Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HENRY V: 9.5--Excellently done and David Gwillim, who was sometimes a little frenetic during the two parts of Henry IV, here makes the part of King Henry his own. Sometimes he seemed too kingly playing Prince Hal, but here something of the young Prince's freshness is allowed to temper the royal authority. The production is restrained and compelling. To tell the truth, as long as the actors and staging are right, it's difficult to get this play wrong. Certainly, it's one of Shakespeare's most direct and immediate.

JULIUS CAESAR: 9.75--Notwithstanding Ben Jonson's criticisms, Shakespeare seemed to get inside the bodies and minds of Ancient Romans in a most dramatically accurate way. It is often said that this is really the tragedy of Brutus, as Caesar's scenes are, relatively speaking, so few. The point is debatable as Caesar, or the presence of Caesar, directs the action of the whole play. On the other hand, it's true that Brutus is the flawed hero, destroyed by a single fault (his capacity to overlook his personal friendship with Caesar for, what he believed, was the good of the Roman state). Richard Pascoe makes a brooding Brutus, and Keith Michell an athletic and rhetorically able Anthony. For me, the one stain on this excellent production is the casting of Charles Gray as Caesar. First, he is far too old. Secondly, though he definitely comes across in all his roles as an aristocratic patrician, he seems to have nothing of Caesar's energy and intelligence. Gray is a lounge lizard, able--in Eliot's words--"to start a scene or two". Other than this one point, it's an excellent production.

OTHELLO: 8--Wildly uneven. Bob Hoskins is superb as Iago--an inspired choice. Conversely, Anthony Hopkins makes an inappropriate Othello. Hopkins is a fine actor, but imagine him with boot polish on his face, a curly black wig, pot belly and an undisguised Welsh accent, and you may understand why he was not a perfect choice for this simple soldier's part. Almost equally miscast is Penelope Wilton as Desdemona. First of all, she could be Desdemona's mother and it's embarrassing watching her trying to simper like a young girl. Secondly, she has a certain carping tone which may be good for comedy and "lady of the manor" roles, but is completely wrong for Desdemona. In spite of these major problems, the final scenes are played with energy and emotional power: the denoument is shattering and cathartic.


Anonymous Zillian said...

Sounds creepy!

5:38 AM  

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