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Archive for the ‘Shakespeare’ Category

Al fresco entertainment at Shakespeare's Birthplace. Picture by my husband, Paul

This is slightly off-topic for a costume dramas blog, but I just wanted to say that I had a great time in Stratford upon Avon – we were actually staying  just outside in a small village, which was probably just as well, as Stratford itself is rather overwhelming!  Since I was a tourist myself I’m clearly not in a position to complain about the tourists (though I did briefly live in the area as a child, in Henley on Arden, so maybe I can claim a local link), but the sheer numbers made it difficult to get around the town at times.

I didn’t actually look round the Birthplace Museum, as the queues were enormous, but my husband and daughter, Charlotte, did brave it while I took my son to a local butterfly museum, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Charlotte thought it was too focused on audio-visual items rather than letting her stop and see the First Folio, but the gardens were nice and they enjoyed watching a couple of  actors putting on an al fresco show.

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I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday near Stratford upon Avon. While staying there, I was lucky enough to see two excellent RSC productions, of The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It - and, keeping up the Shakespearean theme, also watched a DVD of Trevor Nunn’s movie of Twelfth Night.  This must be one of my favourites out of the modern films of Shakespeare that I’ve seen, and it would be interesting to know how much is taken from Nunn’s stage productions.

Nunn’s version of Illyria looks visually sumptuous, with turbulent Cornish seascapes and beautiful countryside, while the costumes seem vaguely Victorian rather than Elizabethan. The music, by Sean Davey, adds to the haunting atmosphere. I was surprised at the way the film starts with the play’s “back story”, of the shipwreck – and the startling glimpse of Steven Mackintosh as Sebastian and Imogen Stubbs as Viola both dressed as women, taking part in an on-board entertainment. This seems to have been included to emphasise the play’s element of cross-dressing and to balance against the scene near the end where the two are seen both dressed identically as men.

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Thanks very much to everyone for the suggestions about which Shakespeare productions to watch, which should keep me going for ages! This will just be a short posting to say that I’ve watched the Kenneth Branagh production of As You Like It on DVD, and enjoyed it very much. I have also recently seen a much earlier version, the 1936 production with Laurence Olivier as Orlando, which I wrote about over on my old movies blog - Olivier is great as always, but the film seems rather stilted and also cuts out great chunks of the play. This modern version keeps much more of Shakespeare’s text – watching it, I realised that several important characters had been completely cut out of the 30s movie.

The most immediately striking thing about Branagh’s version is the setting, moving the Forest of Arden to 19th-century Japan – where the characters are re-invented as members of a self-governing enclave of British merchants.  However, it was actually filmed in the UK with oriental touches like samurai warriors added in. This makes for beautiful costumes, but I’m not sure the Japanese element adds much apart from that – especially as so much of it takes place in the forest, which somehow looks very English. It does mean that the wrestlers become Sumo wrestlers, which is an intriguing idea.
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David Tennant as Hamlet

Shakespeare is on my mind at the moment as next month I’ll be going on holiday to the Cotswolds and visiting Stratford upon Avon – and seeing an RSC production of  The Winter’s Tale while  I’m there. I was supposed to see an open-air forest production of the same play last year but we couldn’t go as my husband had (suspected) swine flu, so it will be good to see it this year instead.:)

Anyway, I was just thinking it would be nice to watch some Shakespeare productions on film to get me in the mood before going and I’ll probably write (hopefully short) pieces about anything I watch. Just wondering if anyone has any recommendations for productions they especially liked. I recently liked the TV version of  the RSC production of Hamlet starring David Tennant, which has come up in discussion on a previous posting here – ok, so this is partly an excuse to post a picture of Tennant, who is one of my favourite actors, but hasn’t done much period drama.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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