Back to the tavern

Back to the tavern

If it’s Wednesday, it must be the live broadcast day of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast of Henry IV Part II. We’re back at the Boar’s Head tavern, which is where Falstaff, Hal and the company acted out the banishment of the fat knight in Part I (below). Prepare to have your hearts broken tonight…

Cinema reviews for Henry IV

Cinema reviews for Henry IV

I am in Stratford-upon-Avon for today’s first camera rehearsal for the RSC’s live cinema presentation of Henry IV Part II on 18 June. One of the things that frustrates me about these broadcasts is that they rarely get reviewed or discussed as examples of live cinema. Part I on 14 May, however, attracted at least three substantial responses – from the Birmingham Post, from the blog But madnorthnorthwest and from academic Dr Peter Kirwan at The Bardathon:

Richard Edmonds’ 5-star review for the Birmingham Post:

 [I]n this skilful filming of the play not a word was missed, articulation was nigh perfect, the ends of lines were not dropped and so we heard our Shakespeare clearly which is surely the point of the exercise. The other great thing which a seat in the stalls cannot give us, is the intimate close-up. In the film of the play such as this, you can see the pores on an actor’s skin, almost feel his emotional suffering as the camera closes in on his eyes, and you can see the work of the costume department in detail.

 • The blog Butmadnorthnorthwest:

After the successful broadcast of Richard II last year, the RSC is now continuing with Henry IV (part 2 follows in June). Started off with a charming and informative interview of Gregory Doran (NTL, you might want to take notes of how these are done. Kudos to Suzy Klein.) who admitted having unsucessfully looked for his Falstaff until Ian McKellen called his attention to the fact he was actually living with him.

Peter Kirwan at The Bardathon:

This was the first of the ‘Live From Stratford-upon-Avon’ events that I’ve attended, the live screenings from Stratford modelled on the NT Live series that will, hopefully, by 2020 see the complete works of Shakespeare broadcast internationally from the RSC’s main stage. If the RSC wishes to remain competitive in a new market then it’s a necessary step, and it was a pleasure to see John Wyver’s team doing an extraordinary job with the filming. Despite the obvious awkwardness of filming a production performed on a thrust stage, cameras captured the fine detail that characterises Doran’s work, from the apparently suspended crown which dominated the stage at the production’s opening to the detail of Falstaff’s reaction to his dismissal by Hal.

I would be delighted to learn of any other detailed reviews, whether positive or negative.

PS. for the rationale for my new approach to the blog, go here.

Changes

Changes

To Clapham Picturehouse for Saturday night’s Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcast of Puccini’s La bohème. And “live” it most certainly was, for only around five hours earlier soprano Kristine Opolais replaced flu-stricken Anita Hartig in the main role of Mimi. Host Joyce DiDonato mentioned this in her opening remarks and then the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb went out in front of the curtain to explain the change to the house and, although he made no mention of the cameras, to the rest of the world. What made the occasion all the more remarkable was that Ms Opolais had debuted in the title role of Madame Butterfly just the previous night. The soprano went to sleep at 5am and was woken with Gelb’s request some two and a half hours later, as the New York Times reports. She acquitted herself thrillingly well, making it all rather extraordinary. And for those of us interested in live cinema the broadcast had several other notable aspects.
Read more »

Still here and now

Still here and now

On his blog Modern Art Notes the smart, provocative and always readable critic Tyler Green publishes The Monday Checklist, an invaluable weekly round-up of the visual arts. He notes new reviews, highlights Twitter and Tumblr feeds and draws attention to interesting print and digital publications. In this week’s post he links to the new online site 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated – and here I want simply to underscore Tyler Green’s recommendation and muse a bit on why I think the 1959 presentation is so interesting. First, here’s some background in the form of a film that accompanies 1959, but if you’ve never heard of Clyfford Still it might be worth reading the Wikipedia entry before watching:


Read more »

The making of the Henry IV trailer

The making of the Henry IV trailer

On Friday the Royal Shakespeare Company launched the trailer for their new productions of Henry IV Parts I and II:

Following November’s successful showing of Richard II, these new stagings will be broadcast in cinemas for Live from Stratford-upon-Avon on 14 May and 18 June in Britain, and then over the following months abroad. The broadcasts are produced by the RSC, as is the trailer, and not by Illuminations, but I am involved as the producer – and I thought it might be insteresting to share some notes about how the Henry IV trailer came together.
Read more »

An afternoon at the opera

An afternoon at the opera

3pm, and Screen 1 at Cineworld Wandsworth is perhaps one-sixth full. I am waiting for neither The Lego Movie nor Mr Peabody and Sherman - those cinemas have rather more people in them – but rather the ENO’s stand-out Peter Grimes with Stuart Skelton (above) live from the Coliseum. ‘Twas but twenty months ago that ENO artistic director John Berry told The Stage that screening productions in cinemas ‘is of no interest to me. It is not a priority. It doesn’t create new audiences either… this obsession about putting work out into the cinema can distract from making amazing quality work.’ Yet here is the company in a new partnership to screen productions in cinemas with the rather anonymous altivemedia group. Now clearly, given my close association with RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon (which is in a similar space for theatre) I’m the last person to judge this first outing objectively. Even so, here are my brief thoughts on how they got on.
Read more »

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 2

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 2

Digital Theatre were kind enough to invite me to the premiere last night at Cineworld Haymarket of their new recording of Private Lives (above). Perhaps it was unfortunate that, as I wrote in part 1 of this post, I went with the images and sounds of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon vivid in my memory. Noel Coward’s comedy is a very different beast from Shakespeare’s lyric tragedy, and the respective approaches to translating a stage production to the screen are different too. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but make comparisons throughout. Nor can my comparisons be in any sense objective, given my deep implication in the cinema broadcasts from Stratford. Yet it seems important that those of us involved in this hybrid form of ‘live cinema’ begin to develop a critical dialogue about what it is we’re doing and what – beyond the box-office – makes for success or failure.
Read more »

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 1

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 1

At lunchtime on Sunday I sat in the front row of Screen 2 at the Barbican watching – for the first time on a big screen since November – Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon. Tonight I sat in the front row of Screen 3 of Cineworld Haymarket at the premiere of Digital Theatre’s screen version of Private Lives. Two months on from making Richard II I’m still trying to organise my thoughts about it, and doubtless I’ll continue musing on Private Lives, in part because it takes such a different approach to translating a stage play for the screen. But I can’t help but say that I was once again thrilled by what the team achieved with Richard II - and remember Henry IV part one is to be broadcast on 14 May (above) - and a touch disappointed by Private Lives.
Read more »

‘Yet looks he like a king!’

‘Yet looks he like a king!’

The RSC has posted a 5-minute extract from Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon on YouTube and elsewhere, and I am delighted to embed it here. This is part of Act IV Scene 1, the deposition scene, and it gives a strong sense of the ‘look’ of the live broadcast, although inevitably it shrinks the experience from the big screen and cannot do justice to the sound mix. Below I am just starting out on a discussion of the very particular screen language of this live presentation.


Read more »

‘Let us share thy thoughts’

‘Let us share thy thoughts’

Last night saw the first round of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon Encore screenings. Which meant that I woke up to another round of wonderfully enthusiastic #RSCRichardII Twitter responses. The RSC has had a brilliant response to its request for feedback of all kinds, including the online survey here. Some of the most detailed accounts of what people thought and how the experience might be improved are on personal blogs – and these reports are invaluable to us. Below I have linked to and excerpted from nine of those that I have tracked down so far. (You can also find a full page of review and resource links here.) It can be quite hard finding blog posts like this – they tend to be a long way down in Google searches – so if there are others out there, do please let me know.

Update: in advance of the US screenings Entertainment Weekly has posted a 5-minute ‘teaser’ extract from the broadcast.


Read more »