Shakespeare Play-Offs 2020

Take part in Irondale’s Shakespeare Play-Offs! We have created a bracket of 32 of Shakespeare’s plays in a quest to find the Irondale community’s favorite play.

Each day in April leading up to Shakespeare’s birthday, we invite everyone to vote for one of two plays on our Instagram stories. For each match, an Irondale staff member will make a pick and justify their choice. Their vote will be used in the event of a tie.

You can take part by going to @irondalecenter on Instagram each day to vote in our polls! Polls will go up at 11am and will be available for 24 hours. Results, and Irondale staff comments will be published the following day.

WIN A BOTTLE OF WINE! You can also download a blank bracket to ‘bet’ on the tournament and submit by 11am on Thursday April 2nd (when the first set of results are published). The person with the closest bracket will win a bottle of wine or a cake-based alternative. Download an excel or PDF bracket on the right of the screen and submit to – or write to us and tell us why your favorite underdog play should have made it into the top 32!

The Shakespeare Play-Offs Finals will take place on April 23rd during our birthday celebration. 

Download the full bracket here:



Ken discusses some of his decisions

Henry V vs Titus Andronicus

I am no judge of language or poetry, and so it comes down to plot and societal relevance: the contest here is ultimately one of fantasy vs reality.

While the exhortation of the St Crispin’s Day speech, in Henry V, speaks to us on the level of what we would hope to be, the reality is that most of us would not rise to that occasion – it is a fantasy of human nature; and In an era of unspeakable cruelty both at home (immigration) and abroad (ISIS; well, and so many other places), Titus, sadly, reveals to us the true darkness to which we so easily go.

Yes, Titus is the work of nihilistic youth, of a young Shakespeare, working within the modality of the Jacobean revenge play; yet its visceral punch is similar to Brecht in his youth – In The Jungle of the Cities and Baal - and just as revealing of the heart of darkness within our souls: so do not let the expression of youth blind you to its relevance.

And yes, while Henry V also reveals the contradictions of human nature (and leadership) – his denial of Falstaff, his execution of Bardolph; his slaughtering of the French prisoners, for example – Shakespeare unconvincingly attempts redemption of Henry through the #MeToo wooing of Anne (ultimately all for nought as Shakespeare relates in the epilogue); Titus, on the other hand, stands as a direct and explicit expression of today’s darker human impulses – and we should not be allowed to avoid the implications.

Titus Andronicus wins by “one length”.

Macbeth vs Cymbeline

Thwarted lovers, banishment, and their seeming deaths; stolen sons, royally born, unaware of their heritage; a lady’s honor falsely besmirched; an evil queen, scheming for the throne for her unworthy son; a prophesy, ghosts of parents and brothers, a god’s visit; reversals, and reunions, and an epic battle – These are the ingredients that make Cymbeline a Sunday matinee adventure/romp in the vein of Star Wars, or perhaps The Princess Bride. While there are moments of tension, you never really fear for Imogene and Leonatus, nor worry that Cloten – so aptly named – and his mother the queen will escape their just desserts. Pass the popcorn.

But Macbeth is like a slow-motion train wreck, each moment vivid, searing, horrible and inevitable. Despite one of the best comedic interludes ever – the Porter scene – the action is unrelenting.

Is there a more bone-chilling, cold-blooded moment in the canon than the murder of McDuff’s wife and children?
Is there any other play that theater people dare not speak its name?
Is there any other story so steeped in blood-ritual that it seems almost inevitable that Akira Kurosawa should retell it in one of the greatest-of-all-time samurai movies?
Throne of Blood, indeed!

In this contest of Scots vs Brits, Macbeth takes and – at least this once – keeps the throne.

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