A copy of this DVD should be placed alongside the Gideon Bible in every hotel room within ten miles of Stratford Upon Avon. For this inspired collaboration by actor Simon Callow and Shakespeare expert Jonathan Bate will instantly and entertainingly provide every ounce of background information any visitor could require; greatly enhancing their visit with wonderful insights into the subject's world.
A cardboard crown, a wooden sword, a globe, four wooden school chairs and a square of light are all Simon Callow needs to weave ninety minutes of theatrical magic.
This is the story of William Shakespeare. Lines from thirty two of his most famous characters illustrate their creator's emotions as we progress through his `seven ages' of life (itself a concept in his "As You Like It").
Alongside the play extracts, own modern everyday language (peppered with topical references - one to a `property portfolio' causing particular amusement among the on screen audience) keep the production accessible and the whole moving at smart pace.
It's always a pleasure to hear Shakespeare spoken by the very best actors, but here the particular joy is having those beautiful words set in context against each period of the author's life.
The highest highlights of the enthralling ninety minutes are an hilarious `school room' sequence as the young Snail learns to play with Latin words and a one-man `balcony scene' as he learns to play with girls... Both are performed with the gentlest touch, and a command of the stage that rather make you glad this is a DVD - so that you can rewind and savour the scenes again and again.
This whole is filmed "as live," with the audience reaction and even a few vocal hesitations left in. If there is a single flaw, it is that the `interval' is not defined sufficient to make the sublime `re-entry' line sing for the home viewer quite as amusingly as it could. The fact that this single flaw is noticeable can be taken, of course, as an indicator of just what a singularly outstanding release this disc is.
Twenty minutes of extras - a short but fascinating insight into the creative process of this piece, plus three sonnets performed by Callow prolong the enjoyment.
I can only end by saying that this is the perfect souvenir for those who have seen the play `live,' a `must have' purchase for any theatre lover and the perfect introduction to England's most famous writer for absolutely everybody.