Things That Delight Me: Playing Shakespeare


If you’re a Shakespeare fan (i.e.: you speak English) and you haven’t ever heard of this before, I’ve probably just altered your holiday gift request list.

“Playing Shakespeare” is a master-class about: performing Shakespeare! It was shot back in 1982, with John Barton (who appears to be stuck in 1972) and elements of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s shot in some backstage area and it’s just the actors jamming with roles that Barton throws at them. There are familiar faces: Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard…

I’m not interested in playing in any more Shakespeare plays (I was Lysander in a high school production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”) but it’s just great fun to watch really good actors talking about their craft.

Here, a very, Ian McKellen sort of Ian McKellen does a couple run-throughs of a line:

The whole show is pretty much nothing but that sort of Shakespeary goodness. Every time I watch any of it, I wish I could make something similar, that’d be a directing class for summer blockbuster directors.

Barton: “And now: explosions.”
Michael Bay: “Before the car chase or after?”
Barton: “It’s all one big car chase, so maybe during the closing credits.”
Michael Bay: “How about during the entire car chase?”

It even has a slightly overlong skit in which Stephen Fry parodies a Shakespearean acting coach, at Hugh Laurie.

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Amazon: Playing Shakespeare (DVD set)

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    it’s just great fun to watch really good actors talking about their craft.

    Playwrights, directors, authors too. That’s why I love watching the PBS shows Theater Talk (despite the odious Michael Riedel) and Well Read.

  2. cartomancer says

    Ah, the Bard. I had great fun playing Prospero and Friar Lawrence in my old amateur acting days. I prefer directing students in Greek plays nowadays, but I’ll never turn down a chance to ham it up abominably if offered.

    Respected linguistics professor David Crystal, and his actor son, have a presentation on how it would have actually sounded in the original 16th century English too. It’s rather different from what most plummy-voiced thesps these days will do.

  3. says

    cartomancer@#2:
    Respected linguistics professor David Crystal, and his actor son, have a presentation on how it would have actually sounded in the original 16th century English too. It’s rather different from what most plummy-voiced thesps these days will do.

    If I recall correctly, they identified a fair number of bawdy jokes that we normally don’t hear because of how English is pronounced nowadays. I sure do love this stuff.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    I found a great gift for a friend recently. Shakespeare is generally considered the greatest playwright ever working in the English language. I found a copy of Shakespeare’s works – translated into German.

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