DVD Review: The Winter’s Tale (RSC at the Barbican, 1998)

“Verily, I speak it in the freedom of my knowledge”

It is no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that any mention of Alexandra Gilbreath – recent winner of the Best Supporting Actress in a Play fosterIAN to be sure – sends me all a quiver. So when someone told me about this production of The Winter’s Tale which features not only her as Hermione but also has Nancy Carroll lurking in the ensemble, I was most keen to watch it. Plus there’s the small matter of Antony Sher as Leontes, an actor whom I am always intrigued to see more of as I’ve have actually had little experience of him as a performer.

An RSC production from 1998, this was recorded at the Barbican and so as a straight filming of the stage show, it is free from the kind of directorial innovation that blighted (IMHO) the versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest also covered this weekend. Instead, we get the theatrical experience minus the live thrill but with the added bonus of close up work. And it is a great bonus here. Sher does so much acting with his eyes as a paranoiac Leontes, mentally damaged as suggested by a prologue and incapable of not seeing the dark shadows in the corner of the room. The way his suspicions are aroused by Polixenes’ attentiveness to his wife is brilliantly done as she is actually suffering from pregnancy pain but Leontes misses the crucial moments and all too easily lets the darkness consume him. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Winter’s Tale (RSC at the Barbican, 1998)”

Review: Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The reward of sin is death”

The tale of Faust is one which is seemingly never far from our stages in one form or another, whether it is opera, another opera or Icelandic acrobatics. But Christopher Marlowe can lay claim to perhaps being the first to dramatise this story back in Elizabethan times and this production of Doctor Faustus marks the first time it will have been performed at Shakespeare’s Globe.

A strange mixture of dark tragedy and broad comedy, the play looks at the danger of recklessly pursuing the quest for knowledge, power and wealth without due responsibility. Faustus, tired of his life of dusty scholarship, makes a pact with the Devil exchanging his soul after death for 24 years of service from his trusty servant Mephistopheles. Blinded by the material benefits that easy access to the dark arts garners him, the reality of eternal damnation doesn’t hit until far too late. Continue reading “Review: Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Globe”

DVD Review: Love’s Labours Lost, Shakespeare’s Globe

“He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument”

Working my way through the Globe DVD collection from their 2009 season has been good fun and a nice way to catch up on shows that I did not see and in the case of Love’s Labour’s Lost, a show that I have never actually seen. Dominic Dromgoole’s revival of his 2007 production brought back several original cast members (although sadly not Gemma Arterton who made her stage debut here) to this early Shakespearean comedy.

Not having any knowledge or preconceptions about a play is always a nice state of affairs for me, but by the end I could tell that this was surely going to be one of those of his works that is deemed problematic. The King of Navarre and his court decide to forswear women and pleasure for serious study but the arrival of the Princess of France and her ladies and their mischievous ways challenges their resolve. But not content with four potential couplings, the youthful Shakespeare works in a number of additional sub-plots which seriously pull focus from any main story and combined with an extreme wordiness – it’s often trying too hard to be clever to be genuinely funny – and a kicker of an ending, it does make for a rather odd experience. Continue reading “DVD Review: Love’s Labours Lost, Shakespeare’s Globe”