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Playing Shakespeare [DVD]
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A series of Shakespeare masterclasses filmed for television in 1982, featuring some of the finest actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley and Sinead Cusack.
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Top Customer Reviews
Playing Shakespeare is a collection of 9 filmed workshops at the RSC, led by co-founder John Barton. His disciples are all professional actors- you'll see many a famous face, from Patrick Stewart to Judi Dench to Peggy Ashcroft in the last episode.
The acting advice John Barton gives is simple but vital. The difference it makes in the quality of the performances of the actors is infinite. His focus on the text and the nuances of each word may seem unfashionable now when interpretation and subversion seem to be the main goal, yet it makes long, often dull speeches (like the Bishop of Canterbury's one in Henry V) seem exciting and accessible. Barton is very picky but the actors are always humble and even challenge him on some points, which he rightly accepts.
What I really love about the series, apart from some brilliant pieces of acting, as in the final scene of The Winter's Tale, is the metatheatrical quality of it. The filming emphasises the artificiality- we see mics swinging over, the cameras switching. The "set" is a ramshackle studio and the actors are often playing scenes to a rug. It's a mix of rehearsed reading and performing, all led by Barton, who is not a posturing luvvie.Read more ›
When I accidentally saw the programme, the first actor I saw was Kevin Kline performing Hamlet's famous speech and he seemed to do it to perfection. Barton thought otherwise although everything he said was positive as he gave Kline fresh approaches to the familiar lines. The next performance was so different it amazed line and the assembled group. Barton does not look like someone who should be giving masterclasses, dressed as he usually is in an ill-fitting jumper, two sizes too big, with pockets used to carrying the complete works. He obviously does not care and, after a few minutes, viewers will not either.
It is recommended to anyone with a serious interest in reading or performing Shakespeare. It is not light viewing; the actors and Barton are seriously exploring ways to perform the plays, looking for sophisticated nuances and subtle differences in how to say these famous lines.
imposes his view on actors who (in my opinion) are easily capable of interpreting the text themselves. Barton is a Shakespeare afficionado extraordinaire and his work with the actors reveals and expresses every nuance and inflection of Shakespere's verse. His exposition of the King Lear speech, 'Blow winds, and crack your cheeks' finally makes the rant bearable. His examples of how gentleness compells more than going all-out on a text, are a relevation
Judy Dench is staggering and it is no mystery why she is the grande dame of UK theatre
today. But then so are Ian McKellan, David Suchet and Ben Kinsley. Their renditions
of the speeches are insightful, compelling, moving and memorable. Indeed all the actors in the Ensemble are outstanding. In the end I preferred listening to them than to Barton.
But you can't have one without the other.
Anyone who wants a dose of Shakespeare in depth should see this series. It is intelligent, insightful and marvellous to listen to and to watch. You will also come to realise just how serious, committed and hard-working these actors are. There is nothing diletante or superficial, they get to the heart of the speeches and peel back the verse to show every
possible interpretation of it.
With that in mind, the 9 episodes are all excellent tools for gaining a brilliant grounding for some difficult problems in acting. Actually seeing how professional (let alone legendary) actors and John Barton directing is much more illuminating than any book. At the same time, the episodes are lively, funny, interesting and arresting. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the different actors and their styles, and seeing them play off one another.
My only wish is that there were more of it! But worth every penny and it comes with my great recommendations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is first class right back to the essence of playing with a master John Barton and you can spot the rising talent - it's Ben Kingsley who comes through quiet and contemplative... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Nev harvey
This was a present for an actor and will be extremely useful to them.Published 8 months ago by wordsmith
the best introduction and mast'rclass to playing Shakespeare, invaluable and insightful.Published 10 months ago by Alan Parr
It was always said that Shakespeare was always meant to be experienced live and not through reading. But what is live? Read morePublished 15 months ago by bernie