Saturday, May 5, 2012

Merry Wives (and Hilarious Husbands)

We watched "The Merry Wives of Windsor" from the BBC Shakespeare series. If the play is not one of Shakespeare's most accomplished, this was still easily one of the most purely enjoyable productions in the series. Kudos to director David Hugh Jones.

The highlight was Ben Kingsley as Ford. He was completely over the top, and absolutely hilarious in enacting Ford's fits of jealousy and frustration. Amazing that chronologically, this comes immediately after "Gandhi" on his IMDb page. This has to be among the top 10 performances in the entire series.

We also enjoyed Judy Garland (oops, I mean Judy Davis) and Uncle Vernon (oops, I mean Richard Griffiths) as Mistress Ford and Falstaff. And very interesting to see Jonathan Miller's Fringe-mate Alan Bennett, virtually unrecognizable as Shallow.

So David Hugh Jones, a respected but not renowned director, took a below-par Shakespearean play and made a better production of it than Jonathan Miller — an unquestionable genius — did with King Lear. Re my earlier comments about Lear, I just found this quote from PBS producer Jac Venza in Susan Willis's book on the BBC Shakespeare:

The idea of never having a cut in the midst of a long literary speech sounds right, I mean, when Jonathan Miller describes it. The fact is it belies that there is an audience looking at very sophisticated cinematic editing and cutting, so that if anything this will look more strange...Miller took the position that whole scenes should just be performed for the literary style, and there should be no interruption by intercutting...five or six or eight minutes' worth of no alternation. He may be right that at first people listen and don't look as much, but I'm not sure it served the dramatic impact of the pieces as well as it might.

What he said.

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