Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 190. Sunday, 28 Jul 1991.
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1991 11:35:15 -0400
Subject: RE: Ron Cook as Richard and BBC First Tetralogy
Ron Cook played Richard in both the BBC *3H6* and *R3*. My list of credits
for the entire BBC first tetralogy does not even list a Martin Shaw. I have
not seen the box for the BBC video in some time, so I cannot explain the
I have an article on Jane Howell's work with the BBC first tetralogy that will
be published in the near future in *Literature/Film Quarterly*. You may find
something in it to share with your class. Below is a summary:
"JANE HOWELL'S BBC FIRST TETRALOGY: THEATRICAL AND TELEVISUAL MANIPULATION"
Jane Howell makes notable changes in her style as she proceeds through the
first tetralogy. These changes reflect a consciously planned symbolic and
metaphoric manipulation of theatrical and televisual techniques. Her lighting
changes from bright to dark; her set, from primary colored to dark gray and
from open to enclosed; and her costumes, from colorful to black and gray.
Furthermore, she moves from a textbook depth-of-field strategy to include
montage techniques and point-of-view cutting as well as moving from *very*
loose to increasingly tighter framing.
Besides her outstanding stylistic accomplishments, Jane Howell, in these four
productions, launches an all-out assault on the assumption that televised
Shakespeare must use "realistic" film techniques and naturalistic production
designs. Howell maintains that producing Shakespeare's plays for television
differs greatly from doing them for film: "A great admirer of Orson Welles'
*Falstaff* . . . she points out that nevertheless film techniques are largely
irrelevant to the overall approach in these television Shakespeares." In
fact, Howell consistently favors strategies subversive to representationalism.
The handling of soliloquies and asides manifests these differences among
televisual approaches. Although direct address to the audience is common in
theatre, direct address by looking right into the camera is seldom used in
narrative film since this strategy destroys the illusion of the transparency
of the film image. In Orson Welles's 1966 film *Falstaff: Chimes at
Midnight*, for example, characters never look straight into the camera during
asides and soliloquies. Welles even transforms Falstaff's catechism on honor
into a direct address to Hal to prevent the possible artificiality of having a
character looking into the camera. With the possible exception of voice-overs
or eliminating them altogether, having asides to the audience and soliloquies
spoken as if the character were thinking aloud and not looking at the camera
is the most naturalistic way of dealing with them on television. In
television, especially televised theatre that strives for presentationalism
rather than representationalism, destroying the illusion of transparency by
techniques such as direct address to the camera is not only appropriate but
part of the very quality of television that makes it so intimate--its ability
to establish a direct partnership between the actor on the screen and the
often solitary spectator before the television set. What is significant is
that a television director can, as Jane Howell has demonstrated, successfully
use techniques that a film director would not even consider using.
Hardy M. Cook
Bowie State Univeristy