Monday List: 5 Great Shakespeare Adaptations

I tend to think Shakespeare is best live and in a theatre – but with no shortage of screen adaptations, there are plenty of gems in there amidst the dullness of others. In honour of tonight’s broadcast of King Lear on BBC Two (9:30pm), enjoy this list of other fab adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.

  1. Shakespeare Re-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
    Re-telling Shakespeare in modern-day English, this series saw James McAvoy as a murderous Michelin-starred Macbeth, Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell as warring politicians in The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a caravan park. But none of those was as good as the joyous rewrite of Shakespeare’s best romcom (no arguments please) by David NichollsSarah Parrish and Damien Lewis are Beatrice and Benedick as broadcasters, whose bickering is too much to take for their colleagues. It’s light-hearted and funny, just as this play should be.
  2. The Hollow Crown: Richard II
    All of The Hollow Crown is fantastic; faithful to the text, beautifully shot and acted. This, the first of them, is still my favourite, partly because I love Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear, who star as Richard and Bolingbroke respectively. You can find my review from way back in 2012, when this was first aired here.
  3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Russell T Davies)
    If you’re looking for a more irreverent take on a classic than The Hollow Crown will give you, Russell T Davies’ version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be right up your alley. However well you think you know this story of fairies and donkey heads and lovers, the last ten minutes will definitely surprise you. It’s also as star-studded as tonight’s King Lear, with Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas, John Hannah, Elaine Paige, and a handful of excellent young RSC/Globe actors as Puck and the lovers.
  4. Shakespeare Live! From the RSC
    Not strictly a full adaptation, but this deserves a place on this list for the many joyous excerpts from Shakespeare scenes, starring many British national treasures. The Rory Kinnear/Anne Marie Duff Macbeth scene is so gripping, it makes the recent National Theatre production feel like even more of a let-down. And who can forget the hilarious ‘To Be or Not To Be?’ sketch, starring none other than Prince Charles.
  5. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
    The absolute classic. I was planning to just focus on TV adaptations, but I couldn’t leave this out. Flashy and over-the-top and melodramatic, this is a perfectly teenagery, stylistic version of Shakespeare’s fatal romance, filled with lustful longing. Also Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to be on every list in existence.

“A hit, a very palpable hit.”

Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2

William Shakespeare

I’m taking up the ‘Top Ten Theatre Shows of 2014’ challenge the rest of the #LDNTheatreBloggers have been doing all this week. Over the past year I’ve seen around 35 different productions, which, considering I spent 19 weeks away from the UK and started university is not too bad imho!

Out of those 35 odd shows, however, there were some clear highlights that shone out far and above the rest (although I don’t regret going to a single one!):

10. A Streetcar Named Desire  at Young Vic Theatre

blog

Squeezing Forbidden Broadway and My Perfect Mind out of the top ten, this classic play by Tennessee Williams starred three incredibly powerful actors in a beautifully staged production with some of my favourite music from a non-musical theatre show this year.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“All in all, this is a great production of a fantastic, classic play. I can’t quite give it top marks, simply because I felt Anderson took quite a time to build up to the marvellous power of the second act. The acting is brilliant and the production captures the essence of sleazy, dirty, hot, vibrant New Orleans perfectly. And, to be honest, it’s worth seeing simply for the last scene, which is just sheer flawlessness.”

9. Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe

blog

I didn’t actually write a blog for this at the time, but this was a spectacular show; despite being one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays,the audience was enthralled constantly in the unceasing action that played not only upon the stage, but in the groundling pit and even outside the theatre. William Houston was great in the main role, and Indira Varma  was beautifully evil as Tamara, Queen of the Goths. And how can I talk about Lucy Bailey‘s production without mentioning the gore?! I mean, we had 23 fainters at the midnight showing (well worth going to by the way) – watching multiple 6ft+ men topple over when confronted with a handless, tongueless, blood-dripping Lavinia was worth the ticket price alone!

8. The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre

blog 5

The action starts from the minute you walk into the theatre, and the speed of the jokes is quite incredible. The performers know their characters and their characters’ characters inside out and they know exactly how to make their audience laugh. What more can you ask for?

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“The pace of this production is extraordinary, and the amount of energy expended by each and every actor (even including Greg Tannahill, playing the dead body!) is that of a million Duracell bunnies. In fact, after laughing so hard for so long, I think even the audience feel they’ve been for a work-out after seeing ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. Sometimes the jokes are repeated perhaps once too often, but overall this is farce at its finest.”

7. Much Ado About Nothing at Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre

blog 6

I love this play so much, and this production finally lived up to the amazing script! The staging was beautifully Downton Abbey-esque and the two leads sparked off each other just as Beatrice and Benedick should.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“Basically this is a really warm and inviting production with two superb leads who definitely carry the play on their capable shoulders. A perfect show for Christmas, for comedy and romance, and for drama; whilst the Dogberry scenes aren’t quite as hilarious as they could be, they still elicited a great big response from the audience and the ending is beautifully sentimental without being cheesy (although I love a bit of cheese, so who am I to judge?!) A show that will leave you hugging yourself with happiness.”

6. King Lear at National Theatre

blog

This seems like so long ago… But Simon Russell Beale was absolutely superb in this insanely demanding role. I loved the twist with the Fool in the middle, Sam Troughton was a great Edmund and Olivia Vinall was surprisingly tough as Cordelia. This was King Lear on an epic scale, and it really, really worked.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“In fact, overall the production was basically flawless… What I’m trying to say here is: if you can possibly get tickets, do. I enjoyed this more than last year’s much lauded ‘Othello’ and this is from someone who wasn’t that big a fan of King Lear previously. This is the most emotional, real and balanced production I’ve seen so far; usually Edmund dominates, but here it is Lear, the real star, who shines out.”

5. Skylight at Wyndham’s Theatre

blog

A clean, beautifully designed production, carried completely by three actors who fully understood their complex characters. Understated and thoughtful, but with some lovely light-hearted moments, this was seriously good theatre.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“As I hope you’ve picked up, this is a seriously good piece of theatre.
Light-hearted enough to be an enjoyable evening out, but interesting enough to leave you contemplative afterwards. Basically an amazing production of a great play. Go and see it while you can!”

4. The Scotsboro Boys at Garrick Theatre

blog

Another one I didn’t actually have a chance to write about, but a fantastic show nonetheless. Like Kandel and Ebb’previous shows Chicago and Cabaret, it’s full of energy and gets your foot tapping along before you realise quite how serious the subject matter is; it makes you complicit in the evil events. The performers are brilliant, the songs are so clever and the dancing is ridiculously energetic. Plus we saw it with two of the understudies – yet I wouldn’t have realised it for a second because they inhabited their roles as if they did them every night. Kudos to everyone involved.

3.The Crucible at Old Vic Theatre

blog

Dark, disturbing and ridiculously gripping, this tense production of Arthur Miller‘s classic just kept the suspense building over the long three hours and did not let go. A great performance by Richard Armitage brought it all together.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“I think you can already tell, this is a fabulous production of a great play. Despite its length, I wasn’t bored for a second. One cannot help but be gripped by the uncontrollable chaos that sweeps the town of Salem and its residents. Both the acting and staging are superb, heightening the tension to an almost unbearable pitch, with the tragic ending leaving you wanting more. If you can possibly get tickets, I urge you to go! You will not be disappointed.”

2. Urinetown at Apollo Theatre

blog 1

I love anything that surprises me, and Urinetown certainly did that! Great cast, great songs, great production, all that satire I love. Go and see it guys!

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“As far as I’m concerned,Urinetown is highly recommended and it’s shocking that the theatre wasn’t fuller when I went – admittedly, it was a Thursday matinee, but still. Theatre-goers, I expected more of you! This is a brilliant, unique musical, in an age where people complain of the non-originality of ‘new’ musicals on Broadway and in the West End. If you enjoyed Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon, you’ll love this as much as I did.”

1. King Charles III at Wyndham’s Theatre

blog 6I mean, this was just so brilliant (not that I’ve over-used my superlatives in this post at all…) The thing that gives it the number one spot is that it wasn’t just the actors that made it amazing. Don’t get me wrong, the cast was great, but it was them combined with the set and the music and the script and the whole concept that all came together and just blew me away.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“…it’s a play I came out of exhilarated and amazed. It made me laugh, and despair, and it made me think. It’s well acted all round, the staging is brilliant, and, most importantly almost, the script is so interesting. It’s the sort of play that could be played to generations in the future and they, too, would be both amused and gripped by it. Unlike many modern plays, it doesn’t rely on clever modern references for its success, but at the same time it plays up to the current times for a current audience. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy for our times, and for future times, and that is why this is a must see.”

“I fear I am not in my perfect mind.”

King Lear, Act 4, Scene 7

William Shakespeare

When I heard of a show being described as “Like watching a masterclass on King Lear under the influence of LSD” (Daily Telegraph) I simply had to book myself a ticket. ‘My Perfect Mind’, created by Told By An Idiot and currently playing in the studio theatre of the Young Vic, first appeared back last April, and is now back, by popular demand, first in London and then on a UK and international tour.blog 1

The play itself, in an incredibly roundabout way, tells the story of Edward Petherbridge (famous for being the original Guildenstern in Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead’ and playing Lord Peter Wimsey on TV) and his experience when he suffered a stroke in New Zealand while about to play King Lear there. He could remember all of the famous and powerful lines, but was completely paralysed down one side of his body.

This might sound like an incredibly moving Channel Four documentary deliberately created to play on your heartstrings, but I promise you, it is so much more entertaining and interesting than that. Directed by Kathryn Hunter (once a famous King Lear herself), written by her, Paul Hunter and Petherbridge, and performed by the latter two actors, this is a close-knit production. This much is obvious from the mutual respect and quick repartee between the two.

In fact, in a play like this, where the situation is constantly changing, and Hunter is literally running around the stage becoming blogthe cleaner, the Kiwi director, the Kiwi prompt lady, Cordelia, a German psychologist with a “borderline offensive” accent and, I felt most importantly, the Fool, this bond between the two actors is vital in making the play seem a whole, rather than lots of little scenes and sketches.

The production is incredibly meta; every time you get used to the crazy direction they’ve gone in, and settle down to enjoy the acting and plot, one of them stops the action and says to the other: “Hold it, hold it, hold it. This is ridiculous and somehow pretentious and slapdash at the same time,” and the engine starts again, and off we go into another, related but completely different direction. Maybe this sounds confusing and an exaggerated conceit, but I promise you, it completely works.

And despite their own criticism of their acting, there are actually several very touching moments in amongst the hilarious blog 3impressions of Laurence Olivier’s racist Othello and a young Edward Petherbridge singing in a talent competition. The brief moments of King Lear are very powerful, especially the storm scene, where Petherbridge bellows the words out, as Hunter rushes around thundering and raining and hailing with the use of various contraptions around the lopsided stage. Another astonishingly touching and powerful moment was when Petherbridge hoarsely uttered the words “Howl, howl” in a corner of the stage, before quickly disappearing off. This must have lasted about ten seconds, and yet with just two words, a whole world of anguish and pain opened up before our eyes. It was moments like this that made me really want to see Petherbridge’s full, straight King Lear – one only hopes the RSC really will pick it up.

The set itself is deceivingly basic; an askew stage (the very epitome of “pretentious” and “slapdash”), white walls behind, table and chairs, a few hats, and several contraptions and seats and things hidden beneath huge dustcloths. Yet the simplicity blog 2makes it easier to flit between sketches quickly, and also provides many of the ‘meta’ jokes in the script, especially some great ones about “miming being such an unsatisfactory medium.” The two cast members use every prop; every inch of floor and wall space to make more actors seem unnecessary, redundant.

Overall, this is a brilliant new piece of theatre, well worth seeing, especially if you are a theatre/Shakespeare fan already. I would especially recommend it to drama and English students, as I think it presents an entirely new perspective of ‘King Lear’, both in relating the intense emotions to the present day and an understandable situation, and also in adding a lot of humour to the gut-wrenching situation. There are also a load of great stagey anecdotes in there which are a lot of fun. The thunderous applause at the end from the packed house was well deserved by Hunter and Petherbridge for their exhausting, triumphant production.

‘My Perfect Mind’ at the Young Vic Theatre: 4/5 stars

“O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven”

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 5

William Shakespeare 

Having sneakily and shamelessly (can one be both sneaky and shameless at the same time?) used the insane popularity of 1984’ to draw you all into the blog, I think this is the point at which I reveal my secret ulterior motive…

That’s right, it’s time to whip out the Shakespeare.

*DUHDUHDUHHHHH*

suspense 

But never fear! If you do happen to be one of those people who doesn’t like the plays, I honestly promise you my next blog post will be absolutely nothing to do with the Bard. So why not just read this one and see if I can maybe possibly convince you Shakespeare is the best? Pretty please?

I’d wanted to see ‘King Lear’ blogat the National Theatre since it was first announced to be starring the amazing Simon Russell Beale back last autumn, and let me tell you, it certainly lived up to my expectations.

Although how could it not, with such a fantastic cast?! Tom Brooke, reliably quirky and likeable actor of ‘Sherlock’ and ‘The Boat That Rocked’ played an energetic, quirky and likeable Edgar (a hard part to pull off, considering how much less interesting he is than the other characters), whilst the veteran Shakespearean actor Sam Troughton, who I saw as Brutus in the RSC’s Julius Caesar back in 2011, portrayed the much more entertaining, seductively evil Edmund. One thing I think Troughton did especially well was make Edmund believably trustworthy – one could see why Gloucester had faith in him above his ‘true’ son. King-Lear-jpeg-1An outward sign of Edmund’s switch between ‘good’ and evil was the nerdy glasses which were violently snatched from his face as soon as he was able to spill the beans on his nasty deeds to the audience, his unwilling co-conspirators. It was a wise choice by Mendes to cut Edmund’s sudden reform at the end; better for him to die boasting than to randomly feel guilty just as he dies.

Also on the wicked side was Anna Maxwell Martin, star of ‘Bleak House’, ‘Philomena’ and ‘Death Comes To Pemberley’ as probably the most immoral character of them all, the woman who makes even Lady Macbeth look like a rather decent woman; Regan. Playing up the sexy, manipulative side of her character, Martin sashayed and swayed around the stage, screaming and spitting out her lines – to such an extent that some of the more elderly members of the audience sitting behind me complained they couldn’t understand her a lot of the time. Personally I didn’t have such a problem, but she did speak incredibly rapidly at points.

Kate Fleetwood played her more human, but still pretty sinister sister, Goneril. King-Lear-jpeg-4This is the first production I’ve seen where the difference between the two sisters is made clear; Regan is virtually amoral, sadistically delighting in gouging out Gloucester’s eyes (ergh, as usual there was plenty of blood), whereas Goneril seems more understandable. I mean, let’s be honest, I’d be pretty irritated if my dad turned up my house with a hundred boisterous, shouting, drunken soldiers who ignored me completely and disrespected my servants. I really liked how Sam Mendes (the director) showed the complexities of each character; that they weren’t just black and white.

Saying that, there are clearly some ‘goodies’ in this play. Stanley Townsend as Kent and Stephen Boxer as Gloucester were both excellent, and Olivia Vinall (Desdemona in last year’s five star ‘Othello’) was nicely feisty as Cordelia. I did think it was a shame she and the King of France weren’t seen as more of a partnership on stage; they exited separately which I felt somewhat dampened the romantic impact of his acceptance of her cast-off, penniless state.

Adrian Scarborough (who my brothers know as Pete off Gavin and Stacey, but who is also in Miranda, Mrs Biggs, Pyschoville) played the Fool King-Lear-jpeg-1with the sense of empathy which is so important to the role. Now, another *spoilers alert* here: this production finally gave the Fool his own untimely onstage death, much earlier than reported in the script, and in the most shocking way possible; in such a way that, true to the seven stages of grief, I think the majority of the audience were in denial for a good few minutes, but which I felt was a brilliantly inventive addition, and really showed the extent of Lear’s madness.

This brings us nicely onto the star of the show, (and also the perpetrator of his own Fool’s murder), Lear himself, Simon Russell Beale. Simon Russell Beale in The National Theatre's production, opening 23 JanuarWell I knew it was going to be good, but this performance was shining excellence, which brought many of the audience to tears by the end, and was a powerful portrayal of a once powerful man slowly succumbing to the dominance of dementia. As the tics became increasingly noticeable and Lear tried and failed to ignore what was happening to his mind: ‘O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven’, his oncoming madness became more and more poignant. His recognition of Cordelia really did seem like a miracle, but one that could never last; a bit like in The Notebook. A tender, yet fiercely honest portrayal that was nigh-on perfect at showing the contradictions within the complex character.

In fact, overall the production was basically flawless. The setting was a modern-style dictatorship, which worked pretty well I thought, though nothing to write home about. The storm was well produced and, as Michael Billington of The Guardian wrote: “Yet although the [first] scene has an epic quality, it is filled with human detail…This mixture of the epic and the intimate runs right through the production.”

What I’m trying to say here is: King-Lear-jpeg-1if you can possibly get tickets, do. I enjoyed this more than last year’s much lauded ‘Othello’ and this is from someone who wasn’t that big a fan of King Lear previously. This is the most emotional, real and balanced production I’ve seen so far; usually Edmund dominates, but here it is Lear, the real star, who shines out.

King Lear at the National Theatre: 5/5 stars

“…Edmund the base shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper”

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2

William Shakespeare

I HIT ONE THOUSAND VIEWS! Thank you so much for repeatedly checking out my posts, and I hope you’re finding them interesting. If there’s anything you’d like me to post about, or any books/films you think I should take a look at, please comment, and thanks to those who have commented so far (Micha, Tom, Karen, Ruth, Deborah…)

Moving on to the actual content of my blog, I went to see ‘King Lear’ at the Almeida Theatre, directed by Michael Attenborough and starring Jonathan Pryce as the titular character, and, having seen the Red Rose Chain’s production about two months ago, I compared/contrasted the two the whole way through – although don’t worry, I wasn’t overly obsessive, I still enjoyed it for it’s own sake!

I think it’s probably wise to begin by comparing the two Lear’s, since it is usually considered one of the most demanding and challenging roles in all of the canon. The two actors were completely different, in even the most material of ways; in the Red Rose Chain production, Lear was played by Edward Day, who’s only 27 and is therefore one of the youngest ever Lears, whereas Jonathan Pryce is an established and acclaimed  Shakespearean actor. Both were good, although Day took much more of a comedic approach, at least at the start. I would probably say I enjoyed Day’s interpretation more at the start (if only because he entered on a pink and leopard print motorised scooter – see left-), since I felt Pryce was a bit too angry and seemed to be consistently shouting at the beginning of the play. However, as soon as Pryce’s Lear was cast out of Goneril and Regan’s castles into the storm: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” I started to realise why he is such a famous Shakespearean actor. His mad scenes and the way he seemed to suddenly switch when he saw ‘Poor Tom’ (Edgar in disguise) were incredible; quite funny at times, but also terribly pathetic. The line “Never, never, never, never, never” can seem ridiculous when read out awkwardly in class by a less-than-willing student, but it was my absolute favourite line of the whole play. Just… I don’t know if I can even explain how chilling and mournful it was; each ‘never’ was completely different to the previous one, yet the tone was consistent throughout (and to a singer that is so important). Don’t get me wrong, Day was actually really good as well, but by the end you could see Pryce’s experience completely taking over. However, one thing I found quite creepy about Pryce’s Lear was the incestuous overtones the production gave him. Obviously this made Goneril and Regan’s desertion of him later in the play more understandable, especially considering his frightening rages he flies into during the first scene, yet… for me, it made Cordelia and Lear’s relationship much creepier and more sinister. As the Guardian review says: “This is a Lear one understands rather than sympathises with.”

The Fool is a central part of ‘King Lear’, since he acts as Lear’s voice of reason; he has the foresight to see how Lear’s daughters will treat him and his relationship with Lear is one of friendship and dependency (this dependency is two way – the Fool is dependent on Lear for protection in the court, but the true dependency of Lear on the Fool for loyalty and honesty is revealed during the dreadful night of the storm). I found a pretty good quote on the Fool from the Royal Shakespeare Company: “The Fool provides wit in this bleak play and unlike some of Shakespeare’s clowns who seem unfunny to us today because their topical jokes no longer make sense, the Fool in King Lear ridicules Lear’s actions and situation in such a way that audiences understand the point of his jokes.” The Fool in the Almeida production (played by Trevor Fox, (see right with Pryce) who I saw about a year ago in ‘The Pitman Painters’) supported all these points; he was incredibly wise, yet very concerned about Lear throughout, and I loved his Geordie accent! The Red Rose Chain production did a completely different and unique take on the Fool; they used a puppet, operated by Lear himself. Having read the programme, it turns out this decision was a result of looking at reports of ventriloquists who said they found they were much more able to reveal their secret emotions when using their puppets, and therefore the Fool in this production was literally Lear’s sub-conscious. Having found out about this before, I was pretty excited to see how well they portrayed this. If I’m honest, doing my research before really helped, because I understood what was happening when the puppet was brought out, whereas I think the trick left quite a lot of the audience a little confused. Basically, a great concept, but not brought off quite as well as it could have been. One thing my mum noted, but not, I’m ashamed to say, me, was that the Fool disappears from the stage when Cordelia returns and vice versa. I did a little bit of investigatiom into this and found out that this is one of the biggest points of debate; as Lear holds the dead Cordelia in the final scene he says: “And my poor fool is hanged” which could refer to either or both the Fool and Cordelia.

Moving on to why I chose the quote I did for the title of this post, Edmund was one of my favourite characters in both productions. I know, I know, he’s a villian, but he isn’t like Iago, a villian for villainy’s sake. He has a reason to hold a grudge against his father: “Wherefore base?” and one of my favourite speeches of the play is his mockery of the way everyone blames the stars for their fate and their mistakes to excuse themsleves for their actions:

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves thieves and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards liars and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!”

Both Edmunds (Kieran Bew in the Almeida’s production and Scott Ellis in the Red Rose Chain version – see below-) were extremely good; very convincingly villainous, alluring to both Goneril and Regan and nicely focused on self-preservation. One thing I did fine slightly weird was the length of time it took Ellis’ Edmund to die! They made the decision not to take his dying body off, as they did in the Almeida, and so it felt like he spent an awful lot of time bleeding slowly to death – almost reminiscent of Pyramus in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. However, I maintain that I thought Edmund was one of the most interesting characters in the play in both productions.

I’ve probably spent long enough talking about the characters I found the most interesting, but suffice to say that in both productions most of the parts were acted well, especially Chook Sibtain as the Duke of Cornwall at the Almeida and both Cordelias: Pheobe Fox at the Almeida and Lauryn Redding at the Red Rose Chain. One thing I personally didn’t like in the Red Rose Chain was the way Gloucester was dressed. Call me bloodthirsty, but the gruesome, graphic way his eyes were gouged out and then chucked on the floor like “vile jellyat the Almeida was one of my favourite parts, whereas the weird space goggles worn in the other production seemed a bit out of place, and they made it hard to sympathise with Gloucester as a person; he seemed like an alien out of ‘A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ rather than a pathetic, confused father (see right). The storm was particularly well done in the Almeida production, but (this may go against most Shakespeare academics’ opinions) I thought the more slapstick opening scene of the Red Rose Chain was great. The aforementioned motorised scooter obviously contributed to this, but the beat-boxing/singing by Goneril and Regan in efforts to convince their father of their love was also very funny and a hit with the audience, although it perhaps didn’t gel as well as it could have with some of the later, more depressing scenes.

Basically two really good productions, but I definitely prefered the Almeida one; perhaps I’m being too conservative, but it works when played straight, so why not do it straight? Plus, I’m so glad to have seen Jonathan Pryce (see below) and he didn’t disappoint, particularly during the second act (which I think started from Act 4 in this production). Although there were several great bits in the Red Rose Chain production, I think their comedies have been brilliant in a way that I don’t think this tragedy was.

I should probably relate this back to my EPQ in some way, so, although I’ve decided to focus on ‘Richard III’ and ‘Henry V’ for analysation, the Fool is especially interesting to consider as a character. In literal ways, he was played completely differently in both performances, yet what he says means that his role as the voice of reason can’t change for the play to properly work. I suppose this is the same with the Chorus in ‘Henry V’, who is unique to that play and who has some of the most beautiful lines. He/she/they can be played differently but the way that the positive outlook of the lines juxtaposes with some of the brutal action on stage means that the role has to stay the same to some extent for the play to work, unlike some of Shakespeare’s other character’s who are much more flexible e.g. Henry himself, or Romeo and Juliet.

Anyway, thanks for reading this ridiculously long post, and thanks for reading and commenting – please keep doing so! Coming up, I’ll be blogging about ‘Brideshead Revisited’ Evelyn Waugh, ‘ROOM’ Emma Donaghue, ‘Year of Wonders’ Geraldine Brooks and lots more, so keep checking back 🙂