Thursday, 28 April 2016

What is Shakespeare's Greatest Play: Part VIII

To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death (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 choices from Mrs Kirby and Dr Purves.

Mrs Kirby

1. What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why? 
Othello - no matter how many times I teach it, I always end up reading it differently (King Lear is a close runner-up).

2. What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why? 
Merchant of Venice. I find it tedious and depressing (apologies to any Year 11 pupils currently studying it!). I've also never particularly enjoyed Cymbeline.

3.  Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why? 
Beatrice (Much Ado). She's smart, funny and refreshing.

4.  Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why? 
Iago, without question. No other villain is quite as compelling or enigmatic.

5.  Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why? 
When I was younger, I always had a soft spot for Mercutio (possibly because Romeo was unimpressive by comparison).

6. What is the best production of a Shakespeare play that you have seen and why? I was lucky enough to see Jude Law play Hamlet at the Donmar and was blown away by the whole production. My favourite film adaptations include Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and Trevor Nunn's Twelth Night.

Dr Purves

1     1. What is your favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I don’t think I have a single favourite, and it can vary so much from one production to another that I might pass on this one.

2. What is your least favourite Shakespeare play and why?
I do not feel that I know them well enough to have a least favourite overall.  From the productions I have seen my least favourite would be The Merchant of Venice.  Although this was probably less to do with the play itself and more the setting and audience.  It should have been idyllic, a ferry over to Brownsea Island on a balmy summer evening, followed by a picnic, a play, and then a ferry back to Poole.  I didn’t mind the torrential rain so much, and the bats that flew across and around the stage added to the outdoor experience, but the laughter at the most racist aspects of the play made it an unpleasant experience.

3. Who is the greatest Shakespeare character and why?
I will have to limit this to my knowledge of Shakespeare, which is not quite what the question is asking.  Furthermore, it really does depend on what is meant by great.  I would have thought that Margaret of Anjou must have a claim of some sort to being a great character, though not particularly likable.  She develops through four of the history plays, raising armies to push forward the cause of her family, striking allegiances before seeing the demise of her husband and child and ultimately cursing her enemies.

4. Who is the greatest Shakespeare villain and why?
Richard III: single minded, malevolent and genuinely scary!

5.  Which Shakespearean character would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?
One of the strong female characters, so perhaps Viola from Twelfth Night or Portia from Merchant of Venice. Through all that they do they show themselves to be at least the equal of all others they encounter.

6.   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)?Or you could talk about other adaptations (such as books, poems, etc)
I have been really fortunate to have seen a number of excellent productions, from Gregory Doran’s Midsummer Night’s Dream to Michael Boyd’s Richard III with Jonathan Slinger as Richard.  For me the best was Richard III. I can still feel the excitement and tension that had been built from the end of Henry VI Part 3, which had finished only slightly earlier in the day, and which was maintained through a powerful, contemporary adaptation with a despotic Richard.  The opening scene built the tension from the end of the previous play such that everyone in the theatre was perched on the very edge of their seats. Given a number of the responses that have come before mine, I feel I should write something in defence of Cymbeline.  I saw a fantastic, dark, comedic production by Kneehigh theatre company, admittedly a number of the audience decided to walk out fairly early on, but I do think that was their loss!  On a slightly different note, I am not a great ballet fan in general but I loved the physicality and sense of power from the English National Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet (choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev), in particular, the Dance of Knights scene was extraordinary.

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