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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: October ::
Re: Lear on PBS
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1021  Thursday, 21 October 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Oct 1998 16:52:59 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1005 Re: Lear on PBS

[2]     From:   Dominic Hartley <
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        Date:   Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:36:30 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.1011 Re: Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Oct 1998 16:52:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.1005 Re: Lear on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1005 Re: Lear on PBS

> Mr. Connolly wrote, in part, re: the Ian Holm production of Lear:
>
> >  >On the whole, a decent production but wildly over-hyped by PBS.>>
>
> To which Mr. Webster responded, also in part:
>
> >  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.
> <snip>
> >  May I quote Kent and say, see better, Connolly? And stop seeing/hearing
> >  yourself.
>
> May I quote Lear, Mr. Webster, and suggest that you mend your speech a
> little?

I'm sorry, but I'm fully in support of Mr. Webster (Though Mr. Webster,
who is quite apparently a gentleman, may prefer to distance himself from
my ungentlemanly support.

I only wish that I could have expressed my chagrin so eloquently as he.
However, I found myself still reeling from the relentless barbs thrown
at the recent TWELFTH NIGHT production, which had, no matter what else
anyone may have challenged, a brilliant Malvolio.  Because of that, I
penned a nasty reply, which at that time  I refrained from posting,
speaking largely to all those people who, when they watch Shakespeare,
particularly in the media, are so busy watching the play that is in
their heads that they seem incapable of watching the play that is on the
screen.  To quote another Shakespeare personage:  "Such carping is not
commendable."  In another posting on this list, Michael Keaton is still
getting "potshots" for his Dogberry and Keanu  Reeves for his Don
John-two of the most difficult roles in Shakespeare's comedies to make
believable.  That they took the risks to play those roles is far more
"commendable."

I remember when Steve Martin and Robin Williams did Vladimir and
Estragon at Lincoln Center several years ago.  I recall Martin writing
about what a great rehearsal process it was and what fun it was to play
to their preview audiences.  But once the play opened and the critics
descended on it with all their self-righteous declarations of how it
should have been and how these two comedy film stars had failed it, the
audiences and the laughter dried up.  Martin was quoted as saying that
he would never again put himself or his career in that position again.
Life was too short for that kind of abuse.

I also remember similar abuse thrust on A J ANtoon's turn-of-the-century
MUCH ADO a couple of decades ago, a production that many now look on as
a classic, and on James Earl Jones' LEAR, whose visual images still
haunt me twenty years later.

OBVIOUSLY-my INTEMPERATE reaction here is probably even worse than the
carping that I am reacting to, and most of the postings on Lear have
been thoughtful and constructive, but I was angry and suddenly felt the
need to vent that anger.  My apologies to anyone whom I may have
offended.  When one has questions or when one fails to understand
reasons for choices made in a production, to post such questions for
discussion can promote exciting debate.  But much of what Mr. Webster
seems to me to be reacting to is the kinds of thrusts that cut off
discussion by asserting how terrible something was, begging the question
for anyone who might have a variant way of perceiving it.

My apologies also extend to you Ms.Barton.  You have obviously thought
deeply about your reaction to this production in the context of a wide
theatre experience.  You also were clearly trying to keep these
discussions from becoming intemperate, and I admire you for both that
attempt and for your thoughtful views on the production. Nevertheless,
you hit me at a moment when I was very sensitive to the disrespect that
actors and producers who DO TAKE RISKS are subjected to constantly by
the Monday morning quarterbacks of the Shakespeare world.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dominic Hartley <
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Date:           Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:36:30 +0100
Subject: 9.1011 Re: Lear; Branagh; Interpretations; Psalms;
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.1011 Re: Lear; Branagh; Interpretations; Psalms;
Isabella; Swords

I agree entirely. Budgets play a huge part of course but there is less
of an excuse with the huge advances made in fairly cheaply available
video technology that wasn't available to Brook when he made that Lear.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I thought the Richard II was so
successful was that it was either filmed in or made a good impersonation
of being filmed in its original performing space (the RNT Cottesloe).

Dominic Hartley

> > Although at least one other production from the same space has recently
> > transferred successfully to television (the Deborah Warner/Fiona Shaw
> > Richard II), I feel there is rich research material for someone in the
> > dismal realisation on film or television of notable performances from
> > major theatrical companies. The odd success such as that Richard II or
> > the Brook/Scofield Lear shouldn't disguise the fact.
>
> I haven't seen the Fiona Shaw R2, but do you think the lack of success
> of stage productions being made into film might just reflect the lack of
> effort made to adapt to a different medium?  The Brook/Scofield Lear
> made lots of purely cinematic choices (using black and white, filming
> Lear saying 'never' from several angles).  Simply pointing a camera at a
> stage production transferred to a cheap indoor set is a recipe for
> disaster.
>
> Cheers,
> Sean.
 

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