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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Making King John a Play Worth Watching
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1353  Monday, 22 August 2005

From: 		Al Magary <
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Date: 		Saturday, 20 Aug 2005 01:09:53 -0700
Subject: 	Making King John a Play Worth Watching

NYT reviewer Ben Brantley makes the Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, Mass.) 
production of 'King John' sound like a production worth watching.  "Ms. 
[Tina] Packer, the founder and artistic director...is known for the 
exuberance and heightened clarity she brings to the canon, presenting 
its texts through a sort of theatrical magnifying glass. And for her 
first attempt at 'King John,' she starts off in a confident burst of 
energy and comic exaggeration. That she is unable to sustain it says as 
much about the play as it does the limitations of her approach...

"Ms. Packer is juggling seemingly contradictory elements in this 
production, which runs in repertory with 'The Taming of the Shrew' 
through Sept. 3. In this sense, she is taking her lead from the text, 
which has had scholars and directors scratching their heads for 
centuries.  For though 'King John' has passages of ravishing insight and 
lamentation, it lacks an obvious center. (When John Barton directed it 
for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974, he felt the need to 
interpolate lines from other sources to clarify the play.) It's as if 
Shakespeare didn't find John all that compelling and kept shifting his 
focus to others - most notably, the Bastard, the illegitimate son of 
John's brother Richard, and an alternately amused and appalled observer 
of the ways of the political world..."

More at http://theater2.nytimes.com/2005/08/20/theater/reviews/20shak.html

BTW it looks like the only KJ that's available on video is the BBC's 
1984 production, directed by David Giles: 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087559/  That was, I thought, stilted and 
unimaginative and had ghastly sets to boot.  (An artifact from film 
history is a three-minute 1899 silent with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree 
playing the dying king:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000247/)

Cheers,
Al Magary

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