Shakespeare Uncovered

Shakespeare Uncovered

King Lear with Christopher Plummer
Season 2  |  Episode 6  |  FOXTEL Arts  |  April 26, 2016

A look at 'King Lear' with Christopher Plummer, who first played the title role in 2002 under the direction of Jonathan Miller. He explores how the play may have been staged in Shakespeare's time; and talks about playing the king with Ian McKellen and Simon Russell Beale.

A look at 'King Lear' with Christopher Plummer, who first played the title role in 2002 under the direction of Jonathan Miller. He explores how the play may have been staged in Shakespeare's time; and talks about playing the king with Ian McKellen and Simon Russell Beale.

Director Trevor Nunn looks at the magical and mysterious world created in Shakespeare's last complete play, The Tempest. Trevor finds out where Shakespeare got his material from and the strange personal insights hidden within it. It is a truly experimental work but sadly perhaps also Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre. The Tempest is peculiarly suitable to film - ambitious, experimental and full of magic. Not surprisingly, one of the very first silent film adaptations of a Shakespeare play was The Tempest in 1911. As Trevor reveals, it was actually written for an experimental theatre - Shakespeare's first indoor space, the Blackfriars. There is a replica of the theatre in Staunton, Virginia and Trevor sees a rehearsal of the opening scenes of the play using the full panoply of early 17th-century special effects. Shakespeare was probably prompted to write it by a true story of shipwreck and survival which Trevor uncovers, but it is a deeply autobiographical piece, filled with concerns about the upcoming marriage of his own daughter and informed by Shakespeare's need to address many issues in what would be, in effect, the last full play he would ever write. Thus it becomes a play that defies genre - not a tragedy, not a comedy, not a history and not a revenge play - but with elements of all of those. Trevor takes us through the story of the magus Prospero, abandoned on an island with his daughter Miranda. He tells about his spirit companion Ariel and his slave Caliban, and shows how the opportunity for Prospero to wreak revenge upon those who abandoned him ultimately leads to one of the sweetest stories of love and forgiveness. It's a story in which Shakespeare himself seems to be reflected in the character of Prospero, who ends the play by giving up his magic just as Shakespeare is giving up his own to return to Stratford where, only two years later, he dies. Trevor completes his investigation from the church in which Shakespeare is buried.

Shakespeare Uncovered: Trevor Nunn

Literature, English

Years 9-10, 11-12 Literature, English
52:16
Director Trevor Nunn looks at the magical and mysterious world created in Shakespeare's last complete play, The Tempest. Trevor finds out where Shakespeare got his material from and the strange personal insights hidden within it. It is a truly experimental work but sadly perhaps also Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre. The Tempest is peculiarly suitable to film - ambitious, experimental and full of magic. Not surprisingly, one of the very first silent film adaptations of a Shakespeare play was The Tempest in 1911. As Trevor reveals, it was actually written for an experimental theatre - Shakespeare's first indoor space, the Blackfriars. There is a replica of the theatre in Staunton, Virginia and Trevor sees a rehearsal of the opening scenes of the play using the full panoply of early 17th-century special effects. Shakespeare was probably prompted to write it by a true story of shipwreck and survival which Trevor uncovers, but it is a deeply autobiographical piece, filled with concerns about the upcoming marriage of his own daughter and informed by Shakespeare's need to address many issues in what would be, in effect, the last full play he would ever write. Thus it becomes a play that defies genre - not a tragedy, not a comedy, not a history and not a revenge play - but with elements of all of those. Trevor takes us through the story of the magus Prospero, abandoned on an island with his daughter Miranda. He tells about his spirit companion Ariel and his slave Caliban, and shows how the opportunity for Prospero to wreak revenge upon those who abandoned him ultimately leads to one of the sweetest stories of love and forgiveness. It's a story in which Shakespeare himself seems to be reflected in the character of Prospero, who ends the play by giving up his magic just as Shakespeare is giving up his own to return to Stratford where, only two years later, he dies. Trevor completes his investigation from the church in which Shakespeare is buried.
In Hamlet, David Tennant, whose own RSC performance was a huge hit, meets other actors who have played the role - from the legendary David Warner in the 1960s to the recent Jude Law. He also tries, alongside Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw, to unravel the meaning of the play and the reason why it is considered by many to be the greatest play Shakespeare ever wrote. David Tennant surprised when he took on the role of Hamlet - most did not know that he had trained in and worked for many years at the Royal Shakespeare Company. But that didn't mean he wasn't scared stiff at the prospect of taking on the legendary role. Now he takes up the challenge of unravelling the story and trying to uncover what it is about it that has made Hamlet the most famous of all of Shakespeare's plays. He revisits his own performance, alongside his director Greg Doran, and he meets up with other actors who have tackled the role. With the historian Justin Champion he tries to enter the mindset of the 16th century audiences who would have watched this story and he discovers how different generations of actors, directors and scholars have interpreted the play. What he discovers is that Hamlet is a play full of questions rather than answers - but they are the questions we all continue to ask ourselves to this day. Questions about who to believe, who to trust, how to live and how to love, how to understand life and how to face death. What all the actors who have played it seem to share is that the process of acting the role is deeply and profoundly personal - and perhaps that is why audiences also feel that the play touches them more than any other play before or since.

Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant

Literature, English

Years 9-10, 11-12 Literature, English
52:17
In Hamlet, David Tennant, whose own RSC performance was a huge hit, meets other actors who have played the role - from the legendary David Warner in the 1960s to the recent Jude Law. He also tries, alongside Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw, to unravel the meaning of the play and the reason why it is considered by many to be the greatest play Shakespeare ever wrote. David Tennant surprised when he took on the role of Hamlet - most did not know that he had trained in and worked for many years at the Royal Shakespeare Company. But that didn't mean he wasn't scared stiff at the prospect of taking on the legendary role. Now he takes up the challenge of unravelling the story and trying to uncover what it is about it that has made Hamlet the most famous of all of Shakespeare's plays. He revisits his own performance, alongside his director Greg Doran, and he meets up with other actors who have tackled the role. With the historian Justin Champion he tries to enter the mindset of the 16th century audiences who would have watched this story and he discovers how different generations of actors, directors and scholars have interpreted the play. What he discovers is that Hamlet is a play full of questions rather than answers - but they are the questions we all continue to ask ourselves to this day. Questions about who to believe, who to trust, how to live and how to love, how to understand life and how to face death. What all the actors who have played it seem to share is that the process of acting the role is deeply and profoundly personal - and perhaps that is why audiences also feel that the play touches them more than any other play before or since.
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