Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

The Tempest (2013 Production/DVD)

Shakespeare’s Globe: Globe on Screen

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Enter the Globe Theatre and mingle with the members of the audience waiting in hushed anticipation. A ship is wrecked on a deserted island . . . no, not deserted after all. For this is the home of Prospero, wrongfully dispossessed Duke of Milan, his lovely daughter Miranda, the odious Caliban, and a number of spirits under Prospero’s magical control. Indeed, the storm itself that wrecked the ship was likewise under his control, and Prospero begins–with the help of the spirit Ariel–to weave events to his own liking.

Okay, so I’m one of those people who actually like Shakespeare’s work, and The Tempest is one of my favorites. So getting to see it produced in the Globe was really neat, even if it was just on DVD, and the filming was done really well to give a good feel for the place itself as well as for the performance. And yes, if I’m being completely honest, I originally picked this up because Colin Morgan plays Ariel, and I love his work so much that I’m trying to watch everything I can find that he’s in. And also yes, his performance is brilliant, very different from anything else I’ve seen him do, but perfect for the character. The casting and acting across the board was excellent, bringing a depth, humor, and interest to this play of an extent that I haven’t seen in stage productions of it previously. There were some quite interesting choices for costuming, makeup, and choreography that worked quite well (although fair warning that some of these serve to make this particular production mostly appropriate for adult audiences only). I was impressed at how much they did with so little in the way of scenery and stage space as well, making use of simple staging and imagination quite effectively. I also really loved the original musical compositions that were included. Recommended for those who enjoy The Tempest or Shakespeare’s work in general; if you don’t like them, you probably won’t enjoy this production, but if you do, it’s brilliant. (By the end of the performance, I found myself with all the adrenaline high of having attended a good play in person, just with the privacy to fangirl aloud without bothering people.)

Written by William Shakespeare/Directed by Jeremy Herrin/Music by Stephen Warbeck/Starring Roger Allam, Jason Baughan, Jessie Buckley, Sam Cox, Pip Donaghy, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Trevor Fox, James Garnon, Joshua James, William Mannering, Colin Morgan, Matthew Raymond, Sarah Sweeney, & Amanda Wilkin

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Dream Country

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 3

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

A struggling author manages to enslave a muse for his own benefit, inspiring amazing ideas but at what cost? Elsewhere, a stray cat attempts to unite a large enough group of cats to dream the same thing and thus alter reality . . . good luck with that one. Centuries before, Will Shakespeare and his motley band of players perform his Dream for an otherworldly audience. And a woman given transformative powers by the sun-god Ra is cursed to never be truly human again.

I swear, this series just keeps getting better! Dream Country is basically a short-story collection in graphic novel form, featuring four unique stories in which Morpheus is a minor character. All four are strange and unique and kind of wonderful in different ways. Which isn’t to say that they’re all happy and fun; some of them, perhaps even parts of all of them, are dark and pensive. Creative and brilliant, still. My favorite was the one featuring Shakespeare–which incidentally won a World Fantasy Award. The story itself is lovely and strange, and Charles Vess’s artwork is just perfect for it. Actually, Vess’s art is basically ideal for Gaiman’s writing in general, or at least for his fantasy; they mesh ridiculously well. The art for the whole collection is quite nice, although for the last story (the Ra one) I struggled for the first bit to figure out what on earth was actually going on. I think that’s just the story and how strange it is, mostly, though. I would highly recommend Dream Country, both for those who are in the midst of reading The Sandman as a series and for those who are just interested in a collection of independent graphic shorts by Gaiman; I don’t think the previous or future volumes are necessary to enjoy this collection.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Charles Vess, Malcolm Jones III, Kelley Jones,  & Colleen Doran/Lettered by Todd Klein

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The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wildethe importance of being earnest

My rating: 5 of 5

As an excuse to leave the dullness and responsibility of country life, Jack Worthing has invented a troublesome brother named Ernest who lives in the city–naturally when his “brother” is in trouble, he has to go to town to take care of him. While in the city, he leaves his true identity behind, going instead by the name of Ernest himself. And it is by this name that he becomes betrothed to the lovely Gwendolyn; imagine his horror when he finds that she has sworn to only ever love someone named Ernest! Later when Jack has returned to his country house and his ward, the young Cecily, he finds that his friend Algernon is onto him and has the tables on him quite dramatically by coming to visit–as Jack’s wayward brother Ernest. Worse still, Algernon and Cecily proclaim their love for each other, or rather Cecily proclaims her love for someone named “Ernest” just as Gwendolyn did. As Gwendolyn arrives at Jack’s country house, the four are in a right proper stew of lies and confusions–but perhaps the most surprising thing is how much truth has been unwittingly told as lies.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of college literature classes (because I’d rather read stories than butcher them), but I’m ever grateful to my school for introducing me to this jewel of a Victorian play. It’s this satirical, hilariously funny representation of the excesses and the absurdities of the upper classes of Victorian England, and it’s a wonderful read. (Actually, it might be even better seen on stage, but it’s fantastic to read as well.) The wordplay in the drama is brilliantly executed–the sort of stuff that will be quoted probably hundreds of years from now. (River Song even quotes it in the most recent Doctor Who Christmas special!) Some of the ideas presented are quite cutting, but they’re also absurdly funny, perhaps even more so because of how awful they are at times. It’s a lot like Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the crazy confusion that the plot becomes. And the surprise ending is ironically perfect–just what the characters deserve. I think even if you’re not much into historical plays, The Importance of Being Earnest might be worth at least trying; it’s a lot of fun.

Note: This play is old enough to be public domain and can be found for free on Google Books and on Project Gutenberg.

 

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Much Ado About Nothing

Bellwether Pictures

Directed by Joss Whedon/Produced by Joss Whedon & Kai Cole/Music by Joss Whedon/Based on the Play by William Shakespeare/Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, & Jillian Morgese

I find it probable that you have heard the tale of Beatrice and Benedick, sharp of wit and sharper of tongue, ever eager to turn the both against each other. You’ve likely heard of Beatrice’s fair and sweet cousin Hero and her love, the valiant (but too quick to jump to conclusions) Claudio. Mayhap you even know of the clever tricks that were turned against Beatrice and Benedick to soften their hearts and of the cruel tricks that were played against Hero and Claudio’s love. But I daresay you’ve never heard their tale told in quite such a manner as this. . . .

Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing was a treat from start to finish. It sticks largely with the plot–and even the wording–of the original (so yes, Shakespearean English). But he sticks the classic plot in a contemporary setting, somehow bringing the story into the present day (sort of) without verbally alluding to it at all. People are beckoned to listen to music . . . on an MP3 player. The watch manages to lock themselves out of their car. A lot of the story is carried non-verbally, while still somehow remaining true to the spirit and intent of the original. It helps that Whedon collected an amazing cast for this, most (if not all) of the major actors having worked with him before on other shows. (And may I just say, it was refreshing to see Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker get a happy ending for once!) The music chosen also set the mood excellently. And–one of the most refreshingly surprising aspects in my mind–the entire movie was in black and white! I love it!!! I will note that this is a PG-13 movie–and personally I wouldn’t share it with anyone under 16 because of a few bedroom scenes–but for adult viewers, I thing Much Ado About Nothing is an exceptional movie that I recommend highly.

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William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back

Author: Ian Doescher

Inspired by the works of William Shakespeare & George Lucas

Mayhap you’ve heard the tale of a time long ago and far away. A time when brave rebels allied themselves against an evil empire. When a beautiful princess fell in love with a (maybe) reformed smuggler. A time when great leaders trained young warriors in the hope that things may turn out differently this time. It was a time when the Force was strong both for good and evil, when a moment’s choice could alter the course of fate forever. Verily, it was a time not unlike our own. . . .

As a fan of both classic Shakespeare and of the Star Wars movies, I have loved what Doescher is doing in combining the two from his first volume, Verily, a New Hope. I think William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back is an excellent follow up, continuing in the same vein as episode four as well as including several details to add to the writing even more. There were several points I found specifically intriguing about this volume. I love the way Doescher adds in details and expressions of internal feeling that wouldn’t have fit in an action movie but are perfect in this context–they add a lot to the reader’s appreciation of the action. His use of monologuing to describe some of the action scenes (as opposed to simply including stage directions to be acted out) is also an interesting choice; it adds character to the flow of the script, I think. His choice to use haiku for Yoda’s speech was also fascinating–unexpected, for sure, but it works, breaking the reader out of his expectations of Yoda’s speech patterns and focusing on the character and wisdom he seeks to imbue upon his young pupil. Finally, let’s face it, hearing Leia and Han love-fight in Shakespearean English is something not to be missed! My general opinion is that William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back is something that will be greatly enjoyed by those who share my love for both Shakespeare and Star Wars–and completely lost on everyone else, but that’s okay, right?

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope

Author: Ian Doescher

Based on the works of William Shakespeare & George Lucas

The tale has become something of a legend: how one small rebellion held out, fighting bravely against a domineering Empire. How the Jedi were made all but extinct, yet managed to fight back against the Sith against all odds. And how one young man, hungry for adventure, found himself caught up in something far beyond himself, meeting people, braving unspeakable dangers, and growing in unexpected ways. Yet forsooth, you’ve never heard the tale told in so metric and unlikely a manner before!

Combining two such iconic and seemingly dissimilar bodies of work as those of Shakespeare and Lucas is quite a daring feat–one destined to be either brilliant or atrocious. Doescher’s work in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope is a piece of genius. It’s surprising how well the story actually fits in the style–rather I would say that the style gets out of the way and lets the story shine through, which is what all good storytelling should do. The inclusion of various Shakespearean allusions is both amusing and apt, and the use of soliloquies and asides (which obviously don’t occur in the original) provide a greater insight into the characters’ motives and emotions. I think that actually gave me a greater appreciation for a story I already love. My general conclusion is: if you like Shakespearean plays and the original Star Wars movies, you’ll likely enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope (unless you’re a purist, in which case, avoid it entirely).

Note: I want to see this performed live as an actual play now. It would be fantastic!

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King of Shadows

king of shadowsAuthor: Susan Cooper

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ever since his dad’s death, Nathan Field has thrown himself into the world of theater, so when he gets the chance to go to England and perform Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in the new Globe Theater, it’s like a dream come true. Little does he expect to get thrown, dream-like, into Shakespeare’s own day and acting troupe, performing the Dream in the original Globe! While most people would freak out to find themselves thrown back to 1599, Nat quickly adapts, finding in the place–and particularly in the person of William Shakespeare–a home the like of which he hasn’t had in quite some time.

Susan Cooper is one of the authors that I respect very much, and I always look forward to discovering her books. King of Shadows is no exception. The writing style is accessible and beautiful both, and the characters are brimming with personality. I’ve enjoyed Shakespeare’s writings for quite some time, but gained a greater appreciation for what his works say about him as a person through this story. The repetition of elements and themes found in A Midsummer Night’s Dream tie the story together well. I also appreciate that Cooper didn’t really try to explain how Nat got shunted to Shakespeare’s time, but took the trouble to provide a clear why. Meaningful and mysterious both. King of Shadows (and really everything by Susan Cooper) is certainly on my list of recommended books.

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