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Monday, 11 January 2016

Shakespeare vs. my grey cells

Perhaps I'm seeing too much Shakespeare these days and my poor old 300 kb memory isn't up to the job.

Last night it was the streamed Kenneth Branagh/Judi Dench Winter's Tale and for some time I realised I'd been confusing it with Twelfth Night. Both seasonal you could say but bad cess given the former is primarily a tragedy and the latter a comedy.

VR reminded me the last time we saw Winter's Tale was with Travelling Shakespeare at Malvern where twelve actors, all male, stretched their capacities to the limit and Hermione effected a blonde wig. Before that, perhaps ten years ago, we saw it for the first time on a DVD from our Shakespeare boxed set.

And boy did I need reminding. From both of those versions the main impression I carried away was that of Autolycus (The snapper-up of unconsidered trifles) a nomadic con-man whose role is more decorative than structural. My apologies for poncing as if I were a Shakespeare expert.

Anyway Branagh/Dench were terrific. The first half is about the evolution of Leontes' (ie, Branagh's) jealousy and its awful consequences. I know it's pretty silly to say this but Branagh was so good at minute and continuous detail that the words could have been dispensed with. Well, almost. Did you know he's a "Sir"? I wasn't even sure because he never seems to flaunt it. If a knighthood means anything then he deserves it.

But it was Judi (who's a Dame - the rather dodgy female equivalent of a Sir) who got to my heart. The final scene involves magic which risks staginess. Yet with Judi controlling the transformation (Spoiler alert, etc), the effect reduced me to tears, my second time in one week (see No Longer Just a Listener).


Sir Hugh said...

I saw the same performance a couple of weeks ago. My lasting memory was Judi spotlighted doing Time - that was MAGIC. I also have the BBC version - Margaret Tyzack is a brilliant Hermione

Avus said...

With Judi and Ken in the cast it could not go wrong, could it?

Roderick Robinson said...

Sir Hugh: The scene I refer to was doubly magic in that it was much more than a monologue: it embraced all that theatre combined with films can provide. Great words (Stone no more!), remarkable staging, dramatic tension (despite knowing the outcome), an awareness of what was going on in everyone's mind and a wonderful conclusion when Dame Judi ties up all the loose ends including her own: implying that she'll be getting herself to a nunnery (more or less) but doing so flirtatiously? ironically? and not meaning it at all. Saying in effect there is life in her yet.

Avus: No guarantee at all. Haven't you seen Dench in Mrs Thingummy Presents, about the woman who ran the oh-so-risqué Windmill Theatre. A right stone that was. And Branagh elsewhere as an unlikely LA private eye (movie title forgotten).