what i'm reading and what i'm watching: shakespeare

Today we're seeing Soulpepper's production of King Lear. Allan reminded me that the cast is comprised fully of actors we haven't seen yet, so I'm a little more hopeful for a good show. I couldn't imagine anyone we've seen so far raving on the heath.

In preparation for the play, we both read King Lear over the past week. For me it's the most tragic of all Shakespeare's tragedies. Positively heartbreaking.

A few years ago, I decided I would read one or two Shakespeare plays a year, re-visiting what I read in college or reading some for the first time. I am always utterly floored by the beauty and genius of the language. I've been buying these great little Pelican editions. They have very well written introductions, easy to use footnotes, and these terrific matching covers that make me want to collect them all. And they're only five bucks!

The re-reading plan was inspired by one of our Netflix festivals, as we call it when we gorge on movies by one director or with one actor, this one featuring Kenneth Branagh's adaptations of Shakespeare. I believe we've seen them all - Hamlet, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and As You Like It. I don't know if Branagh plans to make more. I hope so.

Another memorable movie was Michael Almereyda's production of Hamlet, featuring Ethan Hawke. The action was transposed into New York City at the end of the 20th century, with a multinational corporation standing in for a kingdom. Allan and I both thought it was brilliant. Only original language was used, but the reconception brought additional power and immediacy to the action. I related to the action in a personal way, which I don't always find with Shakespeare.

Purists hate this kind of thing, but I see no reason why Shakespeare must be performed by men in tights. So-called purists don't seem to mind women playing Juliet or Desdemona, even though in Shakespeare's time those roles were played by boys. The way I see it, the language is Shakespeare, the rest is theatre, and open to interpretation.

So today, King Lear! I'm going in with an open mind. Soulpepper, surprise me.

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