The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0918  Tuesday, 13 May 2003

From:           David M Richman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 May 2003 12:30:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 14.0881 Shakespeare in London in June
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0881 Shakespeare in London in June

There is a good deal of Shakespeare in London in June.  Henry V at the
National; Richard II (with all men) Richard III (with all women) and, as
a bonus, Dido Queen of Carthage (Marlowe--both genders in the cast) at
the Globe; Dream and 2 Gents at Regents Park Open Air; and Merry Wives,
RSC productions that have played at Stratford and on tour at the Old
Vic.  Henry V, Nicholas Hytener's premier production as new director of
the National Theatre is a modern-dress production that shows Henry as a
sometimes petulant, always charismatic media star.  His big speeches are
for broadcast, and they are heard in sound bites repeatedly throughout
the show.  When he is disagreed with, as in the scene with Williams, he
grows pettish and tyrannical.  Adrian Lester turns in what, to my ear,
is a superb performance.  He negotiates all the big speeches.  On "This
is the feast of Crispian" he conjures, as a storyteller, the old war
heroes bragging about the battle they survived.  This Henry is a
politician, deal-maker, and his rather inept edgy wooing in the last act
becomes downright scary.  (The first time we see Catherine, she is
watching a broadcast of his "rape" speech to Harfleur, and she clearly
remembers this as he commands a kiss.  The other performances are not,
to my ear, as satisfying.  I was particularly disappointed with Pistol,
whose diction is mushy, but perhaps I am spoiled by the memory of Robert
Newton.  The Richard II, which I attended at the Middle Temple, is a
wonderful pageant, but, to my ear, a disappointing production.  Mark
Rylance trades on his very considerable charm, but does not touch the
passion, the anguish, and the political complexity.  His Richard is JUST
weak and self-indulgent.  Rylance was a near-perfect Olivia in Twelfth
Night last year, and many of Olivia's mannerisms, including her stammer,
turn up in his Richard to the detriment of the latter role.

David Richman

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