Friday, January 16, 2009

TIMON OF ATHENS: 8.5--A good production of what is sometimes termed an "experimental" play. The experimentalism comes in because the drama does not easily break down into a 5 act structure--and the latter part of the play simply focuses on a mad Timon, living wild, somewhere on the outskirts of Athens, being visited, one at a time, by those he had known in better days. This latter section is certainly minimalist, but works quite well in the context of the play as a whole. Jonathan Pryce gives us a suitably tortured Timon.

THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA: 9--A pleasing drama, somewhat in the mood of the first two acts of Romeo and Juliet. It is hard to understand why this play is so neglected, full as it is of light romance and narrative interest. Certainly one reason must be the shocking error against taste and dramatic sense which takes place at the end of the play when the wronged Valentine forgives his friend Proteus and, as a sign of sincerity, offers him the hand of the lady Silvia--who Proteus had previously tried to win by false means. This play is also famous for the well-known song "Who is Silvia", set to music by various well-known composers. One final thought: it is rare to find a Shakespeare play without at least one phrase that has come into the language as proverbial wisdom. Here, the phrase occurs in the wood when Valentine is taken by thieves and decides to "make a virtue of a necessity" by joining them and becoming their leader.

RICHARD II: 9.5--An excellent production of a fine play. Derek Jacobi is here much more assured than he was in Hamlet--probably because his own personality is nearer in type to the somewhat effete Richard than to the introspective and more martial Hamlet. Shakespeare thoroughly alienates his audience against the maverick King Richard in the first part of the play and then spends the rest of the drama building up his heroic pathos. The poetry in this play is of a very high standard--but it should be remembered that the poetry is Shakespeare's and not Richard's (and by so doing, reject those sentimental critics of the play who see the suffering Richard turned into a prophetic poet in the latter part of the drama). It should also be noted that Jon Finch is excellent in the part of the highly ambiguous Bolingbroke (or Henry IV to be).


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