October 8th, 2008

The BBC Shakespeare

Actually, we do own five versions of Hamlet. I'd forgotten the BBC production- with Derek Jacobi- which Ailz watched by herself.

It was a great idea of the BBC's to televise the whole of Shakespeare. Trouble is they did it so badly. I've only watched a few of the productions, but they all fall into the Brookian category of "deadly theatre".  Shakespeare is too vital to be stifled altogether, but if you're going to watch these it's best to remind yourself beforehand that it's going to be like peering through a dirty window pane.  Ailz gave up on the BBC Cymbeline about a quarter of the way through.  I persisted because I really wanted to see this fascinating text acted- and the BBC's version is the only one there is.  And yes, it's slow and reverential and devoid of fun- as if everyone involved knows they're performing a weighty public service (which in a way they are)- but it's better than nothing- or at least I suppose it is.

If I were doing a complete Shakespeare for TV, the first thing I'd do would be assemble a company, including directors, designers and technicians- and give them contracts for however long the project was going to last.  Then I'd workshop and workshop and workshop- and I wouldn't start filming individual plays until we'd developed a company style and some philosophy about how best to translate these big-boned and intensely theatrical works to the intimacy of the small screen.