Finding Ernest – A Digression. Part 1 – Wide and Waste

I paused over the neatly whited-out phrase. What is that? "fart arsed" Really? The liquid paper had begun to wear away and I could just see the print underneath. The book was "Blessings in Disguise", actor Alec Guinness' breezily indirect memoirs and I was reading a copy at my local public library. An earlier library patron…

Women and Fools

King John is the Shakespeare play that no one likes, and for good reason. Not only are there no heroes, there isn't even a place for your sympathies to engage. Listening to it is like watching players of an unknown game  - you know there are rules and people are rooting, cheering, talking trash and…

Philomel (with Melody)

After a depressingly inaccessible Romeo and Juliet, the Argo recording of Midsummer Night's dream opened up like box of riches. This is far and away my favorite recording of the play, and there are some strong contenders in the audio realm (as well as some fine films). RCA Victor (1954) The success of the RCA…

Sounds Boring

"Now look. Is it a fact that you're going to marry this sap, de Beaufort?" David Niven, crashing a party, demands of the beautiful Annabella, who gazes at him through her mask. "What is sap?", she replies. Niven considers for a moment, then "Sap..sap is a man who doesn't look where he's going" The movie…

Richard II

The romantic portrait of Richard II, definitively acted by John Gielgud and echoed by Derek Jacobi decades later is that of a graceful, charming aesthete playing the role first of an all-powerful monarch and then of a pitiful martyr, all the way using poetic language to cast a spell on the audience. Gielgud especially, with a…

It’s a phase

What temporary, language-related issues was Shakespeare working through when he wrote Love's Labours Lost? Is this some final attempt to erase the stigma of a mere player daring to match wits with the university men? The taffeta phrases of the King of Navarre and his lovesick companions, the hyperverbal sallies of Don Adriano de Armado and…

Comedy of Errors

Reasons why I didn't want to like this recording. 1) The premise is profoundly, deeply idiotic. The intellect rebels at Shakespeare's decision to take Plautus' tale of twins separated at birth and...hey, it will be twice as funny if we add another set of twins separated at birth, right? Taking an ancient device and beating…

Star No Star

If ever there was a part that invited a "star" performance, it's Richard, Duke of Gloucester. It's gigantic (in Richard III alone, he has 1,171 lines in a play that's 3,609 lines long!), spread over three plays, and has multiple opportunities for an actor to indulge in thespian pyrotechnics - the wooing of Lady Anne, the…

Bunchback’d Toad

Antony Sher's Richard III was famously (and brilliantly) the "bottled spider" of Queen Margaret's curses, moving about the stage with arthropoid grace. Patrick Wymark's is her "bunchback'd toad", a croaking, earthy creature prone to sudden, calculated leaps. Angry at life, he needs the violence of war as an outlet for his rage, and the crown seems…

Titus Andronicus

The defining moment for me, listening to this recording of Shakespeare's first tragedy, came during Act III Scene 1, as Aaron the Moor presents Titus the opportunity (actually a gruesome prank) to save the lives of his sons by offering the emperor his own hand as a sacrifice. William Devlin as Titus and Tony Church as…