BBC Radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard.
Some of the most stirring scenes Shakespeare ever wrote vibrate with powerful resonance in this grippingly dramatic radio production. Tortured madness, pure evil, and the fatal struggle for power grip the listener until the final, shockingly tragic conclusion.
Revitalised, original, and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the new millennium.
King Lear, minus the passion and intelligence
I love the fact that these plays are available on iTunes, and I hope that even more versions are made available as time go by. I particularly love "King Lear," but this rendition is uninspired. This is, unfortunately, not a good review of this version of “King Lear.” But since it has not been reviewed, I thought someone had to say something.
The production value of this BBC version is quite good. Sound and effects are good. There are, however, moments when the background music is distracting.
But, to the matter, what of the acting? I'll just hit on a few of the roles. (Incidentally, I couldn't find good reference material on this audio version, so I might have spelled a name or two wrong since all I had to go on were the audio credits).
King Lear - Colin Redgrave. Here's my problem with Mr. Redgrave as Lear. Lear is a bit out of it, whether by enfeebling age or tenuous sanity...either way, Redgrave does not convey any slipping grasp on reality. When Redgrave's Lear rages, it's not because his mind is let loose from the reins... it sounds like he's just being a jerk. Maybe he wasn't old enough for the part.. who knows, but the sale is simply is not made.
Cordelia – Justine Waddell. I never thought I would say this about Cordelia. I wanted to slap her. From the get go, Waddell's Cordelia comes off as a brat and contrary. She says “Nothing” not because she is at a loss to answer Lear's bumbling question of love; she says it to start a fight! I was shocked at Waddell's unsympathetic portrayal.
Kent – David Trouten (sp?). This was the last straw for me. Kent is one of my favorite characters, in that he embodies uncommon loyalty and honor with a “salty roughness.” And in truth, Trouten does a decent job, but the directing in the play is lousy. Kent's initial intervention and plea to Lear in the beginning of the play is one of Shakespeare's best scenes, showcasing Kent's loyalty and honesty to his king. But in this version, the scene has no rhythm, is completely staccato, and Redgrave's reactions to Trouten's Kent seem off and out of tune.
Overall, the performances are lackluster and really passionless. Edmund, for example, is boring. Gloucester is pretty flat as well (though he screams well enough). I also found frequent discontinuity in what was being said and the tone in which it was being delivered. “Do these guys know what they are saying or are they just reading lines?” was a question that popped into my mind more than a few times.
All right, I've dissed the play enough. For “King Lear” fans, I have a suggestion:
In 1993 (Random House publisher), BBC Radio produced “King Lear” starring John Geilgud, Kenneth Branagh, Keith Michell, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Emma Thompson (wow, what an arsenal of talent!). Random House published the play on CD's and audiocassette. Find it. You'll never regret having done so. This version is an incredible version of Lear. It'll import into your iPod just fine.
I previously mentioned that I hope more versions of Shakespeare's plays make it to iTunes. This is why. Comparing different audio versions of the plays is an extraordinary ability. In truth, I was able to download two different productions of Macbeth from iTunes, and it's amazing how much more you get out of the plays when you hear different versions. And you just can't beat the convenience, either.
Anyway, this is my first review. Hope it helped.
Preview is terrible
The preview of this audiobook is terrible. A whole minute spent introducing the actors and the title of the play, that does not give an amicable time for one to decipher if they want to purchase this version or the unabridged version. What is wrong with you iTunes? The unabridged preview is much more a sufficient one. I would recommend choosing that one, this is one is poor.