about.” Can you identify with that feeling? We certainly can.
Hytner goes on to explain how he and his actors spend a huge amount of time in rehearsal trying to achieve “the maximum amount of clarity” when speaking Shakespeare’s words. “But for all the craft and talent of the best actors, it’s hard to deny that there are occasions when, in the theatre, most of the audience don’t understand what’s being said… This has led me to think that, to be true to Shakespeare, you sometimes have to confront the incomprehensible stuff head-on, by cutting it or even by rewriting it.”