“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III
There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.
And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.
Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.
And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.
And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.
Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.
So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.
So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.
Now for those who prance upon that stage.
While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.
However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.
However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.
The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.
Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.
Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.
Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.
And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.
But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.
Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.
To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, Actors, their salaries aside, tend to have to put up with more than their share of disrespect. Generally from people that don’t have anything close to talent, and their only joy is pushing people from pedestals. The unwashed masses that have nothing but venom to spout about the personal lives of the Cruises or the Woods or the Gibsons.
As long as someone’s personal life isn’t affecting my life, or is not changing the laws or policy I have to endure, I don’t give a good darn. Someone wants to be a Scientologist or Mormon or the last Scion of Zion… more power to em.
I tend to give people more leeway than most. Mostly because though I don’t believe in much, I do believe that ‘let him without sin, cast the first stone’. So Romney needs to shut the eff up. :).
And getting back to actors, in particular, they are often seen as primadonnas, who get paid much and bring little. And no doubt there are the ones for whom that belief is completely accurate. But on the whole I think it’s something of an impressive calling.
To give everything, your hurt and your joy, to crowd and stage and screen.
Writers particularly tend to view Actors adversarially, ‘Don’t you dare change my line!’.
But when you have a committed actor, feeling the part, living the role, being the moment…their ad-libs, their additions…. can be priceless. Can be in certain cases, the most memorable lines of a film.
Three standout cases come to mind.
And counting down….
PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID- I’ve mentioned this before, but can never get enough PAT GARRET & BILLY THE KID. :)
R.C. Armstrong, born in 1917, (95 years ago, and by all reports still going strong) delivered one of the quintessential lines in Pekinpah’s PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID. As is well documented, Pekinpah had a way of riling up actors to get a performance out of them, he did that with the 6’3″ mean as a rattlesnake R.C. Armstrong and Kris Kristofferson had the bad luck of being the object of that realism. :). R.C. bringing his fundamental upbringing into the crafting of this line…
“Your problem is you don’t know about Jesus! I’ll show you! I’ll take you for a walk across Hell, on a Spider Web!”
What an awesome line, next up….
THEY LIVE- Roddy Piper’s biggest step from the squared circle, into the lights of Hollywood came with this John Carpenter film, and the wrestler turned actor attacked it. Giving a great performance in a great film, opposite the always impressive Keith David. But even more than his performance, it’s probably this line he added, that stood out for a whole generation of people seeing the film—
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
heh, heh, heh, I never get tired of that line (A really close followup to that, from the same movie is..“Life’s a b*tch… and she’s back in heat!”. Aww that roddy Roddy Piper! :) And the number #1 Actor Added Line of ALL Time IS!!!!!
Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner!!!!!
BLADE RUNNER- Rutger Hauer seeing the climatic scene of Ridley Scott’s chaotic production needed something, came up with this, my favorite bit of ‘not in the script or the book’ writing, that anyone has brought to the table—
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
Well all three actors take a bow. Your Awards are being kept safe for you, until you ask me for them :).
As far as you writers, you can all stand suitably chastised. And all you film fans… go out there and treat yourself to a classic flick!!
Enjoy!!! And remember (leaving you with one more Actor Added line)…
Who Loves Ya Baby? :)
You know, after a hellacious week of giving people what for, nothing relaxes me more than curling up with a nice nature DVD. Attenborough’s LIFE, or in this case the documentary SHARKWATER.
So here I go, I put in this DVD to relax, while planning the latest update for the blog, and more mundane things like bills, when what the heck should come on the screen than one of those pirate warnings. You’ve seen these idiotic videos, that if anything only makes me want to do the exact opposite just to give it to them for interrupting my damn movie.
However I had not seen this one before.
This one used scenes from CASABLANCA to make an anti-pirating commercial. Excuse me? WTF?
You’re going to use one of the greatest movies ever made like a 2bit whore to sell your political or corporate viewpoint?!!
(And it is worth noting that the FBI warning on these DVDs, having very little to do with any sane legal system. A sane system would say to the studios “It’s not our business to ensure your corporate profits or protect your corporate losses. That’s a civil case… at best.”. Instead in the corrupt America we live in, the FBI warning is a product of studios making their commercial and corporate whims into laws. Using a system, not designed for corporations, to pass corporate whims and lunacy as Federal laws. Such a thing can not be looked at, by anyone rationally, and not see it as something… obscene)
You want to show violating rights is wrong, by using a commercial where you violate artistic rights?
Is the paradox lost on the studios?
Where do we draw the line? Next we use Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s images to praise one candidate for President and put down another? Where do we draw the line?
Both Bogart and Berman were deeply humanistic and activistic people, Bogart stood up against the McCarthy Witch-hunts. Bergman spent her days, after the lights of Hollywood, feeding and fighting for the poor.
I don’t think either one would have signed on in life to do a commercial for some companies new generation witch-hunt. And I don’t think they sign over those rights in death.
Because they did a popular movie, and you own the movie, should not then translate into you re-purposing their images to sell either your political agenda, your new vacuum cleaner, or your poorly made or counter-productive pirating campaign.
Those actors didn’t sign off on that, and weren’t paid for that. And this push to extend ownership beyond the exact product they created… to ownership of their likenesses… reeks. It is immoral. That, if anything, is true pirating.
They purpose not this end, when they purpose their services.
It sets an ugly an abhorrent precedent, an argument that flies in the face of Warner Brothers Anti-Piracy message. Warner violating with impunity the artistic integrity of their own film, and the rights of the actors.
Unless you’re paying them, their images, not their likenesses but their actual images, should not be re-purposed to create a new item, inherently different from the item they signed on to produce.
In many ways it’s like rewriting someone’s autobiography or a writer’s novel. For an actor all they have is the work, the images they leave behind. So to then insert them convincingly in a commercial, is just as wrong as inserting them into a porno.
It’s a violation.
And to not understand that, is to be very young, or very stupid. Or an executive.
Is piracy wrong? First I think it is an idiotic term, unless you’re at sea. Now if you’re talking about the copying of copyrighted DVDs, I think it’s a tempest in a teapot. If Warner Bros and other studios embraced their customers rather than criminalizing them all in advance (which is what me having to sit through an FBI warning or one of those stupid commercials on a DVD I just bought or rented… is doing. It’s saying to the consumer we’re going to treat you all as guilty until proven innocent) they would realize most people are happy to pay and own, a quality and reasonably priced product.
But there’s the rub, quality and reasonable prices. All companies want to do today is give you the least they can, for the most they can.
I’ll tell you what is wrong… Warner Brothers and all the studios like them are wrong, they are dinosaurs trying to survive in a changing technological society where big studios are increasingly superfluous. Rather than try and survive by being better and winning customers through innovation and great products, they instead want to survive by removing from you… choice. By scaring, suing, legislating, themselves as a law that we must fear, and bow down to, and pay tribute to because they are using the FBI and the courts like their personal thugs,
Warner Brothers should be glad people think enough of their work to desire it. Because the alternative is… people stop wanting… ANYTHING from them.
The consumer may start saying “You know what, there’s a lot of choice out there, despite Warner Brothers attempt to eradicate choice, why don’t we just stop buying or supporting anything Warner Brothers?”
Can you imagine that. People just get fed up of being treated like dogs by Warner Brothers, and just say to them, ‘you’re that worried about your intellectual property? Well you keep it then. You keep it all. We already have the memories of all the decent movies, keep anything new. Keep your DVDs, keep your games, keep your movies, keep your books.’
And after a few months of them not having to worry about patron or pirate, I’d love to see how their effing tune changes. They’d be crying for someone to think enough of their movies to sell bootlegs on the streets of Nepal.
It’s about perspective. And the perspective the studios and record companies and media oligarchies must come to, is that of earning customer business and customer goodwill… rather than attempting to lock in customers through terror.
Because here from these subtle fights, do great things grow.
And they are things the studios will not like at all.
As simple a thing, seemingly insignificant a thing as a tax on tea changed the face of the world, Today’s corporate atmosphere of pushing and prodding, with every move a crime, and in every hand a club… cannot do less.
There is a war of terror coming, that much the media ‘talking heads’ have right. But it’s not one of religions. It’s one between the mindless stupidity and greed of corporations… and the very rights of man.
And it is a war, that in the waging the rich will lose. And the poor, who have only lives to lose…and pushed to it… can only win.
So a wise man would say to the rich… ‘now may be a good time to stop pushing’.
Something to think about. :).
This installment of IT WILL NOT BE TELEVISED we take the way back machine to the swinging and bloody early days of 1965, and look at a serial from season 2 of a little known (at the time) Brit show called Doctor Who! And the serial, the 13th Who Serial, is called THE WEB PLANET.
Onto the review:
First let’s start with a bit of back-story. What was happening in the world over the six weeks, six Fridays, this serial went out on? Well The News during this Time is… all too human:
-The first US combat troops arrive in Vietnam. By the end of the year, 190,000 American soldiers are in Vietnam.
-In the Audubon Ballroom in New york City on 21 Feb 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (perhaps better known as Malcolm X) was assassinated before a crowd of hundreds including his pregnant wife, and 3 of his 4 children.
-18th March, 1965: A Soviet cosmonaut known as Lt. Col. Alexei Leonov exited the spacecraft Voskshod II for a short “spin”. He completed a somersault, and then proceeded to take pictures of space. This took place just days before the U.S. planned to launch its first two-man spaceship and becomes the first man to walk in space.
-18th February, 1965 : An avalanche and Glacial Slide caused the deaths of 26 miners who were removing copper ore from underneath a glacier in British Columbia.
-15th February, 1965 : It was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II of England that the Maple leaf would become Canada’s new national flag symbol.
-20th February, 1965 : The Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface
-2nd March : The Sound of Music Premier 1965
-7th March, 1965 : Troopers with night sticks, shotguns and tear-gas grenades violently confronted 600 civil rights marchers during an attempted 50-mile march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol Montgomery.
-Optical Disk —– 1965 USA by James Russell – now Compact Disk CD / DVD
-The Supremes, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” rises to the top of the charts
So that’s a look at the world 46 years ago. And for a bigger kick to put that world in perspective, here are what things cost then (US prices):
Cost of a new home: $21,500.00
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.05
Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31
Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.53
Cost of a gallon of Milk: $0.95
Federal debt: $322.3 billion
Average Income per year $6,450.00 (Needless to say this average income bought you a lot more more back then, than today’s average income of $39,423.00 is going to buy you. For one thing far more of today’s money is eaten up in taxes upon taxes, and most things have multiplied faster than income… ie stamps and petrol and the price of a house are nearly 10 times 1965 levels, while income is barely 6 times 1965 levels. So income is trailing inflation by nearly 50% overtime, and that’s not even accounting for various new forms of taxation. And just think, you thought this was just a Doctor Who review! :) )
While the Brits may have been watching Doctor Who (and let’s be honest, very few of them were doing that), In the States the airwaves were packed with shows eating up the ratings from THE FUGITIVE to BEWITCHED to MAN FROM UNCLE to VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA to BONANZA to ED SULLIVAN to JONNY QUEST to popular music shows such as SHINGDIG. And 1965 would only provide more programs to keep Americans occupied.
It wouldn’t be till the late 70s, and Public Broadcasting’s increased efforts going across the pond for programming… that would introduce the States to this thing called Doctor Who. And indeed give the show the added funding to keep it running, when other BBC shows of the period had given up the ghost.
And being one of the few shows of the fantastic, Doctor Who offered a cross cultural appeal that continues to… stand the test of time. So to speak. :)
So without further ado the review of the 13th Doctor Who story, starring William Hartnell and written by Bill Strutton, produced by Verity Lambert, and directed by Richard Martin:
EPISODE 1 OF 6
THE WEB PLANET- by Bill Strutton. More shockingly bad alien costumes. Dennis Spooner graduates to script editor. This is a mysterious but not particularly satisfying series opener. Unimpressively directed by Richard Martin. C.
EPISODE 2 OF 6
THE ZARBI- Strange premise with more shockingly inept alien costumes. Here’s the thing, if you don’t have the budget to do something convincingly… then don’t do it. Not without interest, but those sets and costumes… uggh. C-.
EPISODE 3 OF 6
ESCAPE TO DANGER- I do like how the Menoptra move. Very elegant. It was Richard Martin’s idea to have dancers play the Menoptra, and a great idea it was. Lacking their… grace, and performances, and strangeness I would not be writing this review. Roslyn de Winter, an Australian mime, was hired to choreograph the Menoptra’s movements and speech, and also plays the central Menoptra… Vrestin. For the actress to act through all that makeup is impressive… for all the actors actually. With this episode I became interested in the serial, in spite of its constraints. B-.
EPISODE 4 OF 6
CRATER OF NEEDLES- You have to give this serial points for sheer imagination. So much creativity. If I was a kid, the target audience, I would have loved this serial. It is very well written, and passionately performed. And the flying scenes, and battles are quite lovingly staged. While as an adult I could ask for better costumes, effects, sets, what they pull off is still quite impressive. The strength of Doctor Who, being the same strength of The Simpsons or any good Pixar movie, it is layered, smart writing to appeal to both adults and kids. B+.
EPISODE 5 OF 6
INVASION- From a serial I almost did not finish, when I saw the first one, this has really grown on me. Beyond the questionable budget it is quite a lovely fable, and also at times quite touching, and quite dire.
EPISODE 6 OF 6
THE CENTRE- All routes lead to the center, as the Doctor and his Crew and the butterfly like Menoptra battle the Animus, an eater of worlds, at the center of all things. A strong denouement, for a surprisingly good serial. B/B+.
So in summation this six part series is not, when recalled, fondly remembered by most. That said its first episode, THE WEB PLANET, originally brought in 13.5 million viewers, the most of any Doctor Who broadcast of the 60s.
Doctor Who never brought in great numbers, but it managed to be consistent, and have a passionate fan-base. Which accounts for the longevity of both the original series, and the success of the new series. If you can get past the questionable first couple episodes, and go along with the conceits, I think you’ll find a serial that is surprisingly… fun. Overall grade: B/B+.
You can pick up the DVD using the link below AND support this blog at the same time! Say it ain’t so, Joe! :) ! But seriously I only recommend things I myself own, and I appreciate any purchasing you do via this blog. Thanks!
http://www.shannonsullivan.com/- Offers background info on this episode
http://www.listzblog.com- Nice overview of popular shows by period
http://www.tvparty.com/- More great overview of what’s hot in tv by year
http://oldies.about.com/od/60srockers/tp/topten1965.htm- A great overview of popular music by year
http://www.1960sflashback.com/- Helped with research on prices in 1965
http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html- more prices over time data
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/- another great tool for prices over time
http://doctorwhoreviews.co.uk/N.htm- for a helpful scan, plus see it for another take on this serial. Good stuff.
Steven Moffat, on the strength of some stellar self-contained DR. WHO stories in the first four seasons of the revamped WHO series (see my Best of Doctor Who posting), was rewarded in the fifth season by being promoted to lead writer/show runner, replacing Russell T. Davies.
Russell T. Davies the heart of this new WHO, was clearly running out of things to say with the character by the 4th season, so Moffat would seem to be the perfect choice to replace him (the episode BLINK written by Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald being arguably the finest hour of Dr. Who done to date).
Particularly when you consider between season 4 and season 5, (specials not counted) was an almost 2 year delay, you would have thought Season 5 would have had all the kinks worked out and been a solid season… ready to… wow.
Unfortunately that is not the case.
Season 5 sporting a new Doctor, a new companion, a new look and a new lead writer, is a season I was rooting for to be great, but it just isn’t. It’s not even good.
I mean the first two episodes show promise, THE ELEVENTH HOUR is a good into to the new Doctor, though almost immediately the character of Amy begins to annoy me. Still overall an okay B- episode.
Next is THE BEAST BELOW which was a good episode, and was one of the only times all season I thought the character of Amy was remotely helpful/interesting. It’s solid writing by Moffat that elevates this episode to a B/B+.
However, after this episode from the VICTORY OF THE DALEKS on, Amy and her boyfriend, and their whole angsty issues just like the Mickey/Rose subplot, annoyed. And the shows felt like chores to get through rather than entertainment, all the way up to the mess of a two part season finale.
And while a lot of this is the writing, a lot is the casting (There are exceptions such as the character of River Song, played by the brilliant Alex Kingston [of ER fame] , who was fantastic last season, and is even better this season. And I also quite like the character of the Bloody Queen played wonderfully by Sophie Okenedo).
The new Doctor is okay, Matt Smith is likeable enough, but his companion and her boyfriend are “turn the channel people”. When I see them on the screen, I want to change the channel. That’s harsh I know, unfortunately… it’s not untrue.
We’ll get back to that in a bit, but all this adds up to not good omens for the 5th season, because Matt Smith is filling big, and overwhelmingly liked and respected shoes in David Tennant’s Doctor, and Matt won’t fill those shoes on his personality/performance alone. He’ll need everything working with him in this season, including the cast, the scripts the direction, all working at full steam… and unfortunately for the most part it doesn’t.
And as stated one of the big hangups this season is the casting. One of the weaknesses of RTD ‘s reign was the horrendous writing of the character Mickey, however this was made up for by the great character of Rose and a stellar, endearing, effervescent performance by Billie Piper, and the great dynamic between her and the great actors that played the Doctor, Eccleston and Tennant. Martha, played by the wonderful Freema Agyeman was likewise a fantastically written and performed character (In fact my personal favorite of the companions).
Unfortunately the character of Amy is no Rose or Martha, she is as annoying as those characters were charming. She and her boyfriend/fiance are this season’s Mickey, largely annoying characters.
Evidently BBC is skewing younger for this season of Doctor Who, a British Dawson’s Creek feel, and I think that is to this season’s detriment.
And on top of the irritating characters, this season suffers largely un-compelling scripts and tired plot-lines.
Example: Daleks AGAIN!??
Are you going to use them every other episode?? Come on, really?!
The Daleks have built up fleets and been destroyed seemingly half a dozen times in the last couple of seasons. It cheapens and weakens the “ultimate’ enemy, for it be pulled out and dispatched like a parlor trick every other episode.
And the season seemed replete with such retreading of RTD plotlines, and “ultimate enemy” storylines. Moffet seemingly trying to outdo RTD in the universe shaking event, and for my money fails. Universe destroying event after event, becomes meaningless and boring when not used sparingly. Moffat forgetting that the intimate smaller stories is what got him the job as lead writer, that’s his strength, and in this season he completely fails to play to those strengths. Epic is what RTD does, trying to follow him up with more epic, to out epic him,… was not a wise decision.
Watching the season, it was hard to believe the innovative writer behind BLINK could helm a season so lacking in innovation or interest. It felt like a redo of other/better seasons.
Season 5 did the one thing a Dr. Who season should never do… it bored me.