Thursday, December 25, 2008

ROMEO AND JULIET: 6.5--The mark is given more for the play itself than the uneven and miscast BBC production. Romeo is most clearly miscast with Patrick Ryecart's acting reminiscent of a particularly otiose block of wood. Christopher Strauli as Benvolio isn't much better and Rebecca Saire as Juliet is by no means memorable. Anthony Andrews' Mercutio is handsome and athletic, but he sometimes chops up his lines to the point of near incomprehension. There is often too much emphasis on staged sword fights--presumably in a doomed attempt to up the tempo. The final act remains effective, as even this slow and stony production cannot completely undermine its emotional power.

THE WINTER'S TALE: 7--As one might infer from the title, this is a somewhat chilly play of Shakespeare's. I think there is a problem with psychological realism here. First, Leontes decides he wishes to kill his childhood friend, Polixenes, merely because Leontes' wife, Hermione,succeeds in convincing Polixenes to extend his visit to Sicily for a few days longer--exactly the thing which Leontes wanted himself. After the "death" of his wife and son, Leontes devotes himself to 16 years of prayerful remorse, refusing to remarry. Perhaps he was a schizophrenic? In any case, the acting and direction is good enough but, predictably, cannot compensate for a tired and world-weary text.

HENRY IV, PARTS 1 & 2: 9.65--These were the plays that first alerted me to Shakespeare's remarkable genius, with their juxtaposition of light and darkness, comedy and tragedy. Falstaff is a remarkable creation and Anthony Quayle here plays him with a crafty gusto. Shakespeare loved punning, but perhaps there are more puns in these 2 plays than in any of Shakespeare's other works. Interestingly, when Falstaff replies to Prince Hal that he will not give reasons on compunction--not even if reasons were as plentiful as blackberries--there is yet another hidden pun present. In Shakespeare's day, "reason" was pronounced the same as "raisin"--and so the pun becomes apparent! Acting and direction is of a high standard in this production with the only blemish being an occasionally over-the-top performance by David Gwillim as Prince Hal.


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