Shot in Stratford… thirty-four years ago

4th June 2012

Today on the Screen Plays blog I discussed the new Network DVD release of the 1978 television presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors. I tend not to replicate copy  between the blogs, but this version of the theatre production that premiered in 1976 reveals both stage and television versions as curious – and in many ways unsatisfying – hybrids. And given that over this weekend we have been in Stratford filming a hybrid version of the RSC’s Julius Caesar, it feels timely to review the disc – and to post my thoughts here as well. read more »

‘For this time I will leave you’

3rd June 2012

We left Stratford today having completed all our filming for our Royal Shakespeare Company Julius Caesar. And now we have a quite extraordinarily short time to bring it all together in the edit. I can’t confirm exactly when the BBC Four transmission will be, but it is highly likely to be before the end of this month. As you may already know, we filmed most of this new Royal Shakespeare Company production on location a month or so ago. Then for the last few days we set up camp in the backstage right of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to film just two main scenes, together with the very end of the play, from the stage. We did a camera rehearsal on Friday, and then yesterday we shot the relevant parts of both the matinee and the evening performance – and pretty remarkable it was too. read more »

Today’s ten Julius Caesar thoughts

2nd June 2012

Apologies (and how familiar is this) for the lack of posts. We have been preparing the final part of the filming of the RSC’s new Julius Caesar, which we are doing this weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I’ll try to draw together here a bunch – well, ten, or nearly so – of bits and pieces about the production, with additional links and suggestions. And let’s start with my sense of how extraordinarily disconcerting it was to watch the first stage preview in Stratford on Monday… read more »

The Space: 21 days later

21st May 2012

Time for another update on the pop-up arts offering The Space (go here and here for earlier bulletins). This is the Arts Council England initiative with the BBC which I gather is likely – after its six month trial – to become a permanent fixture of our media world. Three weeks in, what’s hot on The Space and what’s most definitely not? Well, it still feels like an online broadcaster, with next-to-no capability for engagement, comment, dialogue or personalisation. And given its genesis, that feels like a missed opportunity. But the range of elements is wider than at launch and – pleasingly – many are weirder. There is one out and out triumph, plus some stuff that is intriguing or interesting, one or two irritating things, and then one or two more that have not come off but which were definitely worth trying. At day 21, you can feel that it is beginning to deserve more (and occasionally less) than that fence-sitting adjective, ‘promising’. Across the jump are ten reasons why. read more »

‘A tongue shriller than all the music’

19th May 2012

This is the RSC’s neat and punchy new trailer for the stage production of Julius Caesar:

How odd – and interesting – it is to see a trailer for something with which, through the film version, we are so closely associated, and yet which comes as a complete surprise. Our edit is going well and on Monday morning we are sitting down with director Greg Doran to watch something close to the final cut from end to end. Meanwhile, take a look also at the engaging blog post Julius Caesar visits Lambeth College and at a great set of rehearsal photographs by Kwame Lestrade, on of which with Cyril Nri (Cassius) is above.

The NPG’s big, fat Coronation, or…

18th May 2012

… the 1970s were not in widescreen. Let’s return to a favourite topic for this blog, even if it is one that I know comes across as a little arcane. Yes indeed, this is another post about frame ratios (see here and here). And we should start at the National Portrait Gallery, which this week opened The Queen: Art and Image. Will Self in the Guardian was rather wonderfully underwhelmed: ‘The truth is that the pictures are almost insufferably dull. If you’re a monarchist you’d be better off staying at home, painting a Union flag on your living room wall and watching it dry than venturing out to see this tat.’ In fact the show is a modest yet interesting assembly of images of Her Majesty from both the art world and the wider one beyond. At Tuesday night’s opening, it also featured some film footage from 1953 of a distinctly podgy Queen. read more »

The week’s links 13-19/5

15th May 2012

I’m still not sure how best to create/curate a weekly collection of links that is useful to others. The process, however, is important to me as a way of gathering together pieces that I find useful or stimulating and so I am going to persevere. Adding new links during the week also seems to work well for me, so again I am going to continue with that for the next few weeks – sometimes jumping this page back to the top of the blog and alays keeping it as one of the blog’s ‘top three’ throughout the seven days. Across the jump you will find interesting stuff about experimental film, early photography, contemporary television and the history of colour in film. [Updated Friday 6.00am.]
Image: a framegrab detail from The Great Blondin, a triptych film by Phil Solomon (see David Bordwell link below). read more »

Three Henrys, two hits

14th May 2012

To Shakespeare’s Globe on a sunny Sunday morning. This is my first live encounter with the Globe to Globe season of all 37 plays by 37 companies in 37 languages. (I have also been watching recordings of some of the productions on The Space.) There are only the three today: Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3, performed in Serbian, Albanian and Macedonian. These plays are among the most under-performed and under-valued in the canon, the latter adjective a judgement that once again has been confirmed nearly ten hours after we start. By which time we have seen two strong, innovative productions and one that disappoints. Once again, too, I have found that after all these years (I have been going to the Globe since 1998) I remain ambivalent about it as a place to watch plays. read more »

‘A happy and a joyful time’

12th May 2012

So, Shakespeare lovers, just how great a time is this! Generations to come shall likely think themselves accursed they were not here. In the theatre we have the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 and the Globe to Globe season (which may or may not be linked – it’s hard to tell from their respective websites). Having sampled Two Roses for Richard III from the former (some great moments but also a bit hard going at times), tomorrow I’m off to Shakespeare’s Globe for the Henry VI trilogy played – in Serbian, Albanian and Macedonian – by companies from the Balkans. Remember too that recordings of all the Globe to Globe presentations are appearing on The SpacePericles from the National Theatre of Greece has just been posted. And as you may also have noticed the BBC is more than doing its bit with the Shakespeare Unlocked season. Today’s post rounds up my reactions to some of the recent offerings, including The King and the Playwright, Shakespeare in Italy and Shakespeare’s Restless World. read more »

Second thoughts on The Space

8th May 2012

I know it’s early days and there is still the best part of six months to go, and there is a ton of great stuff to come, and cool new features are on the way including personalisation, and that I shouldn’t rush to judgement, but… a week in I have to say I am a touch underwhelmed by The Space. I recognise too that there’s a great team working incredibly hard to an impossible schedule and that, in many ways, it is extraordinary for Arts Council England and the BBC to have achieved this collaboration at all. But at the same time what comes off the screen needs to be taken on. I’ll continue to be a dedicated follower of The Space, and I’ll continue to blog about it, but these are initial thoughts after seven days. read more »