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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: The Real Beale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0563  Friday, 21 March 2003

[1]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 10:47:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 16:21:35 -0000
        Sub:    Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

[3]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 12:39:48 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

[4]     From:   HR Greenberg <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 06:50:30 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 10:47:19 -0500
Subject: 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

>>When a bad review of Charles Weinstein's performance as Bottom was
>>posted here, Weinstein responded with his scrapbook of positive reviews
>>of his own performances, as though this cancelled the bad review out.
>
>Any actor who holds up a good review of his or her performance as proof
>of their excellence is an idiot. Ditto for those who gleefully hold up
>bad reviews to the reverse end.

I don't know about that- in fact, that is wrong.  An actor is always
suffering from a vulnerable ego, and pays a huge price psychologically
as a "person" for the chance to be many personas. Anyone who has dated a
famous actor knows this, as I do. I won't belabor the point, but a good
review from a good critic is telling- just as an A on a test is never a
fluke, and a D can be the result of a bad day.  It all depends on
whether "we" acknowledge the reviewer as worthy- that's what gives the
review weight.  Some people, for whatever reason, must have the
limelight, even at times when they are not ready for prime time.  The
fear of being invisible, forgotten, inconsequential makes us sometimes
get in the way, just to be noticed.  We see this on the road everyday-
some drivers in the fast lane holding up traffic so they know they
really exist- Descartes would be proud.  No one knows this more than
Charles, but the fact is that he often contributes ideas that compensate
for the price we must pay to be in his audience.  Thumbs up for Charles,
but not in the theatre (since I have no idea if he is as interesting on
stage as off), but here in the area where gladiators willing bleed so
the rest can wile away their time.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 16:21:35 -0000
Subject: 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

>>When a bad review of Charles Weinstein's performance as Bottom was
>>posted here, Weinstein responded with his scrapbook of positive reviews
>>of his own performances, as though this cancelled the bad review out.
>
>Any actor who holds up a good review of his or her performance as proof
>of their excellence is an idiot. Ditto for those who gleefully hold up
>bad reviews to the reverse end.

That touches Weinstein, coming and going, since he seems happy to use
one technique when discussing his own performances, and another when
discussing star actors that he dislikes (which seems to be just about
all of them).

I should, perhaps, clarify my own position on Weinstein's acting so that
it is clear that I am not guilty of the second failing myself.  I
originally posted the Weinstein "Midsummer Night Dream" review to
demonstrate that Weinstein had taken place in what - by his own
standards - would certainly have been judged as a failed production
(Weinstein only ever seems to require one or two bad reviews - often
reviews that Weinstein has written himself - before condemning a
production in this way), something which should perhaps lead him to
moderate his condemnations of any production that falls short of his
ridiculously idealised and personalised conception of the perfect
production.  Weinstein responded with a couple of good reviews of his
own performance in the same production, along with a small number of
other good reviews "in order to establish [his] bona fides", and more
significantly a neutral Shakespearean told us that she had seen
Weinstein in a number of productions and thought him a "good mature
actor".

I am quite happy to accept, particularly on this latter impartial
evidence, that Weinstein is usually a decent actor with a decent
reputation in regional theatre (although Weinstein also dismisses study
of "minor" productions, not just "bad" ones, and so it seems interesting
that he has apparently taken place in no "major" nationally important
productions himself).  However, the bad review and Weinstein's own
admission that he has taken place in a lot of bad theatre, is an
admission that nobody - neither the hypothetical greatest actor in the
world, nor an actor who thinks that he has "high standards" and rails
hysterically against "bad theatre" - can avoid sometimes getting mixed
or bad reviews, or being involved in genuinely bad productions.

There is an unbridgeable gap between Weinstein's hypocritical assertions
that a few good reviews establish his "bona fides", and his constant
assertions that a few bad reviews are enough to prove that particular
actors or productions are effectively beneath contempt.  If Weinstein
were to dispassionately apply his own standards to watching videos of
his own performances (if, say, we could produce some sort of amnesia so
that Weinstein did not recognise himself), we could be all but certain
that Weinstein would condemn himself, at least nine times out of ten, as
a mediocre actor in mediocre productions that were not worth studying or
recording in "Shakespeare in Performance" history (that seems to be his
opinion about just about every production starring somebody else).  This
being the case, I wonder how Charles Weinstein can in good conscience
take money from audiences when he seems to consider himself to be
knowingly selling them shoddy goods.

If Charles Weinstein were more forgiving of the mistakes of other actors
and directors, or more willing to accept that the value of a performance
is something which is subjectively determined by individual audience
members (quite often one reviewer may love it and another hate it, and
audience members watching for entertainment are frequently equally
divided; unsurprisingly these differences of opinion also appear in
academic study of these performances, but Weinstein refuses - at least
in the last instance - to accept that anybody's opinion should be
allowed to differ from his own), then I could understand how he might be
satisfied with doing his best under the circumstances and sometimes
receiving mixed responses or reviews, and sometimes even failing.  The
Charles Weinstein who posts to SHAKSPER, however, seems unable to be
this forgiving to anybody but himself (and he has apparently forgiven
himself, since he thinks that he has established his "bona fides" with a
few good reviews, and he has not given up his professional acting career
in a fit of self-disgust).

I don't mind forgiving Charles Weinstein for his occasional bad
performances or involvement in bad productions (surely that happens to
all actors at one time or another?).  I would even forgive him (more or
less) if I had been in the audience on an occasion when the production
was particularly diabolical - I have never regretted paying for theatre
tickets, even the most insufferable productions give me something to
complain about in an enjoyable manner afterwards - but Weinstein tries
to hold other actors up to standards that he apparently does not apply
to himself.  Since Weinstein depends so much upon taking what he regards
as the moral high ground, it does his cause no good when he ends up
operating with what seem to be clear double standards.  Weinstein
apparently sees mediocrity everywhere that he looks, except in the
mirror.  That seems to me to be worth pointing out.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Mar 2003 12:39:48 -0600
Subject: 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

   Brian Willis notes,

>It seemed
>that any critic who disliked the performance or the production picked on
>the physical attributes of Beale, as if Hamlet should always be played
>by a tall, skinny, blond-haired blue-eyed handsome actor. Any critic who
>liked the performance focused rather on the issues of the play and how
>John Caird handled them in the setting and how Beale spoke certain
>lines.

There are really only a few absolute pre-requisites for Hamlet's
physical being. But one is that he be athletic. He easily defeats
Laertes at fencing, though the latter has been talked up as a
super-star. He accepts the phony competition in the first place because
he has been "in constant practice." He is able to out-run the pursuers
for a considerable time when he is playing "Hide, fox." He also acquits
himself creditably in the battle with the pirates.

Athletic, and, as Fortinbras points out, "like a soldier."

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           HR Greenberg <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 06:50:30 EST
Subject: 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0554 Re: The Real Beale

I have no problem with unhandsome Hamlets. The HAMLET I saw in America
was mediocre on the basis of a very pedestrian reading by Beale, and the
production, as I call, was replete with tired second-stringers who more
or less were walking through their roles. Reminded me of THE DRESSER in
the sense that the production seemed rigged around one supposedly
charismatic actor after the fashion of those touring companies of yore.

Issue is raised of "Is that the play film painting book I was touted on
to by whomever" reaction. In this age of hype, I have had many
experience -- and so have colleagues of varying backgrounds -- where
what was promised seemed oddly thin when delivered. I remember a
recording of late Sinatra praised by a NY Times critic so fulsomely that
the actuality seemed to be the work of someone else and egregiously so.
Wondered if the critic had been paid off. After seeing SHINE, I was so
struck by David Hilfgott's performance of the Rach 3, I rushed out and
purchased it; What  a sad muddle. Question then was who was playing in
the film. Hilfgott listed, but had his recording -- not the one I
purchased -- been so digitally stroked and punched up as to sound like
the real item of genius.

Friends in publishing tell me it is not uncommon for a committee of
sachems to decide -- and how is this is done, I have no idea but it
makes for good conspiracy theory -- to essentially conclude the time has
arrived for a certain type of book, and then nominate a not particularly
good book for that role. Recently, a fictive semicrime novel by an
African American Professor was so nominated for its 'real deal' account
of the black bourgeoisie on Martha's Vineyard inter alia, and -- with
the caveat that I did not read this book -- many literate friends
thought it was a minor effort to say the least. The enormously touted
Cezanna show in Philly ten years or so was an unmitigated disaster at
every level, curatorially and otherwise. And so it goes.

Granted that critical response is often private taste rationalized into
the public arena, one has to wonder at the number of 'hidden agendas' ,
ideological or financial, which drive the accolades of unworthy or at
least merely passable artistic efforts. Again, no conspiracy theory or
uniform master conception here, but I do think financial gain certainly
plays an enormous role.

Thanks.

HR Greenberg

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