Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Just finished the BBC Shakespeare's "Macbeth". It's a very clear, lucid reading of the play, and commendably so. But director Jack Gold's decision to forego any sense of "magic" in the various hallucinations the characters experience was unfortunate. The budgets on this series are clearly pretty low, but it wouldn't cost much at all to have an apparition of Banquo sitting at the table, would it? The sense of the supernatural needed to be a lot stronger; it kept the central issues of prophesy and destiny a bit off balance.

Jane Lapotaire was an excellent, sexy Lady Macbeth. Nicol Williamson started off well as Macbeth, although as the play went on he succumbed to melodrama and outright overacting. His wheezy intake of breath became quite distracting too. And his "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" was disappointing. The rest of the cast was solid, if unremarkable.

No doubt Macbeth must be a very difficult role for an actor to pull off, especially on camera. But in "Shakespeare Uncovered" I recently saw clips of the Patrick Stewart and Antony Sher versions, both of which looked intriguing. I've heard Ian McKellen's is excellent too. I'd like to check them all out.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I watched "Cymbeline", the next in the BBC Shakespeare series. Sorry to report it was a pretty dull affair. Director Elijah Moshinsky once again seemed more interested in staging pretty pictures than in revealing character and driving the drama forward. They're actors, not objects!

It must be said too that this is one of the more unpleasantly implausible of Shakespeare's plays. All a woman need do is throw on a pair of knickers and her feminine identity is completely inscrutable even to those who know her most intimately.

A few notable performances: Robert Lindsay made a fascinating Iachimo, notably creepy in the "bedroom scene". Paul Jesson was insufferably snotty and petulant (but in a good way) as Cloten. (Jesson is, incidentally, the "King of the BBC Shakespeare", appearing in eight of the series' productions.) Geoffrey Burridge and David Creedon as Guiderius and Arviragus sang "Fear No More" nicely; Stephen Oliver's setting wasn't quite as touching as Stephen Sondheim's, but still very effective.

Two more Moshinskys to go in the series. Sigh.

Monday, January 14, 2013