14th January 2013

A number of reviews have appeared in the past few weeks of two recent projects from Illuminations: the Royal Shakespeare Company Julius Caesar on DVD (above) and The Sonnets by William Shakespeare, our collaboration with Touch Press, Faber and The Arden Shakespeare. In case you need reminding, here is the trailer for the DVD of Julius Caesar, which is available for purchase here. After you have taken a look, click across the jump to read extracts from the glowing reviews.

Annie Martirosyan for The Huffington Post a glowing piece about the film and its DVD release. In RSC’s African Caesar – A Production With Flying Colours, she enthuses that,

The film brilliantly captures the spirit of the theatre. Some scenes are more cinematic, but the overall ambience is still theatrical. Ray Fearon as Mark Antony is very charismatic, appealing and genuine. His ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ speech is electrifying. The actor strives to send the message through not only to the Romans and his immediate audience but to all potential ear lenders. With sweat and tears, this Antony is emotional, sensitive and definitive.

With praise too for Paterson Joseph as Brutus, Cyril Nri’s Cassius and the performance of Jeffery Kissoon as Caesar, Annie Martirosyan is particularly enthusiastic about ‘the brilliant director’. As she says,

Gregory Doran’s source of inspiration being Nelson Mandela’s reading of Shakespeare’s play in prison is fascinating. It is a wonder how natural Shakespeare’s timeless language gushes from the mouths of the ‘black Romans’ in semi-modernised costumes. If Julius Caesar were the only play the phenomenal Gregory Doran had ever directed, he would still contend for the title of the best Shakespeare director ever.

Patrick Stewart in The Sonnets for iPad from Touch Press on Vimeo.

Just before Christmas The Sonnets by William Shakespeare (just £9.99 from the iTunes App Store) was chosen by the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond as one of his iOS apps of the year, which he described like this:

Some of the greatest poetry ever written is collected and brought to life in this brilliant app. It contains the text of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, of course, as well as analysis from the Arden Shakespeare and witty notes on each one from poet Don Paterson. However, the heart of the app are the readings from the likes of Dominic West, Sir Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry. In all, there are two-and-a-half hours of video, making this a highly accesible way to discover – or re-discover – Shakespeare’s work.

There was considerable enthusiasm too for The Sonnets by William Shakespeare from the Daily Mail which listed the app in the No. 1 position in a feature with the catchy (and presumably SEO friendly) title Don’t worry, be APPY: Create your own masterpieces, bring the Bard to life and take a tour of the globe – banish boredom forever with part two of our glorious app guide. Here’s David Thomas and Ann Shooter’s reasons for ‘Why we love it’:

All the Bard’s 14-line mini masterpieces are read by a stellar collection of actors – including Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, Harriet Walter, Siân Phillips, Dominic West and David Tennant – and personalities including the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and a smattering of Professors of English.

It’s a gorgeous, high-class production, and if the readings of the sonnets don’t convey the meaning of Shakespeare’s words, there are written texts that come with line-by-line explanations. For students of Shakespeare this provides a great way to learn. For the rest of us, it’s a profoundly pleasurable way of experiencing one of the greatest collections of poetry in the English language, or any other.

In December there was also a more detailed review of The Sonnets by William Shakespeare by Martin Toseland and Alex Peake Tomkinson for The Literary Platform. 

Using the app couldn’t be easier – you can choose how to access the poems by any number of routes (performances, facsimile, modern text) and flick seamlessly through, search for particular words and compile a list of your favourites. The performers also nominate their own favourites.

… Shakespeare’s Sonnets is an ambitiously conceived, superbly executed app. It embraces technology but not in such a way that the work is lost. Faber, Touch Press, Illuminations and the Arden Shakespeare have made absolutely sure the work is always to the fore – helping the reader to understand and enjoy the sonnets in new ways. Highly recommended.


  1. craig melson says:

    the Sonnets is awesome- though when i search for it on ipad it never comes up!

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