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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: BBC Series
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0227  Friday, 7 February 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Gelber <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 12:26:59 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

[2]     From:   Mary Todd <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 12:58:55 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

[3]     From:   Herb Weil <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 17:35:49 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

[4]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Friday, February 07, 2003
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

[5]     From:   Chris Ferns <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Feb 2003 13:54:27 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gelber <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 12:26:59 EST
Subject: 14.0213 Re: BBC Series
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

I think it's too easy to dismiss the whole series. My favorite "Hamlet"
is still that starring Derek Jacobi. The rest of the cast varied,
although in my opinion, Claire Bloom and Patrick Stewart stood out.

To have the Wars of the Roses plays on tape with the actors continuing
to play the same characters in each production was a real benefit:
Bernard Hill (now an actor in such films as "The Two Towers" and
"Titanic") was outstanding as York. The last scene of "Richard III,"
when the camera pans the pile of bodies, which are clearly the actors
from the whole series, to rest at the top of the pile on Margaret
holding the dead body of Richard is a moment I will never forget.

Derek Jacobi as Richard II was wonderful.

I actually disagree with a previous opinion about "Midsummer." I thought
Brian Glover very moving as Bottom and the cast was a good one (Peter
McEnery and Helen Mirren to name two). I thought the director (who also
directed "All's Well") created a magical world.  Everyone will have
their least favorites, so I will stop here.

Sincerely,
Bill Gelber

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Todd <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 12:58:55 -0500
Subject: 14.0213 Re: BBC Series
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

The  BBC TEMPEST was the least appealing of all the plays I saw.  But
then, how can Ariel be captured by a mere human?

Mary Allen Todd

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Herb Weil <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Feb 2003 17:35:49 -0600
Subject: 14.0213 Re: BBC Series
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

Correction: My typo on the BBC Measure. It should read "the rest were
weak".

Herb Weil

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Friday, February 07, 2003
Subject: 14.0213 Re: BBC Series
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

It took me awhile to decide whether or not to enter this thread, and I
don't really want to play best and worst. (I too, nevertheless, very
much liked the *Measure for Measure* and did not care for *The
Tempest*.)

My dissertation -- "Reading Shakespeare on Television" -- (which I
haven't re-read since I submitted it) used the BBC series as a basis for
exploring the adaptation of Shakespeare's plays to television:

ABSTRACT: The dissertation begins by exploring the elements shared by
Shakespearean productions conceived for television, the stage, and
cinema as well as those elements unique to television.  Special
attention is paid to distinguishing between cinema and television as
media for Shakespearean productions, particularly in terms of the impact
of Shakespeare's language in those media.  Next, the paradigmatic
choices of two *King Lear*s produced for television are examined as
examples of two very different televisual approaches to Shakespeare.
Finally, *The BBC TV Shakespeare* is analyzed to examine individual
productions, the televisual "worlds" of Shakespeare's histories,
tragedies, and comedies, and Shakespearean adaptation to television in
general.  The study strives to broaden the awareness of viewers,
students, teachers, and scholars to techniques and strategies to make
them better "readers" of Shakespeare on television.

For reasons I explore in the dissertation, I was most impressed with the
works directed by Jonathan Miller and Jane Howell. I have two essays on
the subject that are available on the file server.

"Two Lears 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.

http://www.shaksper.net/archives/files/twolears.for_tv.html

and

"Jane Howell's BBC First Tetralogy: Theatrical and Televisual
Manipulation." Literature/Film Quarterly. 20 (1992): 326-331.

http://www.shaksper.net/archives/files/howell.bbc.html

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Ferns <
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Date:           Friday, 7 Feb 2003 13:54:27 -0400
Subject: 14.0213 Re: BBC Series
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0213 Re: BBC Series

If you are looking for a BBC Shakespeare production to avoid, I would
recommend "Macbeth", where Nicol Williamson gives a display of scenery
chewing that rivals even the notorious Peter O'Toole performance that
brought the crowds flocking to see what one critic hailed as possibly
the worst theatrical production of the century. Also, the sets appear to
be made out of cardboard.

While I agree Derek Jacobi does a fine job as Hamlet, the concluding
fight scene is so ineptly staged that it had my students howling with
laughter: it would certainly be hard on the evidence presented to
believe that Laertes was the best fencer in France.  Jean-Luc Picard as
Claudius also takes a bit of getting used to.

The wrestling scene in As You Like It is even worse, and both AYLI and
Twelfth Night suffer from the disastrous miscasting of ultra-feminine
looking actresses in the roles of Rosalind and Viola, and a consequent
failure to engage with ANY of the blurring of gender boundaries which
the plays engage in. (I can suspend my disbelief as well as the next
person, but trying to believe Felicity Kendall is a man is more than I
can manage.)

There's a good essay by Graham Holderness on the more general
ideological shortcomings of the series in Political Shakespeare, ed.
Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, Manchester UP, 1985.

Chris Ferns

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