lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
So, quite by accident yesterday evening, I ended up catching one of the preview performances of Henry VIII at the Folger. It was a production I'd wanted to see, but hadn't quite figured out when I'd manage it. Through a nice series of coincidences, I was spending yesterday afternoon in the Folger and after finishing dinner, realised I had enough time to get back for the evening performance. So, there we go.

Short version: SEE IT IF YOU CAN. IT IS GREAT.

Fairly long and extremely impressionistic review below. )

To conclude, a striking production that uses visual and thematic cues to hold a disjointed play together. I definitely recommend it. Running through November 20.

Oh, and the Henry VIII exhibit in the Library is also really good. I drooled over lots of books, including a 1548 edition of Le miroir de l'âme pêcheresse as translated by Elizabeth I. It's TINY. And ADORABLE.

Also, I sniggered every time I saw something I'd quoted in my dissertation. That made for a lot of sniggering. They sadly did not have a copy of Hall out, though they did have a Holinshed, and a facsimile of the 1550 frontispiece to Hall, with its miraculous all-male family tree (except for Elizabeth of York, Margaret Beaufort, and 'Eleanor, doughter to the Earl of March', who I am fairly certain was actually named Anne; bad Grafton!). So, well worth having a look if you're around.
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #26: Your favourite couple

Beatrice and Benedick have to be up here. She gives as good as she gets, and vice versa. And you really do get the impression that they actually enjoy one another's company and that the love that apparently comes out of nowhere probably does have some sort of foundation.

On the tragic side, I have to go with Humphrey of Gloucester and Eleanor Cobham. Because, really, you can tell this is a couple who love one another. I sort of think of them as a much older Hotspur and Kate Percy, where they squabble and snipe regularly but really do love one another. And it may be that I am reading too much into the text but it seems to me that Eleanor's fall from grace just breaks Humphrey. He protests when the King demands that he step down as protector, but there's no force behind it. And that is probably because he lost the only person he could truly trust.

Day #27: Your favourite couplet

I am just going to go with the first line that comes to mind:

Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut, were it farther off, I'll pluck it down.
--3 Henry VI, Act III, Scene II

You wouldn't think the word 'Tut' could make or break the end of a scene, but in this case, it TOTALLY does. It embodies so many different significations -- Richard's pride, his ambition, his utterly shameless confidence in his ability to deceive. And it's this brilliantly executed conspiracy between him and the audience -- we want to see if he can do it, how far he can go. So much, to rest on one little word.

Ron Cook in the BBC 3 Henry VI (1983) - He is charming and utterly adorable. And he nails this couplet.
Andrew Jarvis in the ESC Henry VI, 'House of York' (1990) (speech starts around 3:25; also featuring Ann Penfold as a wonderfully clever and snarky Elizabeth)

I'm out of town this weekend to go to my cousin's wedding in New York, so I will hopefully finish off the meme next week.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role

There will be a list. Nobody should be surprised by this at all.

Jon Slinger in anything. ANYTHING AT ALL.

David Tennant as Richard II - His Henry VI made me wibble, and I loved him as both Berowne and Hamlet. And then there's Ten. Who has more in common with Richard II than he really should. And, really, who wouldn't want to hear Tennant do that final speech? (Note: I don't think he could do what Slinger did with the role. I frankly don't think anybody else could pull that off. But Tennant would be an equally fantastic Richard, if quite different.)

Tilda Swinton as Margaret of Anjou - Can you picture this? I can, and it is magical.

Kate Winslet as Desdemona - And, no, I am not just saying this because of my enormous crush on her. I do think she'd strike the right balance of innocence and sensuality (we get some hints of this in the way she played Marianne Dashwood) that I just haven't seen in any of the filmed productions so far.

Jeremy Northam as Iago - One of my problems with Kenneth Branagh's Iago was that he overdid the evil; part of what makes Iago so scary is how little he actually does to destroy the lives of everyone around him, and Branagh's style of acting just doesn't convey that for me at all. Northam is incredibly charming, and would probably, now I think about it, also make a fantastic Richard III. And, yes, I am also deeply amused by the irony of the same actor playing Thomas More and Richard III.

Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra - Her Duchess of Malfi was just brilliant and I think she'd make a sublime Cleopatra. Also, further yay for Cleopatras of colour because there are simply not enough of them.

James Purefoy as Antony - WHO DID NOT SEE THIS COMING. The way he played Antony in Rome fits so well with the way I read Shakespeare's version -- impulsive and brilliant and so completely unaware that he could at any moment fail. Super massive bonus points for Simon Woods reprising Octavius.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
So, I am very glad I am assuming the 30 days of Shakespeare are not consecutive because I just missed roughly...eleven. My apologies. I was shuttling my way round the Midwest to visit various family members and only got back home last night. I love my family and my in-laws-to-be, but it is so nice to have all family obligations finished until the wedding

Without further ado, here we go.

Day #23: A role you've never played but would love to play

Ye gods. SO MANY. It is not even funny how many roles I would absolutely love to play and will probably never get the chance. Unless I actually manage to get a full-time job and therefore have the schedule and funds to start my own playreading group in whatever department is crazy enough to take me. ;)

I will preface by saying that, after a number of years in amateur productions, I've learned that although there are a vast number of roles I would love to play, there are far fewer at which I would be at all good. So this list is going to stick to characters that fit both criteria, from what I can see.

As such, Juliet is Right Out because I have never looked young enough to play her, least of all now when I am well past the right age.

Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra - The only character in Shakespeare who looks remotely like me! I'm not saying I actually look like Cleopatra -- just that I look more like her than I do any other Shakespearean character. More importantly, however, she is such an amazing character and the absolute emotional centre of that play; she's got so many layers and there are so many directions to take her, and that final scene is just magnificent. I don't know if I'd be any good, but I would relish the chance to give it a try.

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing - She's just so much FUN.

Margaret of Anjou in the First Tetralogy - I don't need to explain this, do I? ;)

Elizabeth Grey in 3 Henry VI and Richard III - See above.

Desdemona in Othello - This would never happen except in a playreading, but I would love the opportunity just so I could really delve into her character and figure out what makes her tick and how much she realises before the end of the play. This is something I know actresses engage with a great deal in playing Gertrude or Cordelia, for instance, but in my limited viewings of film versions of Othello, never with Desdemona. I really, really, REALLY wish I'd been able to see the Donmar production with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello because the audio version is marvellous and stupid Donmar for having a tiny performance space.

If gender were irrelevant (as it often is in playreadings), I'd probably engage in all sorts of group-related corruption to read Richard III or Edmund in King Lear or Prince Hal or Richard II. I did actually manage the latter, albeit in Thomas of Woodstock rather than in Shakespeare. In fact, here is Act II, Scene I, where Richard totally forgets how old he is and an entire room of early modernists bursts into slightly hysterical laughter at the mention of chronicles.

Anyway, we return you to your regularly scheduled postings. :)

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #22: An underrated play - Coriolanus

I could very easily list any of the Henry VIs here because they never get enough love, but I talked at length about their utter brilliance on Day 10. Then I was tempted by Henry IV, Part II, but I actually know quite a few people who love that play, so I decided to go with something completely different.

Namely, Coriolanus.

I only read this play recently, on the repeated suggestion of [ profile] gileonnen, and it is absolutely fascinating. I knew absolutely nothing about the actual Coriolanus -- a far cry from reading Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra with all their accompanying cultural baggage. And Coriolanus himself is just a very different kind of tragic hero. He's exactly the right man for the military aspects of his job, but he can't handle the politics. Or, perhaps more accurately, he refuses to be a political animal. I suppose if Hamlet is driven by his brain and Othello by his heart, Coriolanus follows...his gut? His first instinct?

[ profile] gileonnen makes the point that what makes Coriolanus interesting is its rejection of heroic tropes -- it's not about love or revenge or patriotism, but about how Coriolanus' actions are constantly misread as being something greater than they are. Actually, just read her entire post. She's got far more cogent thoughts on it than I do.

I'm not sure why this play isn't more popular. Possibly it is because it gets overshadowed by the better-known Roman plays, or maybe because the different levels of conflict are a bit hard to parse on first glance (Romans v. Volscians, plebes v. patricians, Coriolanus v. everybody, etc). Or possibly it's just not performed enough, though I expect that will change with the upcoming film version.

Also, Volumnia is BRILLIANT. She's got incredible power over her son and is completely unashamed of it, and powerful women in Shakespeare always make me happy.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #21: An overrated play

I'm probably going to end up burning in Shakespeare Hell for this, but The Tempest really doesn't do anything for me. I can, to an extent, appreciate it -- the language and the imagery are positively gorgeous -- but I don't love it, and I doubt I ever will.

More below. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #20: Your favourite movie adaptation of a play

To be honest, I almost put the Loncraine Richard III under this heading because it really does feel like an adaptation of Richard III that just happens to contain the same dialogue (a bit like Chimes at Midnight). But I will try to follow my own self-proclaimed definition that 'adaptation' denotes a Shakespearean plot without Shakespearean language.

And, that being the case -- and, perhaps this is a bit embarrassing -- I have to go with Ten Things I Hate About You. And not just because of Heath Ledger, although he is by no means insignificant.

Seriously, this is kind of embarrassing. But there you go. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #19: Your favourite movie version of a play - Richard III (1995)

I first ran across this film while watching the 1995-6 Oscars, oddly enough, where it was nominated for a number of different design-related awards. It didn't really register until I read the play for the first time, roughly three years later. I borrowed the film from the library and promptly fell in love.

In which I descant on why I love this film in spite of everything it cuts out. )

Although I obviously don't agree with a number of the directorial choices made in Loncraine's production, I do think it does what a feature-film version of this play ought to do -- it's entertaining, incredibly well-acted, and the alternate setting isn't just window-dressing (I'm looking at you and your ninja, Branagh). Plus, on a completely superficial note, it's just pretty.

In the end, if you're looking for a faithful, full-text adaptation with excellent acting throughout and possibly one of the most terrifying endings I have seen in Shakespeare, the 1983 BBC production is what you want. If you want a clever and interesting interpretation with a fun alternate setting, and are willing to overlook some rather egregious cuts, Loncraine is well worth a try.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Well, as [ profile] angevin2 reminded me, this is 30 Days of Shakespeare, not necessarily 30 Consecutive Days of Shakespeare. So, back to it.

It's really hard to define 'dialogue', as I discovered while trying to come up with answers for this day. Is it literally a piece of dialogue -- two lines, maybe three or four in total? Or can it encompass most of what we would think of as a scene even if it's not listed as such in the text?

Day #18: Your favourite dialogue - Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet

Much as I adore the stichomythic exchanges peppered throughout the First Tetralogy (including [ profile] a_t_rain's answer, which is one of my absolute favourites), I expect everyone is thoroughly sick of hearing about those plays, so a bit of variety wouldn't go amiss. Three selections here, in no particular order.

Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene I, the final section.

[ profile] a_t_rain has pinpointed everything I love about this scene, so I will just refer you all to her entry, which is wonderful and detailed and says everything I would have wanted to say only better :)

I love how many unexpected turns this particular dialogue takes -- Beatrice is grieving, she's furious, she's moved by Benedick's declaration but so very -- rightfully -- angry when he refuses to back it up with action. Much like Juliet, she has no interest in pretty words. The man she loves will rise to the occasion and defend a wronged woman even against his closest friends. But what makes me happiest is that Benedick does it.

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene IV

This exchange between Mercutio and Romeo, when played properly, is hysterically funny because they are both such utter dorks who love puns and bad sex jokes. Also, unexpectedly poignant, I think, but that is because I, like any sensible person, believe Mercutio fancies Romeo, and that Romeo is either completely oblivious or aware of it but unsure of what to do, especially now that Juliet has entered the picture.

Also, it is far more fun when Mercutio actually tries to bite Romeo on 'I will bite thee by the ear for that jest', which he did in the production I directed.

Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

I love the exchange here between Hamlet and Polonius at least in part because of the RSC production that had me nearly falling out of my seat from laughter. It's also one of the few instances where I like the Q1 placement; having this exchange right after 'To be or not to be' and Hamlet's rejection of Ophelia (which Polonius has already seen) makes the entire thing both completely laughable and far, far creepier. Also, Hamlet is kind of a jerk, but we knew that already.

I can think of half a dozen other bits of dialogue that I love probably as much as these, but I will stop now. :)

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Because we were travelling yesterday and I did not have time.

Day #16: Your first play you saw - Macbeth

I'm not counting film versions, so the first Shakespeare play I ever saw was in March of 1998 when I visited London for the first time. My father and I had just arrived on the red-eye that morning and happened to be wandering round Shaftesbury Avenue when we saw a billboard for a production of Macbeth at the Queen's Theatre. And that, as they say, was that.

Rufus Sewell (who I had, and still have, quite a thing for) was playing Macbeth, with Sally Dexter as Lady Macbeth. To be honest, there are large chunks of the production that I do not remember, but I recall the banquet scene being brilliant, along with pretty much any scene where Macbeth and Lady Macbeth shared the stage -- their chemistry was positively sizzling, which is odd, considering Lady M. spends most of her time telling her husband off for being unmanly.

Rather to my shame, I did end up falling asleep during the scene where Macduff and Malcolm talk about nothing while watching grass grow, but I have no idea if there is any way to make that scene interesting without cutting about half of it. Also, I can partly blame jetlag since it was our first day in London.

Day #17: Your favourite speech - Romeo and Juliet and 3 Henry VI

Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene II )

First of all, this speech is possibly one of the sexiest in Shakespeare, at least as far as I'm concerned. The imagery is just glorious, and I love all the different facets we see of Juliet here -- how incredibly alive she is and glorying in the prospect of everything she has waiting for her -- and, of course, the horrible irony of the fight the audience has just witnessed that is about to completely shatter her world and her expectations.

And now for something completely different...3 Henry VI, Act V, Scene VI )

I came very close to picking the monologue from Act III, Scene II, but I'd already talked about that on Day 3 when I discussed Richard in detail. This soliloquy is in some ways an extension of that, but there is an incredible, corrosive bitterness here that's muted in the earlier speech, or at least channelled into that almost playful anticipation with which Richard plots his coup d'état. Here, he's standing over the bloody corpse of Henry VI (the same corpse that will bleed in his presence in Richard III), having taken the first two steps toward the crown.

It is also entirely possible that my love for this speech comes from Jonathan Slinger's performance in the RSC Histories Cycle. Here's what I said about it after seeing it for the first time:

Henry's death scene was utterly riveting. So many links to Richard II's death, down to the circle of blood when he was dragged offstage. But Richard's monologue after the murder -- wow. Just wow. His bitterness, how trapped he seems to be, it comes out so strongly here, even more so than in the long speech in 3.2. His face and form have become who he is but not by choice. Everyone assumes he is evil because he is deformed. I actually felt genuinely sorry for him, in spite of Henry's body lying there in front of him. There was so much self-loathing in that speech. And then he dragged Henry -- poor, helpless Henry -- offstage, and everyone suddenly remembered he's sort of a homicidal maniac.

What's also worth noting is that Richard is the only person in the entire trilogy who never gets the benefit of the doubt from Henry VI. Everybody else -- York, Suffolk, Margaret, Edward, even Beaufort -- at least gets some moment in which Henry tries to understand them or sympathise with them. Richard never gets that. And, granted, perhaps that is because this is the only scene where they're together for any length of time, and Richard has just killed Henry's son, but Henry is just so mean to him it's almost astonishing. Especially since it's Henry -- sweet, unassuming, adorable, faily Henry., that went on longer than I'd expected.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #15: The first play you read - Romeo and Juliet

In which I attempt to articulate why I love Romeo and Juliet. )

Also, even though [ profile] angevin2 noted this in her post about romantic scenes, I had to add it here because every single time I read these lines, I get chills:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Those are among my favourite lines in Shakespeare, but they are neither a couplet, nor a speech, nor a single line, so I am going to list them here anyway.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #14: Your favourite fight scene - 1 Henry IV and 3 Henry VI

I'm really drawing a blank on this one, mostly because fight scenes are so completely dependent on performance and most action sequences in Shakespeare can turn out brilliantly, horribly, or anywhere in between. One need only look at the Evil Shakespeare Overlord List.

That being said, it probably comes as no surprise to anybody that my favourite fight scenes come from the histories.

The Battles of Shrewsbury and Tewkesbury. Apparently the Welsh border is a running theme. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Because I completely forgot to post Day 12 yesterday, you get two today. Lucky you! ;)

Day #13: Your favourite romantic scene - As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I

No, faith, die by attorney. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #12: Your favourite scene

Damn you, meme, how dare you make me choose? I will arbitrarily narrow it down to...five. Okay, five. In no particular order.

In which we find a representative sampling )

ETA: So, [ profile] angevin2 had the brilliant idea of posting bits from various productions that are up on YouTube. I am attempting to edit this post accordingly, so watch this space if you're interested!

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #11: Your least favourite play - The Taming of the Shrew

This is in spite of the fact that the first time I ever performed Shakespeare was in my tenth-grade English class, doing Shrew, Act IV, Scene I. The more problematic aspects of the scene -- like the fact that Petruchio was literally starving Kate -- completely passed me by, so happy was I to be actually performing Shakespeare. There were maybe four groups in total in my class, and ours came out with fully memorised lines, costumes, and props. Everyone was very happy we went last. ;)

It was only when I read the play again in undergrad that I realised I didn't really find it very funny at all. The only exception is the sun/moon exchange in Act IV, Scene V, which can be hilarious in performance. The rest of it just seems like a series of vignettes about domestic abuse that are somehow meant to be amusing. I have been told that there are productions that take up this aspect of the play and do very interesting things with it, and I'm more than willing to be convinced that I'm wrong to dislike it. (I didn't like Winter's Tale at all, for instance, before seeing it in performance.)

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
This is me catching up. Two in one day! But, of course, this one was easy. ;)

Day #10: Your favourite history - The Henry VI trilogy

Again, I am blatantly cheating since, based on my Day 1 answer, this entry ought to be about Richard III. But these plays never get enough love, so there.

Yeah, some of the verse is embarrassing. And it seems probable that Shakespeare wasn't fully responsible for them. But I LOVE THESE PLAYS. Also, this got very long, hence the cut. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Alas, there was a wagon and I fell off, mostly because I couldn't decide on my favourite tragedy. So I will attempt to do so for purposes of this post.

Day #9: Your favourite tragedy - King Lear
Although with a fair bit of wittering about Othello as well. )

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #8: Your favourite comedy - Much Ado About Nothing

Twelfth Night is one of my favourite memories from undergrad -- it was my first big role and the cast had this really amazing rapport that lasted long after the production ended. Possibly I only feel this way because I was seventeen years old and life had been extremely boring before that point. ;)

That being said, my favourite Shakespearean comedy probably has to be Much Ado About Nothing. I could honestly watch Benedick and Beatrice forever. The year after Twelfth Night, I played Don Pedro in a gender-blind production and I must admit it still stings a bit that I never managed to play Beatrice. I don't know if I'd be any good, but she's just such a wonderful role and such a gift to an actress. And she and Benedick are such an easy couple to root for.

But the play has its darker aspects too, and that is part of what I love about it. The entire Hero-Claudio-Don John plotline reads like a test scenario for Iago's machinations in Othello, only in this case, the coincidences align just enough that things don't end in blood. One of the things I loved about the National Theatre's production that I saw in early 2008 was that they included this lovely, wordless moment between Hero and Leonato as Claudio is praying over her supposed grave where she watches him and, at the very end, gives this little nod to her father. Even if it's hard to necessarily believe in any great depth of affection between Hero and Claudio, considering they've known one another for a few days at most, there was something reassuring in that. (Of course, the absolutely best thing about that production was the chemistry between Simon Russell Beale as Benedick and Zoë Wanamaker as Beatrice, who were both just amazing.)

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
First, a shortish report on last night, when I joined [ profile] cisic and [ profile] sadcypress for a production of The Comedy of Errors at Baltimore Shakespeare Festival.
See below )

And today's Shakespeare meme response.

Day #7: Your favourite clown

Hmm. Clowns are hard. No, seriously, they are. In my case, the primary problem is that it is very hard for me personally to grasp them on the page. Some people can -- and I'm envious of them. So I almost need to restrict myself to plays I've either seen or performed.

Falstaff is tempting, but I really don't think he's a clown as such. I'm not sure why this is the case -- and please feel free to argue it if you'd like! -- but in my head, he's something else altogether.

I may need to ultimately go with Feste. He was the first clown I legitimately liked after seeing the Trevor Nunn film where he was played by Ben Kingsley. As I grew to know the play better, especially after being in a production in undergrad, I realised how callous and cruel a clown Feste actually was, but that does in a way seem to be the purpose of a clown. To stand aside from the rest of the characters and turn them into laughingstocks for the audience's pleasure. [ profile] angevin2's choice of Bottom overturns this quite a bit, making himself the butt (ha) of the joke more often than not. And I do like Touchstone in As You Like It as well, but there's just something about Feste's comic distance that I find oddly fascinating and even a little bit sad; that all his wit and verve is almost too sharp to be comfortable.

Full List of Questions )
lareinenoire: (Elizabeth)
Day #6: Your favourite villainess female villain

[ profile] angevin2 made a great post on the general awesome that is Joan la Pucelle, and at the risk of basically repeating everything she said, I would pretty much agree with her assessment. :) Although I don't like Joan as much as Margaret, I don't necessarily believe Margaret is a villain. What seems to set Joan apart from everybody else is that she is always taking on significations that are diametrically opposed to what the audience is meant to see as Good. Whether it is her foreignness, or that she's female, or that she wears armour and kills people, or that she's completely suborned the Dauphin, or that she summons demons in her spare time, everything about Joan is meant to imply that she overturns the Natural Order of Things.

(Of course, this is fascinating when you put Joan next to Elizabeth I, but Shakespeare does seem to go out of his way to point out that YES, BUT SHE IS FRENCH, LA LA LA, CAN'T HEAR YOU.)

It's a simplistic designation, but there's nothing in the play that even hints otherwise. That being said, the RSC actually succeeded in making her final scenes incredibly harrowing, so this is clearly something that can be manipulated in the context of performance.

What I like about Joan, though, is that she's very conscious of the role she is playing -- much like Richard later on -- and she plays it to the hilt. And her scenes are just so much fun. Really. The Monty Python Taunting Frenchmen jokes just write themselves.

All that being said, Tamora from Titus Andronicus is a very close second.

Full List of Questions )


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