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Audio Review: Richard III by William Shakespeare 
13th-Mar-2010 02:47 pm
evil_laugh, minimaster
Richard III (Arkangel Complete Shakespeare Series) Richard III by William Shakespeare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Many years ago, I attempted to read Richard III, and never got very far. I largely blame my unfamiliarity at the time with English history, but I also have to admit that it really helps to hear this play performed.

Shakespeare's Richard is one of the great anti-heroes of English literature, and it's very enjoyable to watch him in action and marvel at everything he gets away with. (And to see him get his comeuppance, although I personally find that Richard's actual downfall drags a bit in comparison to the rest of the play.) The play also revels in its use of language - there are a number of scenes that I've gone back and played again just to enjoy the words. There's lots of back-and-forth banter, as well as humor in unexpected places. (The conversation between the two men sent to murder Clarence in the tower is quite funny.)

The play adapts well to an audio-only presentation: there's one particular scene where Queen Margaret makes an unexpected entrance that is a bit confusing on audio, but in general, the action is so well-explained by the conversations (and in fact, in most cases, the action is the conversation) that following is not a problem. (I have seen audio versions of Shakespeare plays that include narration to fill in gaps in the action. I considered trying one of those, but it just seemed weird.)

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14th-Mar-2010 03:23 am (UTC)
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

This is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. But I have to admit you need a bit of the historical background for it. The Princes in the Tower. The whole controversy about whether Richard murdered them or not. And you're right: I think it's one that works very well as audio... though I love the Olivier film version.
14th-Mar-2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
I should have been more precise - it "drags" only in a relative sense, and the scene I was really thinking of is the dream sequence where everyone Richard has murdered queues up to tell him off. It proves a point about just how much destruction Richard has wrought, but it does go on a bit.
14th-Mar-2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Ohhh... "Despair and die." That used to give me goose-bumps, I admit. But I may be thinking of the film version. I've never seen this as a play.
14th-Mar-2010 10:41 am (UTC)
I went through the whole Arkangel set about a year ago, and really liked this one. If you are on the lookout for David Tennant at all, he plays the title character in the Henry VI trilogy, and also appears as one of the twins in Comedy of Errors, the Porter in Macbeth, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. And David Troughton does another title character very well in Titus Andronicus. I do recommend the whole lot.
14th-Mar-2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
I think it might have been one of your reviews of one of the Arkangel recordings that tipped me off to the existence of the range. I'll definitely be picking up some more.
14th-Mar-2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
This is the play at which my behavior made my mother pretend, unsuccessfully, that she was unrelated to me.
14th-Mar-2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
Dare I ask what it was that you did?
15th-Mar-2010 02:30 am (UTC)
In the ghost scene, the ghosts were represented by the actors wearing giant kachina doll masks. I mean giant: the total height of actor plus mask was in the nine to twelve foot range. So there were these giant kachina dolls spouting hilariously over-the-top Tudor propaganda, and it was too much for me, and I couldn't stop laughing. And Mom started laughing, too, only nobody else was laughing, so she was trying not to laugh, and it was...it was a thing, it was. A hilarious thing.
15th-Mar-2010 03:01 am (UTC)
Oh. Yeah. You know, when I was listening to the dream sequence, I was wondering how a director would stage it. Because on audio you can use sound effects and make the voices all reverberant and ghostly, and it conveys the dreamlike quality very well. And on film, of course, you can do all kinds of visual effects. But on the stage, you're more limited.

So I can sort of imagine what the director thought they were getting at with the giant masks, but...I think Tudor kachina dolls would have been too much for me too.
15th-Mar-2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I'd have a better reaction to "ghostly" film/audio effects, because the Tudor propaganda is so far over the top that it might be that the more theoretically effective it was, the more it struck me funny. I don't know for sure. Possibly it's just that one can't take me anywhere nice.
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