Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Great Petruchios, Part 1

Well, I finished Henry VI part 1, but I haven't started part 2 yet. Pretty exciting stuff! I'm still chewing on what to say about it, so in the meantime, I wanted to offer what may be my last Taming of the Shrew movie review for now (but no promises - The Taming of the Shrew is such a popular and famous play that there are many, many movie versions ; we ordered some from the library that only just arrived! Don't know if I'll have time to watch them - silly me for not placing holds on them until the last minute).

Anyway, so far there are two Taming of the Shrew movies that I think are really only notable for their great Petruchios. Here's my review of one of them - my review of the other is to follow shortly!

Petruchio the Great I
: The Complete Shakespeare BBC Version (1980)

This video is very, very slow. The production quality is not great. Some of the lines are almost incomprehensible, because many of the actors' diction is rather poor. Katherine is too old. Why am I recommending it to you? Because John Cleese, aka Basil Fawlty, aka various Monty Python characters, plays Petruchio. And he plays him splendidly.

Petruchio meets Katherine (Sarah Badel) and breaks the news of their engagement

It is worth slogging through the slow bits of this movie just to see John Cleese attend his wedding in a hat with an unbelievably enormous feather, and an equally enormous yellow daisy in his button hole. His Petruchio is incredibly natural, amusingly hurt when crossed (Cleese fans will know exactly what I'm talking about), and surprisingly reflective. He also has just the right tinge of the obnoxious, and when he rails on his servants, it is in a manner reminiscent of the finer moments of Fawlty Towers. Best of all, he is somehow able to give us the sense that he is doing Monty Python-style ad-libbing, all while reciting complicated Shakespearean lines.

Sometimes the greatest Shakespearean actors are just great actors, and not Shakespearean in their careers at all.

Could this man really be a great Shakespearean actor? Really?

In my opinion, the only other standout performance was David Kincaid, whose Grumio provides a nonchalant foil to Cleese. Now, if the the BBC had snagged the other Monty Python guys to play Hortensio, Gremio, etc - I believe this production would have been incredible (and please don't take that as an endorsement of the entire Monty Python body of work, but they SHOULD have done Shakespeare!). Alas, the moment is past.
These guys could have livened things up a bit for the BBC Shakespeare Department.

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