“Are you meditating on virginity?”
The Guardian’s Shakespeare Solos series continues apace with its second suite of videos now released on their website and this time they’re much more of a mixed bag. There’s strong work from a duffle coat-clad David Threlfall as The Tempest’s Prospero , mightily bearded and bedraggled but achingly eloquent too with all the heaving sorrow of revels ending. And Samuel West is an excellent Henry V, pacing the South Bank with the Houses of Parliament in full view as he experiences a restless night before launching into war.
An unexpected delight is Sacha Dhawan taking on the role of a would-be pickup artist in a King’s Cross cocktail bar to deliver Parolles’ speech about virginity from All’s Well That Ends Well. Dhawan is a highly charismatic performer but inhabits this role perfectly, not bad for a Shakespearean screen debut. And there’s striking work from Camille O’Sullivan as King John’s grief-stricken Constance, director Dan Susman capturing much of the intensity that made her Rape of Lucrece so memorable.
But a breathy Joanna Lumley, in tweed jacket and dodgy hat as Viola as Cesario, brings nothing new to the table (except, I suppose, website hits), her verse reading of Twelfth Night’s “I left no ring with her” really nothing that special, undermined by gesturing and a twee sound design. And I found it hard to like Daniel Mays’ unsubtle Macbeth, gestures and props again detracting from the verse, and the choice to not make it direct address proving quite distracting.
This is proving to be an interesting series (here’s my brief notes on the first set of films) but I must confess to being disappointed that there hasn’t been more adventurous in the choices made thus far – these videos being short and free from the commercial imperative to fill a theatre means that gender and colour lines are there for the smashing and so I hope any more instalments of these films get a little more daring.