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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: October ::
Re: Lear on PBS; Q: R3
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0999  Thursday, 15 October 1998.

[1]     From:   Peter Webster <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 10:22:12 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Connolly's opinion of the PBS Lear

[2]     From:   Douglas Green <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 10:38:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

[3]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1992 09:42:05 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

[4]     From:   Penelope Rixon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 17:15:24 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0988  Lear on PBS

[5]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 09:58:22 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

[6]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 14:41:58 -0400
        Subj:   PBS Lear

[7]     From:   Linda Stumbaugh <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 22:43:52 -0700
        Subj:   PBS Lear and query re Richard III


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Webster <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 10:22:12 EDT
Subject:        Re: Connolly's opinion of the PBS Lear

>Bruited as "the Lear of the century", last night's television production
>was at best adequate.  I found Ian Holm's performance quite limited.
>Not as dull as Michael Hordern's but with nothing of Scofield's
>complexity.  Even Olivier's exhausted effort had more in it.
>Holm registered two emotions: petulance and rage.  I would appreciate
>hearing from people who saw the stage production.  Holm's redaing (sic)
>reminded me of Hal Holbrook's.  Holbrook also emphasized Lear's
>senescence, but also had a frightening aspect to his rage.  Holm seemed
>dim somehow since his raging ahd almost no vocal range.  He screamed and
>screamed.

>Only at the very last moment did he impart anything challenging-a look
>of peace just before he collapsed.

>The supporting cast was good, but not one performance was remarkable.
>it was momentarily interesting to observe the physical resemblance
>between Lear and the Fool, but there was nothing else to think about in
>their relationship.

>On the whole, a decent production but wildly over-hyped by PBS.>>

How sad when we cannot see what is before us for what it is, as it is.

How sad that we cast a veil of archness over all.

This archness destroys art by laying on impasto on impasto of previous
sensation.

We get the Lear that we deserve for our slice of time.

I loved the robust, no affectations, balls-to-the-wall speaking of the
verse.

It made the language so supple and attainable.

It was grand and everyday at the same time.

Like ol' WS is supposed to be.

There were no "remarkable performances" in the ensemble because all were
subordinated to the story: each one played the part requisite.

This was not glam-acting. It was superb, choice, insightful acting, and
it was tailored to the special intimacy of television.

I had occasion to play Edgar in a production of Lear where John Fields
took the title role. The director said "This is a play of cosmic
dimensions. If we play those dimensions we will not tell the story. If
we do not tell the story the audience will not get the point. So, shut
up and talk. This is 'family business' that somehow manages to shake the
stars."

I wrote that down in 1976, and it still rings true.

Ian Holme was deeply moving, real, discernable, human, mythical -
mythical in that he had a spark of genius in him that he somehow could
not attain.

Like the rest of us.

There was none of the artsy fol-de-rol that I saw in Olivier's or
Schofield's performances.

This was a tough, sexual, cynical, deeply wounded and valiant
production.

May I quote Kent and say, see better, Connolly? And stop seeing/hearing
yourself.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Green <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 10:38:30 -0500
Subject: 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

Hilary Thimmesh wrote that "There was quite a lot of out-Heroding Herod
in the TV version of Ian Holm's Lear last Sunday evening, but I found
Goneril's momentarily anguished reaction to her father's mad curse
convincing.  At that point in the action she is not a wholly
unsympathetic character.  Other than Iago and Macbeth's Witches, is
there anyone in the tragedies who is without redeeming qualities?  Lear
gains in interest if the three daughters are all in some sense his
victims, however diverse the course they separately take to depravity or
martyrdom."  I certainly don't think that Holm's Lear is as powerful as
Scofield's, but I do think the production is at least as interesting as
Olivier's in part because the production suggests something of the
tyranny of such a father-as well as various responses to it.-DG

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1992 09:42:05 -0700
Subject: 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

> I found the Cordelia in the RNT production to be the most
> unsympathetic Cordelia possible. I could well understand why Goneril and
> Regan would hate her.

Whether or not Goneril and Regan are justified in their hate, Cordelia
was presented as having the same faults as her father - bullheaded,
easily angered, and, like him, doling out her love as though it were a
quantifiable item. What did she think she was doing in her last lines to
her sisters?  If she really wanted to help her father through them - now
the only way possible - why is she so patronizing and insulting?  The
production caught that and emphasized it by her savage delivery of those
lines.  Even in her last lines in the play, she still hasn't gotten over
her faults, as Lear has: she rages against her captors, but is corrected
and restrained by her changed father.

The production's interpretation of her was right;  particularly in her
initial scene, she is NOT a sympathetic character; she is another
hot-head, like Antigone, roaring when she should, instead, have been
diplomatic with this failing old man.

     L. Swilley

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Penelope Rixon <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 17:15:24 +0100
Subject: 9.0988  Lear on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0988  Lear on PBS

I wonder if this production is yet another casualty of the move from
stage to film.  I saw it in the theatre, in a claustrophobic space where
we were very close to the action, and found it moving, terrifying and
intensely absorbing.  Holm showed a great range of emotions, moving from
one to another with great subtlety.  The production was very much a team
effort, but some individuals were as impressive as Holm;  the Edmund,
Goneril & Regan in particular.  I saw it twice, and could happily have
gone back again, even though it ran over three hours.

Penny Rixon

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 09:58:22 +0000
Subject: 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0993  Re: Lear on PBS

I agree with those that found Ian Holm's ranting less than satisfactory
(I've always thought him rather limited). Lear to me is the
objectification of an aging man's inner torment. There was no inner
torment with Holm, which left his behavior inexplicable.  It will be
interesting to see what Branagh does with Lear someday, as he's far and
away the best Shakespearean actor of our time. I only made it through
half the production. With all the ranting it's hard to hear the
language, and without that, what is Lear but an hour or two spent
bathing in familial dysfunction?  You can get that on Donahue. Or on
family get-togethers at Thanksgiving.

I was ambivalent about the staging. I thought the use of lighting was
successful, but the stark quality of the sets and costumes seemed to
abstract the story, make it less, rather than more, real.  A touch of
rich elegance here and there might have suggested that these were the
wealthiest people in the land.  Some more imaginative camera work would
have been nice. No one, director, camera, actors, took sufficient
advantage of the close medium of television, where a glance, a frown,
can do what takes far more onstage.  I agree that Goneril and Regan did
more with their parts than is suggested by the text, but again, there
was no building to their responses over time.  They showed no sense of
being taken by surprise at the beginning by their father's rather
astounding decision. Goneril seesawed back and forth between grief and
rage.  The flirtatious byplay between Edmund and Regan was stagey,
overdone.  It would have been interesting to see an Edmund that didn't
LOOK like a villain.

Stephanie Hughes

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 14:41:58 -0400
Subject:        PBS Lear

"There was quite a lot of out-Heroding Herod in the TV version of Ian
Holm's Lear last Sunday evening. . . ."  You were expecting maybe
Pinter?  As an experienced film actor Holm took a relatively quiet
approach when he could-more quiet at places, I would guess, than on
stage.  But there's no way to take the ranting and raving out of those
curses and complaints: it's in the sounds and rhythms and meanings of
all those words.

Dave Evett

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Linda Stumbaugh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Oct 1998 22:43:52 -0700
Subject:        PBS Lear and query re Richard III

I am relatively new to the list; have been lurking several months.
Since I've been out of "Shakespeare stuff" for many years, the list has
provided me with an opportunity to reacquaint myself with issues,
viewpoints, etc.  I figure it is time to toss in my two pennies worth.

Like most of the other posts, I agree that Ian Holm's ranting and raving
was over the top and that seems to have been done to give the quieter
moments more impact.  But they were precious few.  There were moments in
the production, though, that made me stop and think (sometimes more than
once):  Edgar's tenderness toward Lear; the contrast between Goneril's
fear of her father, and Regan's wanton inattention; the Fool as an old
man was a surprise and so I listened to him differently than I might had
he been younger (may have something to do with my own psychology, but
that's not really a propos).  More instances of insights but they would
take too much time.  I was, however, truly moved by seeing the bodies of
one family on a dead cart and though that they way they were placed (in
terms of timing) amplified the tragedy.  So - not the best production,
but worth watching.

I have a question that I hope members of this list might be able to help
me with.  I have just finished reading the first tetralogy (using Arden
II).  In the introduction to Richard III, Hammond talks about the
"advance" that this play makes over the Henry VI plays.  I see that, but
am wondering if anyone can direct me to some scholarly discussion of the
rhetoric, poetics, and dramatic method of the play that might indicate
that there is, in fact, and "advance."  Thanks for any help you can
give.

I want to say that I've learned a lot from list members (Yes! yes! it is
true) and have enjoyed the exchanges.  I live in a small rural community
and when you say "Shakespeare" around here most folks don't get too
excited (truly, no snobbery intended).
 

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