on 6 September 2007
I was very disappointed by the Branagh musical and all the more so now I've seen again this BBC version which I did originally see when it was first shown but had forgotten all of it. Watching it again, I found it so very good that I shall probably buy a copy. You would hardly know it's the same story as the Branach. It's a courtly piece in this version as indeed it should be, full of courtly wit and style, beautifully set and dressed and perfectly acted. Branagh's version trivialises it and also commits the crime of being boring whilst Branagh is miscast as Berowne and I wasn't much impressed by any of the acting.
In this splendid Beeb version the King and young Lords are so well acted. The ladies are young but stately as they should be. The humour is light and convincing. It's a fairly insubstantial tale with very little action whilst wonderful witty talk fills the time.
So I enjoyed this immensely whilst I would happily forget Branagh's version.
on 27 June 2016
This was the first ever Shakespeare production I saw (at the age of ten, in the 1980s, when plays were more often on television) and was stunned to find the actors seemed to breathe the language exactly as I had heard it, so you can imagine how delighted I was to find a copy I could keep, at not only such good value, but also the service during purchase was exceptional, and I feel very fortunate indeed! Thank you SO much!
on 23 November 2010
This comedy is in fact an anti-comedy because it is tragic, yet it is a gem, a diamond, a beauty deep in the dark of the night. Of course Shakespeare is mocking himself and turning us into foolish turkeys and gullible geese ready to be roasted for some Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration. He does not forget any of his tricks to entertain us and to make us believe he is telling us a happy and funny story.
Four gentlemen and four gentle women, on each side one is of royal blood: the perfect structure of four plus four equal eight. But there will be no wedding except for one of the three worthies, who are five plus a woman, which makes them six, the saving gift of Solomon's wisdom, and the happy ones will be Hector/ Armado and Jaquenetta, a country lass, as a sort of killing envoi to the play that was lost anyway from the very title and its three L that sounded like a death toll over, behind and under Plymouth's Burial Hill.
But the play is a beauty, a gem and a diamond, not because it is tragic but because it is written in a language that is so beautiful and witty that we lose our wits in no time and we get some loose screws in our brains after two pages. Shakespeare accumulates sonnets and all sorts of other metaphysical poems, as brilliant as John Donne's and his own actually. Just for that pleasure to listen to the most shiny and witty language of the many past centuries, this play should be taught to every child in kindergarten. No use trying in universities: they are too old to even consider love as being a serious game with one's heart and a dangerous hunt for one's soul.
But Shakespeare uses disguises tricked and tricky of course because of the masks and the exchanged identifying presents. He also uses a play in the play with five classical heroes, Pompey, Alexander the Great, Hercules, Judas Maccabaeus and Hector of Troy and a very quick intervention of a Helen of Troy to claim her three month pregnancy. Another disrupting three. We should have known, especially after the Three Worthies, the thrice worthy gentleman, and so many triple threefold play that turns awkward and awry.
But even Shakespeare did not know how to finish his silly but witty tale. So he had a black-appareled gentleman come and disturb the fest to announce to the royal young lady there that her father the King of France had just died. And in spite of that cold shower of a news the play will find a lighter ending with a song, a sad song that parts the company, with the cuckoo on one side and the owl on the other side, spring and winter, day and night. Life is but a witty farce wrapping up a tragedy in crazy words of dereliction and savagery. The free-wheeling cuckoo becomes a danger: "Cuckoo, cuckoo'- O word of fear," and the watching nocturnal Owl that announces death in the middle of the night becomes a cry of joy: "Tu-whit, To-who'- A merry note".
Shakespeare is a genius when he wants to join in the same play the full merriment of young free-floating flotsam and jetsam of aristocratic do-nothing and worth-little social scum and the deepest grief, sorrow, pain and as many tears as possible. He is the best party pooper in the world. And we like him for that, even when he turns the sword around and makes Mercutio string witty remarks on his wound just instants before he falls and dies. Shakespeare will never die or if you prefer he has not yet found his sexton and gravedigger.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
on 30 April 2010
A critic review of this production commented that the male actors were frequently outperformed by their own wigs. I can only agree; but the blame seemed to lie more with the paceless direction than the limits of the cast. Difficult to find anything to laugh at here, yet the slowness of it allowed me time to count several jokes in the opening scene and watch each one fall flat. I was already running out of patience when we got as far as the Princess and her ladies, and this was where I switched off in disgust: yet again, rather than cast a black thespian in a black role, they chose to apply some heavy tan to a white person. Honestly, if they weren't going to at least try to respect whatever Shakespeare was trying to do, why bother at all?