Thursday, 24 June 2010

As You Like It.

In possibly my greatest football avoiding stunt yet, I went to the theatre yesterday at the precise time the England match was on, to see Sam Mendes' production of As You Like It at the Old Vic.

I'm not a theatre buff AT ALL and haven't watched any Shakespeare since school – although I've read a bit and do love that witty bard – so was slightly apprehensive about whether I was going to enjoy it. I generally share Paul McCartney's view on theatre. 'The only thing I get from the theatre is a sore arse.' Although that was in 1967. He's probably a complete luvvie, now.

Happily, whether it was Mendes' treatment of the play, or the actors abilities to make the verse seem so modern through their intonation and delivery, I don't know, but it was hilarious and a joy to watch. Stephen Dillane's performance as Jacques, the melancholy philosopher, was a particular treat as he rakishly channeled Bob Dylan and Elvis. And hot new Shakespearean actors on the block Christian Camargo and Juliet Rylance, who play lovers Orlando and Rosalind, are newly-weds in real life which added an interesting dynamic.

It was just a delight to hear Shakespeare's wit come alive, from his jibes at women 'Do you not know I am a woman? When I think, I must speak', through to Jacques famous and wonderfully cynical soliloquy, 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts...'.

Anyway, you know all about this, as you all know a lot more about theatre than me. So what I need you to tell me now is which Shakespeare productions I need to watch that are available on DVD. I don't really do period dramas so have completely missed out on this genre. I know you lot will know so please share!

[I got free tickets through See Film First, which I highly recommend signing up to for last minute cinema, music and theatre freebies.]

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times


  1. It's not theatre and this might be considered a total cheese fest by real Shakespeare fans but I have a soft spot for the Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson film of Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Have you seen it? The Italian landscape and house are fantastic as are the cast.

  2. I haven't seen it and that sounds perfect - thank you!

  3. Othello with Kenneth Branagh and Laurence Fishburne is great!

  4. I saw this production when they performed it in New York this past winter before traveling over to London to put it up. I really enjoyed it! I also just came off of doing this show as well, I love me some Shakespeare!

    Its a total cheesefest but have you seen Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet? Kenneth Branagh did an adaptation of As You Like It set in Japan with Kevin Kline as Jacques and my favorites are Alfred Molina and Janet McTeer as Touchstone and Audrey! There is also A Midsummer Night's Dream with Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline. And the OLD Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Kate and Pertruchio. I could go on and on!

  5. Definitely the Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet.

    The fascist-era Richard III, with Ian McKellen ('Now is the winter of our discontent' delivered in the toilets) is really good. And the Olivier one is too, now that I think about it.

    Also: the Russian Hamlet, by Kosintsev; Kurosawa's Ran and Throne of Blood, which are the Japanese samurai adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth.

    Reckon most cinema Shakespeare tends to be a bit literal, though; the filmed BBC/RSC adaptations probably make up in acting for what they don't have in cinematography.

    And, needless to say, the Schwarzenegger Hamlet:

  6. Oh, and Orson Welles's Othello (filmed in Essaouira, Morocco). And Forbidden Planet, which is The Tempest with theremins, Freud and retro-futurist robots.

  7. With Mendes directing and Stephen Dillane starring, it was bound to be good. I saw Stephen Dillane do Hamlet and he was amazing! The last Shakespeare I saw was my friend Jonathan Slinger play Richard III in an RSC production at the Roundhouse. It was brilliant and contemporary and it totally blew me away. I moaned to start with that I needed valium to sit through 3 1/2 hours of Shakespeare... It was a sunny day and I'd been dragged out the garden. The costume designer did an amazing job; Richard wore everything from bondage trousers to a gold suit and pimp shoes and they even managed to get some techno in there! If it's acted properly you understand every word perfectly don't you? xx

  8. PS. If you'd like a list of non-Shakespearean but brilliant period dramas give me a shout. I have a huge selection on dvd that you are very welcome to borrow xx

  9. The Henry V with, again, Mr. Branagh. Brilliant.

  10. I don't really rate Kenneth Branagh. As an oldie, I prefer the Laurence Olivier Hamlet and Henry V - both very atmospheric.

  11. i love all the old Shakespeare films with Laurence Olivier in - Othello is a filmed version of the stage production i think at the national, King Lear, Richard III. Brilliant.

    Zefirelli's magical, beautiful version of Romeo and Juliet kicks anything with Leonardo di Caprio in it into next week.

    Macbeth is on at the Globe until Sunday, I think, and I've heard amazing reviews - sadly i dont have time to go before then though, boo! I've never seen As You Like It - keen to catch this one.

  12. Thanks ladies (and Phil). I knew you lot would sort me out, this is the best bit about having this blog. :) I'm going to check all of these recommendations out. Thank you!

  13. Hello :) First time on your blog, thought I'd recommend Trevor Nunn's 'Twelfth Night' starring Imogen Stubbs and Helene Bonham Carter. It's a fun adaptation, with a great cast.

    Also, I haven't seen it lately but I remember being really strongly affected by a fantastic version of Othello, starring Eamonn Walker, Christopher Eccleston and Keeley Hawes. It is, however, in modern English, not Shakespeare's original words... but well worth a watch.

    Sarah :)

  14. Right I'm late to the party but firstly am jealous you've been already (I'm a very big Dillane fan, he's a wonderful and underappreciated actor) and secondly- I'm really glad the play reignited your interest in Shakespeare- although it's hard it's just endlessly brilliant, wise, comforting, challenging.

    For films I agree the Brannah Much Ado is a real joy- okay it's a bit luvvie ish but it's full of humour and really well done.

  15. I am a theatre buff, and I ADORE Shakespeare! However, something unfortunate I must admit to is that I've never seen one of his plays. I'm going to the Globe this summer to see Harold Brenton's Anne Boylen, and I think its a crime my first time there will be not to see Shakespeare!