Friday, 2 May 2014

What Is Shakespeare's Greatest Play: Part III

To mark William Shakespeare's 450th birthday (generally believed to be April 23rd), Portsmouth Point blog asked PGS staff to tell us their favourite (and least favourite) Shakespeare plays, favourite characters and favourite productions. Here are responses from Mr Thomas, Mrs Bell and Mr Priory.

See selections by Ms Burden, Mrs Walsh and Mr Lister here.
See selections by Mr Richardson, Mrs Godfree and Mr Burkinshaw here.


Mr Thomas

Alex Jennings as Hamlet, Susannah York as the Queen (RSC production)

What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
Merchant of Venice, mainly because I love Venice but also because of the strong characters and the morality issues that are raised over race, money lending and contracts!

What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
Anthony and Cleopatra because of a dreadful production I once saw on a hot, summer evening in London with Timothy Dalton hamming hopelessly in the lead role. It was so bad that the tragic ending descended into farce with the entire audience rolling about in fits of laughter!

Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?
I like the ones with good speeches – Henry V; Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar. Maybe not the greatest, but the greatest lines!

Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why?     
Shylock when played well – although you have to sympathise with why he is such a hardened and disliked character in the brutal, racist society he lived in.

Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?
Hamlet’s mum, the Queen of Denmark, because I saw her played by Susannah York in a touring RSC production in Plymouth and the image stays with me!

What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why (theatre, film or both - choose as many examples as you wish)?
An outdoor production of The Tempest, played  in my favourite Welsh castle, which is Llanstephan, near Carmarthen. The castle is set on a craggy rock overlooking the Towy estuary and the play was performed at dusk as the sun set over the sea.

Mrs Bell


Mark Rylance as Hamlet and Rebecca Saire as Ophelia

What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I still find Macbeth completely beguiling. It is so psychologically dark and compelling.

What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I don’t care for Measure for Measure very much: it seems lacking in either suspense or pity for the characters.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?
Shylock: a playwright’s dream. Who else but Shakespeare could have taken a stereotypical figure of hate and given him some of the most poignant lines in English verse? To fail to understand Shylock is to fail to understand humankind.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why? (unless this is also your answer to question 3)?
Iago, surely? So cruel, so purposeless, and so jealous of love…

Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?
I’d fall in love with Othello’s poetry and passion, but a safer bet would be the loyal Benedick.

What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why (theatre, film or both - choose as many examples as you wish)?
Hamlet at the Queen’s Theatre in 1988 starring Mark Rylance as Hamlet. Absolutely riveting Dane. I do maintain, however, that the greatest Polonius was the wonderful Oliver Ford Davies, on stage and screen in the RSC version of Hamlet starring David Tennant. Romeo+Juliet (Luhrman) succeeds in making the lovers truly sympathetic and was a terrific adaption. I like Orson Welles’ film version of Macbeth; perhaps a little too reverential, but with a true respect for the evil in the piece.
 


Mr Priory

Kenneth Branagh as Benedick and Emma Thompson as Beatrice
in Much Ado About Nothing
What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
'As You Like It' is well-thumbed and one of the many plays I go back to.  I relish the confusion of identities, the power of the ancient forest and the overriding sense that love will in the end prevail. 

What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
 I have enjoyed teaching 'The Taming of the Shrew' but the submission of Kate to Petruchio is difficult to accept as an entirely happy ending, just as Shylock's subjection leaves modern audiences uneasy.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?

King Lear for the blistering insight he gains into his humanity.  I can't wait to see how the Sixth Form production imagines Lear in this summer's open-air production.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why? (unless this is also your answer to question 3)?

I love the roguery of Falstaff and it is painful to see him rejected by Hal, but have always found his treatment of Hotspur's corpse on the battlefield chilling. He isn't the obvious villain, I know, but he embodies something corrupt and ultimately selfish for all his humour and lust for life.

Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?

Probably Beatrice for her independence, beauty and wit.

What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why (theatre, film or both - choose as many examples as you wish)?
I remember a wonderfully weird and eerie production of 'The Tempest' from Romania which stretched the symbolism of music in the play to extravagant extremes. I also remember watching Kenneth Branagh's film of 'Much Ado About Nothing' and realising for almost the first time just how funny Shakespeare can be.

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