Mash to the future

Mash to the future

On Thursday evening Arena premiered the first of two films looking back at the history of the National Theatre. I am going to wait for the second to air before posting about them, but I do want to look today at significant developments on the Arena website. Initiatives there seem to me to be pointing towards the future of British television.

First off, there are two mash-ups of Shakespeare speeches, both of which I have embedded across the jump. (Yes, embedded – that I think is a first for BBC content.) And it’s worth musing on each of these for a moment. One, perhaps inevitably, is Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be…’, the other is Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene. Both feature extracts from Illuminations productions, and part of why I am writing this post is to help me work out quite what I feel about that.
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‘Sound and fury’ #MIFMacbeth

‘Sound and fury’ #MIFMacbeth

To the Gate Notting Hill tonight for an NT Live encore screening of the Manchester International Festival Macbeth. I was away when this production with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston was shown live in cinemas, and so I missed the discussion that it prompted then. As I’m coming to it late, perhaps it need not detain us long, but I do want to note the things about the cinema broadcast that I thought were good – and those that for me were not so good (primarily the theatre production itself). Before that, though, you might like to read press reviews by Michael Billington for the Guardian, Kate Bassett for the Independent and Dominic Cavendish for the Telegraph, as well as Peter Kirwan’s thoughtful piece for his website The Bardathon.
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From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

Grrrr! I know, I know that you should never respond to criticism, but today I can’t resist a little rant. I am also by disposition a retiring individual not much given to trumpeting Illuminations’ achievements. But take a look at the following from Peter Stanford’s admiring interview with Sir Richard Eyre in today’s Daily Telegraph, ‘The BBC “wasn’t taking Shakespeare seriously”. Sir Richard has directed Henry IV part 1 and 2 for The Hollow Crown, the second of which is broadcast tonight on BBC Two. Stanford asks him this question:

Why, though, has he been so very keen for so long to get “proper” Shakespeare back on the BBC (as opposed to the corporation’s more recent standby, filmed versions of stage plays broadcast on BBC Four)?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am enraged by the idea (which goes unchallenged by Sir Richard) that The Hollow Crown is “proper” Shakespeare and that our Royal Shakespeare Company Hamlet with David Tennant, our Rupert Goold-directed Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, and our recent Julius Caesar, again with the RSC and like Hamlet directed by the company’s new Artistic Director Greg Doran, are somehow “standby” – and inferior, not to mention not “proper” – productions. 
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