The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0431  Thursday, 24 July 2008

From:       Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Thursday, July 24, 2008
Subject:    Roger Rees' Shakespeare Show

FROM: San Francisco Chronicle Online


Roger Rees' Shakespeare Show
Robert Hurwitt, Chronicle Theater Critic
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What You Will: One-man show. Created and performed by Roger Rees. (Through Aug. 
9. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. 95 minutes. 
Tickets: $29-$85. Call (415) 749-2228 or go to www.act-sf.org.)

The best moment in playing Juliet is "the nanosecond when they offer you the 
part." One of the hardest lines to deliver in "Macbeth" is Malcolm's reaction 
when told his father has been brutally murdered: "Oh. By whom?" The worst thing 
about the "To be or not to be" soliloquy is delivering it immediately after 
making an entrance, with the whole audience knowing what you're about to say. It 
isn't just the offbeat insights into performing Shakespeare that make Roger 
Rees' "What You Will" an absolute delight. The anecdotes, drawn from 22 years 
with the Royal Shakespeare Company (the Juliet observation comes from former 
colleague Judi Dench), are terrific. The criticisms -- from the laments of young 
students to the venom of D.H. Lawrence and Voltaire -- range from amusing to 
hilarious. The Shakespeare speeches (and one sonnet) are delivered with mastery. 
And that's not even counting the outstanding passages from Charles Dickens and 
James Thurber. "Will," which opened Monday for a limited run at American 
Conservatory Theater, is a treat for lovers of Shakespeare and those who may 
have felt daunted, bored or confused by him alike. Created by Rees last year for 
the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., and reprised at Massachusetts' 
Williamstown Theatre (where he was artistic director), "Will" is a distinct 
departure from the great-speeches solo shows made famous by John Gielgud or the 
autobiographical approach of Lynn Redgrave's "Shakespeare for My Father." Rees 
offers snippets of his life -- childhood in Wales; spear-carrying with Ben 
Kingsley in their early RSC years; his first tiny speaking roles; a moment with 
Laurence Olivier when they were filming "The Ebony Tower."

He more than does justice to speeches ranging from the "muse of fire" from 
"Henry V," Macbeth's dagger vision and Hamlet's "To be" and "rogue and peasant 
slave" soliloquies (Rees holds the Stratford-Upon-Avon record for playing 
Hamlet) to both a smitten adolescent Romeo and garrulous old Nurse from "Romeo 
and Juliet." But it's the way he sets up these passages that distinguishes 
"Will" as much as his trippingly-on-the-tongue delivery. Whether citing online 
student complaints and commentaries about the Bard and his "Islamic pentameter" 
or anecdotes about David Garrick's special-effects wig or Edmund Kean's preshow 
sexual needs, Rees uses a continuous flow of humor to set up the dramatic 
moments. A casual, charming figure in a loose shirt and brown slacks - framed by 
Alexander V. Nichols' theatrical-clutter set and moody lighting - he slips into 
the characters with an ease as comfortable as it is transparent.

He's more obviously acting in quick impersonations of Voltaire or George Bernard 
Shaw than in the Shakespeare passages. His rendition of a Dickens scene from 
"Great Expectations" is touching and cleverly crafted. His take on Thurber's 
"The Macbeth Murder Mystery" is a comic gem.

By contrast, his Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard II and Lear seem easy and natural. 
Rees uses his humorous, colloquial framework not just to increase the dramatic 
intensity and highlight the beauty of his Shakespeare, but to demystify it as 
well. "Will" makes Shakespeare as familiar as breathing, which is yet another 
beguiling aspect to Rees' delightful show.


S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the opinions 
expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the editor assumes no 
responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.