Sunday, April 7, 2013

King John

About Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" I earlier wrote this: "Laura and I began to feel this about the history plays: The play begins, 'things happen', and then the play ends. Often not the most dramatic experience." This applies, in spades, to the BBC Shakespeare's production of "King John".

What a bizarre play! It keeps reversing upon itself, and then reverses upon its reversals. It's as if Shakespeare felt obliged to follow the capricious, random twists and turns of a real-life story, yet from what I can tell he played fast and loose with history here. He clearly felt no compunction to shape the events into some sort of dramatic form.

The strongest character by far is "the Bastard", and I found George Costigan truly riveting in the role. My word, there certainly are a lot of good actors in England. This one had very few "familiar faces" from the quasi-repertory-style casting of the series, but all the performances were strong. I'm not familiar with Leonard Rossiter, although he was apparently a beloved comedic actor in England. (He died the same year this production aired.) As King John, his performance was a bit on the broad side, but still strong, and wonderfully, clearly spoken. John Thaw also impressed as Hubert.

Next up: Pericles! Yay! Yes, one does think that perhaps the BBC put off producing some of the Bard's lesser works until the final season...