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Judi Dench and Michael Williams - A bit too much "RADA and Rep"
on 30 October 2010
Judi Dench and the late Michael Williams are and were massively accomplished stalwarts of the the British stage and screen and between them accumulated a wealth of experience with some more to spare. Why is it then that I was slightly underwhelmed by this well constructed CD of recitals of their favourite poems, passages of books and of course Shakespearian plays. I think part of the reason is that its has a prevailing atmosphere which is all a bit "RADA and Rep". The tone is always nice and comfortable but never challenging and brought back memories of their comedy paring "A fine romance" which I can't say I look back on with great fondness. As such it all feels a bit smug and strangely the passages I liked most were the ones not read by Dench or Williams but by their friends John Moffatt and Alec McCowen such the lengthy extract from Alan Bennett's "The Lady in the Van"
I listened to both CDs on a longish journey and they certainly passed the time and drew from a wide gamut of sources. That said I found the experience pleasant but not inspiring. Even on passages where Dench for example reads the moving "Funeral blues" by W H Auden it didn't really stir that high on the emotional scale for example in way that John Hannah's Scottish accent worked emotional wonders in "Four weddings and a funeral". Alternatively Williams reading of "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas is where he affects that awful "actooors" voice or what a friend once called "high Thespian" which may indeed be the proper way to perform such poems but to this reviewers ears is irritating in the extreme; that said he retrieves this by some lovely "scouse" readings of the humorous poetry of the bard of Liverpool, Roger McGough. There certainly is on this CD a cornucopia of sources that will ensure that most people will find something to enjoy, but I was left with the feeling that it could have been a bit more special particularly bearing in mind calibre and pedigree of the main protagonists. Apologies if you loved it, which clearly many Amazon reviewers have, but its an honest view.