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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: Performances and BBC
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0746.  Tuesday, 15 October 1996.

(1)     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Oct 1996 12:30:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0744  Performances and BBC

(2)     From:   Scott Crozier <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Oct 1996 11:49:52 +1000
        Subj:   Re: Performances and BBC

(3)     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Tuesday, October 15, 1996
        Subj:   Miller and BBC Productions


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Oct 1996 12:30:05 -0500
Subject: 7.0744  Performances and BBC
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0744  Performances and BBC

>In recent discussions of past and present performances, no one has mentioned
>the BBC series of the complete plays. One critic described the series as
>meritorious but boring. IMO this was unfair to some individual plays but as an
>all-over judgment seemed fair. Some of the plays I remember as remarkably
>odious and I associate Jonathan Miller with the worst excesses of eccentricity.
>This may be unfair and my memory may be very faulty for I see him mentioned
>frequently with praise or without censure. I raise this series from the realm
>of the forgotten because no one in the group has mentioned it and it seems to
>have vanished with surprising celerity.

As someone who believes "meritorious" and "boring" to be mutually exclusive
terms, I think eccentricity is not much of a sin, especially since some works
that were once regarded as absurdly eccentric are now considered to be among
history's finest Shakespeare productions.  Jonathan Miller, I feel, is one of
our age's great directing theorists, though like most directors, he achieves
mixed results in practice.  I had heard he directed some bombs for the BBC
series, but the two I saw--_Shrew_ and _Othello_--were fascinating.  John
Cleese's stern puritan Petruchio was a revelation, I thought, as was Bob
Hoskins bitter cockney Iago (I did feel, that all those ruffed collars kind of
swallowed up the actors' heads).  In this _Shrew_, the argument that Petruchio
subjects himself to the same discomforts as Kate (an argument that is often
trotted out in his defense) finally seems believable, as Cleese presents the
primmest, most austere and anti-sensual Petruchio I could have imagined.  It
may indeed have been an eccentric reading, but it provided a new, valuable
perspective on the play. The worst one that I saw was a wretched _Romeo and
Juliet_ (not directed by Miller), in which Romeo and Mercutio were presented as
rather sinister juvenile delinquents (particularly Mercutio, who literally
frothed at the mouth when provoked) who were hounding poor, sensitive Tybalt
into fighting them.  The words of the text support this choice so little that
one is constantly aware of the contortions the director is undergoing to make
it fit.  And in the end, all he has accomplished is that we spend three hours
waiting for Romeo to hurry up and die.

                                                Best Wishes,
                                                David Skeele

P.S. Oh, yes, the _All's Well_ they did was beautiful, I thought.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Crozier <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Oct 1996 11:49:52 +1000
Subject:        Re: Performances and BBC

Bob Williams suggested the following:

In recent discussions of past and present performances, no one has mentioned
the BBC series of the complete plays. One critic described the series as
meritorious but boring. IMO this was unfair to some individual plays but as an
all-over judgment seemed fair. Some of the plays I remember as remarkably
odious and I associate Jonathan Miller with the worst excesses of eccentricity.
This may be unfair and my memory may be very faulty for I see him mentioned
frequently with praise or without censure. I raise this series from the realm
of the forgotten because no one in the group has mentioned it and it seems to
have vanished with surprising celerity.

I would disagree with his comments on Miller.  IMO Miller's direction was what
raised, Lear, Othello (and there maybe others) beyond the realm of the
ordinary.  The Macbeth was turgid nonsense from what I recall.  I think the
most important aspect of the series was that they raised some of theless well
knownss to consciousness: Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Pericles, Titus Andronicus
were riviting theatre in my mind.

All this happened with limited rehearsal time, restricted budgets and a
shooting schedule which allowed for little re-shooting.

Regards,
Head of English
St. Michael's Grammar
Director
Horned Moon Productions

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Tuesday, October 15, 19996
Subject:        Miller and BBC Productions

In an earlier incarnation, I wrote at length about Jonathan Miller's mastery of
television as a medium for Shakespearean production in my dissertation,
"Reading Shakespeare on Television" [University of Maryland at College Park,
1988], and in my essay, "Two *Lear*s for Television: An Exploration of
Televisual Strategies." that was originally printed in *Literature-Film
Quarterly* [14 (1986): 179-186] and that was reprinted in *Shakespeare on
Television: An Anthology of Essays and Reviews* [Eds. James C. Bulman and H. R.
Coursen. Hanover, NH: UP of New England, 1988] and in the Appendix to James P.
Lusardi's and June Schlueter's *Reading Shakespeare in Performance: King Lear*
[Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990]. My interest was
principally in Miller's use of the medium from a theoretical perspecive.

For anyone who might be interested, this essay is available on the SHAKSPER
Fileserver:

  Cook, Hardy M.  "Two *Lear*'s for Television: An Exploration of
    Televisual Strategies."  *Literature/Film Quarterly*.  14 (1986):
    179-186.  Reprinted in Bulman and Coursen *Shakespeare and
    Television: An Anthology of Essays and Reviews*, 122-129.
    (TWOLEARS FOR_TV)

To retrieve "Two *Lear*s for Television: An Exploration of Televisual
Strategies." (TWOLEARS FOR_TV) from the SHAKSPER Fileserver, send a one-line
mail message (without a subject line) to 
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 , reading
"GET TWOLEARS FOR_TV".
 

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