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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Branagh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0315  Friday, 9 February 2001

[1]     From:   Kristen McDermott <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 11:13:58 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:44:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[3]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 18:50:55 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[4]     From:   Kit Gordon <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 13:46:37 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[5]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 23:08:08 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[6]     From:   Tad Davis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 19:42:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

[7]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 20:18:33 -0800
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristen McDermott <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 11:13:58 EST
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

I was one of the "morons" in the Los Angeles audience who liked both
Branagh's (1990 RTC) Midsummer and Lear well enough.  I do agree with
Richard Nathan that Emma Thompson's satirical Helena and fearsomely
damaged Fool were by far the best things about the productions, but I
recall several details about the Lear that I still cite when teaching
the play in my classes.  In particular, the staging of 1.2 featured a
large floor-map of England rendered in some loose, spongy substance that
allowed Lear to draw lines through it.  Of course, as the action became
chaotic, the map flew into ruin under the feet of the actors -- I did
and still do think this was a wonderful effect.  The blinding of
Gloucester on one of the knife-like wall sconces was also horrifying.
Richard Briers did play Lear as beaten-down and disoriented, but this is
a possible choice for the role that was appropriate for Branagh's
anti-heroic interpretation of the play.  And the Midsummer musical
number, if I remember correctly, was not Pyramus and Thisbe but the
bergamasque afterwards, in which the whole cast joined.

Kristen McDermott
Central Michigan University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:44:40 -0500
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

>I thought Heston's Player was quite
>moving.

Me, too. Watching his rendition of "The rugged Pyrrhus" speech I began
to try to forgive him for shilling for the NRA. Warrior ethos and all
that. Heston is now doing A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" on stage.  I saw
him, and thought him wonderful in it -- although not all critics have
been kind.

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 18:50:55 +0000
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

On the stage Lear:

Lear was Richard Briars - an actor best known for light comedy on TV,
but actually much more thoughtful than that would imply. He was also in
the LLL film as a Sir Nathanial in love with the schoolmistress,
Holofernes.

What I remember of the production is a ditch in the stage, needed to
catch the rain for the (admittedly) striking storm scene but a liability
for the rest of the show (a kind of permanent English channel over which
Cordelia and France held hands and then had to hop!). Branagh was
playing Edgar - at least he was when he was speaking.  When he was
silent he fell into Branagh-as-director watching his own production or
else sat on the edge of said ditch and twiddled his feet in the
remaining water - well, you had to use it somehow because it was so
insistently there! Emma Thompson's line about him reserving a blanket
else we had all been shamed was said as only a wife contemplating
divorce could say it.

No, I didn't like it.

Ros

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kit Gordon <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 13:46:37 -0500
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

While I respect my colleagues' rights to their opinions, I would simply
like to state that I have enjoyed Kenneth Branagh's work immensely, both
as an actor and as a director. I thought LLL was wonderful and charming,
a great way to introduce a little known (to other than scholars) play to
movie audiences. (And despite its failure at the box office by typical
standards, a lot of people still saw it, and many of us enjoyed it). I
also saw the touring productions of MND and Lear in Chicago in 1990, and
unlike Richard Nathan, found them engaging, thoughtful, and in the case
of Lear (who was played by Richard Briers) profoundly moving. My
children (11 and 9 at the time) had insisted on accompanying my husband
and myself to Chicago (we were hoping for a weekend getaway) because
both of them had seen and loved Henry V. I am sorry that we won't have
Branagh's Macbeth and As You Like It in the near future. I hope he will
decide to do them someday; I'll be in line on the first day.

Chris

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 23:08:08 +0000
Subject: Re: Branagh
Comment:        SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

I was lucky enough to see Branagh's H5 on stage in Stratford for the
RSC, and although he was a competent peg upon which to hang the play, he
was simply acted out of sight by the cast around him! Brian Blessed's
huge, bear-like Exeter, a crafty, weary dangerous old fox of a French
King, an arch and very clearly witty and manipulative French princess
(Emma Thompson again) and above all the sorely, shamefully under-rated
Iain MacDiarmid as a Chorus, whose verse speaking, rapport with the
audience, pacifist irony of delivery simply stole the show. I'm not
surprised that HE didn't get invited to be part of the film to upstage
the master, a film in which Branagh's physical and thespian shortcomings
were brilliantly and utterly convincingly covered by some clever,
atmospheric and very cinematic business. On a stage, live, there is
absolutely nowhere to hide. And he needed places to hide in that
Stratford show, I can tell you.

Did anyone else see it?

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 19:42:45 -0500
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

Richard Nathan wrote:

> It destroyed the humor in the piece, but all the morons in
> the audience where I saw it (in Los Angeles) loved it.

Damn groundlings. They'll do it every time.

Tad Davis

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 20:18:33 -0800
Subject: 12.0302 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Fw: SHK 12.0302 Re: Branagh

Once more unto the breach (hoperfully the last time): If anyone wants to
see Branagh's weaknesses as a director, I 'recommend' the _12th Night_
video. At no time is Viola ever convincing as a 'boy', the pacing is
exceedingly slow (which helps the otherwise fine Olivia -- can't
remember who the actress is), and the Edwardian period interferes with
the logic of many scenes (especially the 'dark room'). Again, a very
well thought out and honest performance by Richard Briers (Malovlio)
saves much, but not enough. I think it also may be the longest _12th
Night_ ever.

Paul E. Doniger
 

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