Thursday, 21 April 2016

What is Shakespeare's Greatest Play: Part V

To mark the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare's death (generally believed to be April 23rd, 2016), the blog asked PGS staff to tell us their favourite (and least favourite) Shakespeare plays, favourite characters and favourite productions. Here, Head Librarian Dr Webb, Mrs Burkinshaw and Ms Rickard reveal their choices. 


Dr Webb

Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello
1.      What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I do not have a particular favourite.  I enjoy Twelfth Night for the way it plays with gender roles in the story.   There are aspects I enjoy when played well.

2.      What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
The Winter's Tale - Hermione's treatment is a story of disempowerment for women and the long years of separation seem to achieve so little.

3.      Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?
 This depends so much on the portrayal, a passionate performance can be enthralling. Years ago Robert Lindsay playing Richard III made a huge impression on me for the complexity that was communicated.

4.      Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why?
Iago fills me with horror. He acts without compunction destroying the lives of those around him.

5.      Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?
I would have to combine the qualities from several characters to create something sufficiently three dimensional and attractive for love to be involved.

6.      What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why?
National Theatre's Othello with Adrian Lester in the lead role and Rory Kinnear as Iago set in a British army camp in Afghanistan.  The setting provided the perfect catalyst for Shakespeare's plot.  Iago's determination to subvert the officer's authority in the eyes of all and the mental anguish of Othello under pressure and seemingly losing his wife's loving support made perfect sense.

Mrs Burkinshaw

What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I love Richard III - the main character is so despicable and yet so witty and even charming. Much Ado About Nothing always reminds me of a wonderful summer at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, fascinated by the sparring (and the chemistry) between Benedick and Beatrice (both on and off stage).

What is your least favourite play and why?
Hamlet - the central character and Ophelia are both so irritating! (Don’t tell Mr Burkinshaw – Hamlet is his favourite play, so he might be a bit hurt).

Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why? 
Lady Macbeth is my favourite character - so strong and yet so vulnerable, villain and victim, she has lent herself to so many varied interpretations on stage and screen. Endlessly fascinating.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why?
Again, it's got to be Richard III ('Tricky Dicky'). He is utterly amoral but he also cuts through the hypocrisy and self delusion of the other characters. A charming psychopath.

Winchester Players perform Lear
at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall
What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why?
Kenneth Branagh can do no wrong: his Much Ado captures the comedy, romance and tensions of the play beautifully. His adaptation of Henry V was so much darker and more gritty than Olivier's patriotic 1940s version (which I also like), including the brutal hanging of a much-loved comic character (for minor theft) that brings home the horror of war. Branagh captures Henry's moral ambiguity brilliantly. I am also a fan of Richard Loncraine's film adaptation of Richard III, with the main character (played by Ian McKellan) charming, threatening and murdering his way to the top as a crypto-Fascist leader. On stage, the most memorable performance I have seen was Michael Gambon as Falstaff in Henry IV Parts One and Two. I have many happy memories of watching Winchester Players productions of Much Ado, Twelfth Night, The Tempest and others in the idyllic Winchester College gardens on summer evenings over the years. And one of my most enjoyable experiences was directing pupils in Othello for the Shakespeare in Schools competition a few years ago. As an English teacher, it is always good to be reminded that Shakespeare does not just belong on the page, but on the stage.

Ms Rickard

What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I'm torn between several - there are so many that are so good! I studied The Taming of the Shrew and Othello at A Level, so I love both of them because I know them so well. MacBeth also has a fantastic storyline, albeit very dark.

What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I've always struggled with A Midsummer Night's Dream - it's a popular one with so many people, but having never paid close attention to it I've found it a bit strange and hard to follow in the past.

Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?
I'm going to make a resolution to read/watch more Shakespeare before I answer this one...

Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why?
Iago is one of the greatest villains. His ability to manipulate everyone around him is second to none.


Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?
I think perhaps Othello is the character I could most easily fall in love with (there's a running theme here...). He certainly has his flaws, but at the beginning of the play it is easy to see why people love him. He is brave, charismatic, and passionate to a fault. Once upon a time, a friend asked me on a date using Othello's lines from Act 2 Scene 1 (If after every tempest come such calms.... etc). Although the date didn't work out, it still remains the most romantic way I've ever been asked out!

What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why?
I absolutely love the recent film adaptation of 'Much Ado About Nothing', directed by Joss Whedon. It was fantastically stylish, well-acted, and hilariously funny. Check it out on Netflix!







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