Shakespeare without Shakespeare, an idea which is...wait, wh-huh? No one sees Shakespeare for his plots (see Shaw on Shakespeare), and aren't they all taken from popular history and other writers, anyway? To put it another way, there is a reason why Shakespeare is 100 times more popular than his contemporaries; could it be writing quality? Something must have attracted this slate of actors, so let's have a look-see....MUCH: true to the spirit of the original, with more sense and less melodrama. Damian and Sarah are a charming B & B; I hope they do proper Shakespeare soon. MACBETH: McAvoy is compelling as a young foodie/butcher. But it seems a lot of fuss to make over a trendy offal-based restaurant. TAMING: anything that gives Shirley Henderson free rein is by definition excellent. Maybe one more draft, with less preaching? There is a well-placed Eddie Izzard reference. MIDSUMMER: the director says he had never yet seen a funny Shakespeare play, which is just tempting fate. And fate was tempted.
You need only a love of drama & not necessarily any knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy these classy remakes of his plays; but it will add greatly to your enjoyment of them if you can appreciate just how cleverly the BBC has integrated his originals into their modern versions. All have a lot going for them, including high-calibre scripts, production values, performances, & actors. James McAvoy, for one, deserves honourable mention for his portrayal of Macbeth; but it is Shirley Henderson & Rufus Sewell who outshine them all with their collaborative tour de force of originality, humour, & sexual energy as Petruchio & Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew”.
The pair’s rare chemistry results in a fascinating study in power versus vulnerability, provocation versus tranquility, rivalry versus respect, & the magical power of true love & passion to transcend differences & idiosyncrasies to unite even the strongest, most divergent characters. (Henderson’s own remarks about their respective roles are illuminating at http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/tamingoftheshrew/shirley_henderson.shtml.)
Ultimately, while everyone around them is settling into middling-to-dull liaisons, & despite every practical reason on earth why their relationship should fail, it persists. And although Sewell’s Petruchio & Henderson’s Kate exhibit every extreme personality conflict imaginable, they still manage to grow credibly closer into a mutually satisfying, sultry, & workable alliance. In short, their enduring romance is the stuff of extremist dreams come true & a source of renewed inspiration to those of us who prefer a challenge to mediocrity in a partner.
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