Georgia M. from PORTLAND, OR Reviewed on 2/16/2013...
This is an absolutely amazing multi-part series on the craft of performing, understanding, and appreciating the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. Barton is a treasure and his company from the 1980's is composed of some of the best known Tony, Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA award-winning actors of the last twenty years.
5-stars, or not 5-stars, that is the question. FIRST REVIEW
Harold Wolf | Wells, IN United States | 05/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The actual DVD set is being reviewed. I didn't see the book or TV in 1984. This series of 9 episodes (Or should we call them "instructions" in Shakespeare acting?) seem like they were shot yesterday. They are timeless. What, if anything is staged? What is entirely impromptu? It's hard to say, nay, impossible. It's that well done. The wealth within this educational, academic experience is difficult to quickly review, but we'll give it a go.
"Playing SHAKESPEARE" is the DVD presentation of acting workshops, done like a play rehearsal underway, shot in 1982, led by John Barton, who is himself entertaining, plus an encyclopedia on Shakespearean acting. He directed over 50 plays by the (RSC) Royal Shakespeare Company. A Cambridge professor. His main interest in this series is teaching toward the marriage of the Elizabethan acting tradition and modern times or style. It is instruction dedicated to the actor--but it is of interest to so many more.
Through detailed Shakespeare direction, Barton has provided a series that will delight all lovers of the celebrated playwright. Additionally it will encourage the viewer who is newly attempting appreciation of Shakespeare and his works. Novice Shakespearean audiences will want for more, want for a complete play to view.
Much of the success of this series is the famous & talented actors being instructed. The top of the U.K. entertainers, both within the RSC and out. The BONUS FEATURES of this DVD set includes several of their bios and RSC credits. Some, not all as there are over 20, are: Peggy Ashcorft, 1907-1991, having at some time performed near all Shakespeare's female roles. Judi Dench, UK Superstar, fantastic in "As Time Goes By" Ben Kingsley, "Gandhi" and "Schindler's List" to name but 2 Ian McKellan, "The Lord of the Rings" fans will remember Patrick Stewart, would you believe "Star Trek: The Next Generation" David Sachet, "Poirot", need more be said--yes--"The Way We Live Now" Shakespeare wrote, "Our revels now are ended." Nay, Nay.
Here's the list of Episodes (Learning bits) 1 THE TWO TRADITIONS . . . . . . .2 USING THE VERSE 3 LANGUAGE AND CHARACTER . . . . .4 EXPLORING A CHARACTER 5 SET SPEECHES AND SOLILOQUIES . .6 IRONY AND AMBIGUITY 7 PASSION AND COOLNESS . . . . . .8 REHEARSING THE TEXT 9 POETRY AND HIDDEN POETRY Each is a to-die-for opportunity for the student or the follower of Shakespeare. Not a full play or dramatic film, but an academic experience set in a working studio using excerpts.
In #3 language and words are discussed like Shakespeare's double syllable use of the word Ti-ime. And his often capitalization of the word, even when it's not the beginning word in the sentence. By watching another fine educational DVD series, "The Adventure of English", one can learn Shakespeare invented over 2000 words. ___Also in this segment, John Barton is coaxed into performing a bit of Shakespeare, which he does twice again during episode 9. ___#4 is outstanding when Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) is performed by Suchet (who is Jewish) and Stewart. Both have played the role in RSC under Barton's direction. The 3 demonstrate how Shakespeare characters can be played in different ways, all being good. Suchet also suggests to view this play, not as anti-Semitic, but without the 20th century Holocaust prejudice.
Other bonus extras include a trailer for "Slings & Arrows" and the much valuable SUBTITLES, recommended to be used by all, to catch the full value of the Shakespeare words.
This DVD set makes me thirst for a Shakespeare play--a Shakespearean Sundae.
If you are a William Shakespeare lover--BUY. If you are an actor, or student of theatre--BUY. If you are curious of those often talked about plays--BUY.
More elaboration on this would take as long as the 400+ minutes of the set. Instead, in Shakespeare's own words: "So to him we leave it." "
A Gift From the Gods!
Cat | Southern California | 05/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I read John Barton's 'Playing Shakespeare' when I was in college and was encouraged to watch the companion VHS tapes. Unfortunately, they were only available in our college library and were fought over by hundreds of actors. I'm thrilled that this magnificent collection is now available on DVD. It's such a treat to see young, highly trained actors (McKellen, Dench, Stewart) from the RSC participating in Barton's Shakespeare instructional course. Barton discusses the most basic techniques on how to find clues within Shakespeare's text in order to perform it well. It is truly amazing that by simply approaching Shakespeare in a technical way; finding antithesis, lists, irony, and contrast-helps the actor figure out what is happening in a scene or monologue. Reading Barton's book makes sense and is a good reference, but the power behind this course is hearing the text and the technical adjustments the actors make with their voice. Don't be put off by the price; this instruction is rare."
To be or not to be the owner of this collection is NOT the q
Alan W. Petrucelli | THE ENTERTAINMENT REPORT (ALAN W. PETRUCELLI) | 06/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"More than seven hours of company co-founder John Barton's classes in playing Shakespeare may sound dull, but it's actually incredibly moving, exciting, and, well, a heck of a lot of fun. The works are divided neatly into nine lessons, covering tradition, imagery, text, character, poetry, and other aspects that directly concern an actor's job in presenting Shakespeare's text to a modern audience with clarity and understanding. It's long been suggested that people who have to read Shakespeare hate him. And rightly so. "Playing" is the operative word here, and to see the excitement and joy the actors discover playing Shakespeare is simply wonderful. Let's pause to mention the actors here for their classes---perhaps we might remember Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley, Peggy Ashcroft, Roger Rees and Richard Pasco?"
Silverfish | Central Texas | 08/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not having seen this series when it was first made, the chance to see it now is greatly appreciated. Uh-oh, I thought, maybe it would be dead boring. Or maybe it would be enough that these professionals are giving us a glimpse at how great acting is constructed. Of course it should be interesting. But I didn't expect to sit on the edge of my chair for the first two hours, completely engaged, trying to figure out what, among the many "bests" of this series would be the very best.
Above all, there's the deep professionalism of all, from the donnish director John Barton, the puppet-master and the questioning teacher to each member of the RSC taking part in the exercise. With eyes twinkling, Barton pulls out one magic trick after another.
And that's just Barton. Each actor -- all familiar and many old favorites -- is fascinating. The involvement of the whole person in acting becomes clear. The movements are precise, the language is clear and crisp. The intellect is fully engaged. In some the physicality is rougher-edged and the intellect less showy but the acting no less spellbinding. In others, movements and gestures are like great dancing without ever going over the edge. Each performance is a revelation about language, discipline and dedication to craft. The egos are there, of course, but for these actors the respect for and generosity to others is notable.
Shakespeare takes some buffeting, in part because he is always adapted to current styles and ideas of theater. He must be used to it by now. Some cornball part of me wanted him to emerge from the back of the set and make comments -- astonished, puzzled, ironic, pleased. Or maybe he does just that through all who know the work and watch carefully.
This is one of those series that you want to keep forever, watch over and over again -- the rare set of DVD's which doesn't just gather dust on the shelf."
The ultimate teaching tool
M. E. McGarry | Chicago | 07/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No teacher of Shakespeare or verse should ignore this extraordinary series. It is simple yet so textured that you will want to play it again and again. It is well thought out in its approach to considering the interpreters'problems regarding Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.The bonus here is that you see how the great actors of the English Stage for the last fifty years are able to work with the text in rehearsal, discuss freely and perform unde the direction of the brillant John Barton. My eye opening favorite was David Suchet(Hercule Poiroit) and in the last segment Dame Peggy Ashcroft. The cast list is mind boggling and includes Dame Judy Dench,Sir Ian McKellan,Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley among other notables."