Tag Archives: shakespeare

2014

Hello all!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve properly posted. I’ve been really busy with a new internship at a theater, working in the film and booking departments. It’s a great internship, but it also involves a two hour each way commute to the city and back, which takes up a good chunk of the day. I’m pretty much out of the house from 6:45am to 8:15pm. It’s been a good experience, learning how to be a real working person, but this next year is going to change quite a bit.

I’ve been accepted into the Screenwriting Masters program at NFTS, the National Film and Television School in England. I applied back in the spring and never expected to get in, but I did, and I’ve gone on orientation to meet my fellow screenwriters and people from other programs in the school. Everyone is really awesome and nice and passionate, and it looks like it’ll be a good environment to be creative in. And I’ve always wanted to write for film, television, or theater in the UK. It’s been the pipiest of my pipe dreams. But it’s not so far fetched anymore.

The program starts at the end of January. Whether or not I’ll get there in time is another matter-I’m having issues with the visa application that I really need resolved this week before things start to get really hairy.

That aside, I’m exciting. Especially given that this time last year, I didn’t have any prospects for after I graduated. That’s changed, and I couldn’t be happier.

A lot of my posts from now on are probably going to revolve around the screenwriting program, so if screenwriting, film, or theater is something that interests you, then you’ll really like what’s going on! There’ll probably be a few other posts about the state of packing and being in England and saying sorry for not posting in awhile because time gets away from me.

I can’t wait to start. I have a small notebook full of stuff I learned during the orientation, which was already a lot (and a good chunk which I’ve been told to forget until graduation). And then there’s a list of ideas I could use for future stories. I’m pretty sure I’ll be using most if not all of them, considering we did a lot of idea generating and developing during the orientation. And, I get to write a dissertation, since it is a graduate program. I’m thinking about writing about performing Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, and I find the various ways his plays can be performed an interesting subject.

2013 was a good year, especially compared to 2012 (the year I’d rather forget.) So I’m ready for 2014. A few more things need to fall into place, but in general things are looking good. Which is all I can really ask for when starting off another year.

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Berlin and Dublin: A Tale of Two Cities

As always, here is the corresponding photo blog entry.

Let’s start with

Berlin

Now. Before I talk about the city of Berlin let me talk about how, as I wrote in my previous blog entry about the Alps, I was in heaven. In the mountains. With not a lot of people. Going to Berlin was like being dumped in freezing water after coming out of a hot spring.

Second, I judge cities by their airports.

When we were landing in Berlin we passed one (which I now know is under construction to be Berlin’s new main airport) and the pilot announced, “On the left you can see an airport. We’re not landing there.” And I hoped that the airport we were landing at, Tegel, would be better.

It wasn’t.

Tegel has very little in the way of stuff to do, it is small for an international airport and designed in such a way that you can be from your gate to baggage claim in less than a few steps. Which is cool, for the 60’s. Now airports need to be larger and Tegel doesn’t have the space to handle so many people. Also, there’s no internet, and no direct way into the city. The buses are confusing. Basically, after taking a long bus ride, a train, and a long walk to my hostel, I was exhausted and angry. I’d spent half an hour walking around a train station trying to figure out how to buy a ticket. Let me tell you how confusing the train system is in Berlin (like the street system, and the bus system, and everything else…)

Basically, Berlin has two train systems, the U and the S. The U is mostly underground but sometimes goes above ground, and is pretty much like a subway. The S goes mostly overground but sometimes underground and covers places that the U doesn’t. Both travel in the center of Berlin and to points more outside the city, but are operated by different companies. Tickets are valid for both. You can make travel connections between both when you’re going somewhere but they are housed in different stations, even when they are at the same stop (as they often are, hence the connection) and a search online for directions will only give you directions using one of the services even when using both in combination might get you to your destination faster. Yeah.

They also don’t check your tickets, so you can pretty much wander anywhere in the train system. They do spot checks, but I never experienced this. I still had a ticket for a few days, though.

Now that that’s out of the way. After sleeping the first night as one is meant to do, I went out the first day with the intention of seeing what should be seen-i.e. the major tourist stuff. I went to Alexander Platz, which had a lot of Shops I Couldn’t Afford, and then walked from there to the museum area. There was an interesting exhibit called Exhibit X (I think), about persecution of certain people during the Nazi regime, including more famous people such as Albert Einstein. Many who were persecuted and/or fled during that time had biographies up outdoors for anyone to read. If you like history (like I do most times) it’s a great exhibit, and it’s free.

I continued walking to Brandenburg Tor and the Tiergarten, both of which are impressive. Then I walked to the Holocaust Memorial, which features many concrete slabs arranged in one part of the city (a block, I think) as a place where people can sit and wander through–the ground sinks so the blocks get progressively taller as you walk further into the memorial. It’s interesting that the memorial is both a very somber piece of work, but also very ordinary; if one didn’t know the history one might mistake it for a park, like the children there did. They were running in-between the blocks, playing like it was a maze. It’s a reminder and also a very organic part of the city.

I ended up taking the train to see the East Side Gallery, which consists of a long still-standing piece of the Berlin Wall. The “gallery” refers to the graffiti on the wall. Berlin actually has a lot of graffiti, more than even New York City it seems. It gives the city the effect of being edgy, which it is. The appearance is edgy, the people are edgy, dressed in various “cool” styles. Too cool for me, anyway. I felt intimidated, and people seemed a bit less friendly than in some other cities in Europe. I think the edginess has to do with history, a form of rebellion like the graffiti on the wall. But the lack of friendliness factor is worse than NYC, where you still find some friendly people among those who are out to get stuff done.

The next day I went shopping. I needed a day to just relax and not be on the run all the time, which in Berlin is hard, because it’s such a huge city and everyone has stuff to do. But I found a nice bookstore to go to in a nice part of the city with a market that had good food and a park with children playing and I got to sit and relax. I also found a Primark. If you don’t know what Primark is, it’s a HUGE clothing/fashion shop that’s really cheap, even including the fact that the Euro is worth more than the dollar. I may have gotten things.

Then I went to Potsdamer Platz for dinner and found myself at this gelato cafe in the Arkaden mall, which made what one customer called “works of art” rather than ice cream. And it was true. My own chocolate lava cake and vanilla ice cream was pretty aesthetically pleasing, and also really delicious.

YUM

YUM

Content, I went to bed early because the next morning I woke up at 3am to go to Tegel for a 7am flight (you can never be too careful, and early flights scare me in that I feel like I’ll always be late for them.) The check-in didn’t open until an hour before boarding, so I was there ridiculously early, and then I had a 6 hour layover in Munich, which is a great place to have a layover. They have reclining chairs and sofas and even nap cabins, which you don’t need if you can handle sleeping on a smaller sofa (which I did.) They also have a good amount of shops and food, and free internet for half an hour if you get bored of all that (or if you’re there for six hours.) And then I ended up in

Dublin

Let me tell you a thing about Dublin. The first thing I saw upon landing was a bunny rabbit running past our plane. Which pretty much sums up Dublin, I think. It’s a city full of friendly people that is really pretty and sometimes downright cute, with lots of food and beer and shops and theater and music. I could feel at home in Dublin. It’s much more welcoming than Berlin, which to me is great.

I took a walk around the city when I arrived for awhile, but my main goal was to get to the movie theatre near the O2 (which is one of the performing arts centers) because last night was the National Theatre Live broadcast of MIF Macbeth. For those of you who don’t follow Shakespeare, MIF stands for Manchester International Festival, and this year the festival featured a version of Macbeth put on in an abandoned church and directed by Kenneth Branagh (who directs awesome Shakespeare adaptations for the screen and stage and also directed Thor, as well as plays many of the Shakespearean characters.) Branagh also plays Macbeth, and Alex Kingston plays Lady Macbeth. The production was fabulous, and having just booked the tickets in the airport, I was glad that I spent the night watching it, because it was not to be missed. Especially since most people like myself couldn’t see it live and in person. Every actor was on point and the sets were amazing and the atmosphere (and the Weird Sisters) were very creepy. It might be the best theatre I’ve ever seen. There will probably be a separate blog entry about it.

Today I got to see the world record for riverdancing broken by over 1,000 people dancing continuously for five minutes in a connected line along Dublin’s river. There were actually a lot of children participating, and tons of people went to cheer them on, and it was really cool to watch the record being broken and to see so many enthusiastic people cheering on dancers. So many dancers. It was a nice way to start the day.

Riverdancing world record being broken!

Riverdancing world record being broken!

Then I went to walk around the city, exploring the shops and some particularly nice bookstores (I’d exhausted my reading material in the transit from Berlin to Dublin) and the Temple Bar area, which had a book market going on. And I got to eat a lovely dinner at this place called the Elephant and Castle.

So. Tomorrow I head for Edinburgh on what will be the last leg of the trip. Which is good, I think. Even though I love traveling, moving around constantly is wearing me down, so being home will be a nice chance to relax and stay in one place for the first time in a month. After Edinburgh will be London. What is also good is that these are two cities I’ve already been to, so less stress there. I can enjoy them again, more slowly.

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Blogkeeping and Exciting News

Hey all! This post is primarily to do a little bit of housekeeping around the blog, pretty much to set up for this summer. Why? Because this summer is going to be much more exciting than last summer. I’m going on a month-long trip to Europe!

But first a bit of exciting news: I’m now a contributing writer at The Artifice, an online magazine about entertainment. It’s not paid, but it does get my writing out there and it’s something to do while I look for a paying job. I’ve only written two articles so far (on Shakespeare and Hannibal), but I’ve got more planned. My articles are here: http://the-artifice.com/author/cristinabarletta/

Second, at some point in the near future this is going to become a travel blog. Posts will be categorized under “Traveling Shakespeare.” (You’ll notice I redid the categories so different types of posts are easier to find.) I’m leaving July 4th, but there might be some prep posts before then, and hopefully I’ll be able to cross-post photographs to my photography blog from the trip. I got a new camera which is better than my point-and-shoot from years past but not as heavy or expensive as my DSLR, which is too bulky to drag along, much as I want to.

I’m also excited about the trip because it’s pretty much a return to the origins of this blog. The blog was originally on blogspot (for some reason) and chronicled my study abroad in London two years ago, studying Shakespeare. Hence, timetravelingshakespeare. You can read the posts about my time abroad here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html and here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

But now I’m setting off on my own, free from college and, at least for part of the trip, from family. I’ll start off with my family in Spain, but then I’ll go off on my own to a few choice places: Switzerland, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. And then it’s back to New York to finish out the summer doing I-don’t-know-what.

So, there are travel posts coming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I (hope to) enjoy the trip! I’m very, very excited.

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College Classes 101

In honor of yesterday’s Last Day of Classes (FOREVER) I’ve decided to talk about some of the best and worst classes I’ve taken in college. After all, college is basically just going to class for 3-5 years in the hopes that one will catch your interest enough to become your life career.

The Best

Shakespeare-That’s right, UNC’s English department has a whole class dedicated to Shakespeare’s plays. There may even be more than one (I was tempted to take War In Shakespeare’s Plays but didn’t have time.) What was awesome about this class was that it took place over the summer in London and Oxford (there is a semester version in Chapel Hill but it’s much less interesting), and each play we read was accompanied by an outing to the performance in a London or Stratford-Upon-Avon theatre. As a bonus we got to see War Horse and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. In other words, I don’t think other classes top this one.

Every Screenwriter Class Ever-These were the most interesting part of my major, really. Learning how to write films, short and long, is hard work. Plus, we got to learn a lot about how Hollywood works. And we got to see our classmates act.

Playwriting-Same as the above, except I like my play better than my screenplay because it’s funnier. Also I’m really happy my professor didn’t kill me for all of my files labeled “Correct Format” that were actually in the wrong format because play format is weird.

Narrative Production-I took the summer version of this course in which we made four films in five weeks and somehow didn’t go crazy. We were a small group, but in the end we all succeeded and had some pretty good short films to take with us. Plus, our TA was open minded. We got to try a lot as a class.

Women’s Studies-Some people might say that this is a stupid class, and those people are wrong. You can learn a lot about gender and how society views it vs what it really is, along with plenty of gender inequality lessons that make a woman feel sad. But it’s interesting. It’s also called “gender studies” now but it wasn’t when I took it.

Psychology 101-I had the best professor who was enthusiastic about her field, even to a large freshman lecture, and who knew a lot. She also described how nerves work to erections. And she might have traumatized the class by showing us some dark film clips of mental illness taken to the extreme.

That One Drama Class I Took First Semester-it was a first year seminar where we discussed style in relation to drama throughout history. I got to present about what influenced Shakespeare’s characters and write a long essay about various versions of Hamlet. I enjoyed it.

Worst

Intro to Rhetoric-I don’t like rhetoric. I don’t like talking about rhetoric. I don’t like writing about it. It’s still trying to break me now.

Spanish Literature-It wasn’t too bad until we got to poetry, and then we all died. Poetry is hard to analyze in the English language. Put it in a language you’re not fluent in that typically doesn’t teach you the vocabulary of literature analysis when you learn it causes disaster. There was also a video project. Never assign a video project outside of a media production class. We won’t talk about the video project.

Intro to Media Production-I would just like to start by saying that all of the intro courses in the Communications Department are like torture. Also, the TA’s for this course and the professor seemed to think we didn’t have other classes. I did make an anti-hipster film, though.

Math 118-I don’t remember exactly what we were supposed to be learning. I really just don’t like math.

Lifetime Fitness (LFIT)-Everyone has to take these courses, and everyone pretty much agrees that they’re pointless. You learn a bit of 6th grade biology and have to come in for an hour twice a week to exercise. And they hope that the course will make you healthier. We’re college students, so it doesn’t.

So, there’s a lot of variety in college, especially at a liberal arts school. You can take anything, and you’ll probably end up with a lot of classes not in your major. There will be some really, really bad classes. And there will be classes better than anything you could have imagined while in high school.

No matter what you do, avoid the 8am class. Those are the worst.

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Holiday Entertainment

It’s that time of year! Namely, the time of year where everyone is home for the holidays and gets bored and needs stuff to do. Having been doing lots of stuff recently, I have some recommendations. And I hope that my recommendations are worthy.

Film

A lot of noteworthy films have come out this year in theaters. Currently out and really really good movies that you should see are Life of PiLincoln, and Skyfall. Coming soon movies that look really good are Les MiserablesThe Hobbit, and The Impossible. Basically, it’s just been a really good year for movies. Life of Pi is a story about a boy who is stuck at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger for nearly a year, and uses beautiful imagery and storytelling to make a fantastic film. Lincoln has some very good actors and keeps your attention even though you know what’s going to happen. Skyfall is the best of the newer Bond movies, focusing on Bond’s relationship with MI6 when the new villain threatens the organization. Coming out, The Hobbit looks stunning and Peter Jackson is a great director so, hopefully, it will be a great movie. Les Mis also looks good but could go either way. The Impossible, the true story of a family vacationing during the 2004 tsunami, is heartbreaking and has gotten good reviews in Europe, so it’s worth checking out.

If you happen to have theatres that show older movies from earlier in the fall, then you should definitely attempt to see Cloud AtlasLooper, and Argo. All three movies are huge accomplishments in storytelling and are innovative, unique stories in their own right. Looper didn’t really get a lot of advertising so I think quite a few people missed out, but if you like gritty, realistic sci-fi and time travel then this is your film. Cloud Atlas also missed out on an audience due to people not knowing quite what it is, because it’s six wildly different stories in one film, but the film is beautiful and shows how humans are all interconnected through six amazing different story lines. Argo is still playing in a lot of places because it’s the fantastic story of the Iranian hostage crisis.

Or you could catch up on the various super-hero movies, good in their own right, that have come to a conclusion this year. The Batman trilogy of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises is a dark and exciting take on the Batman story and well worth watching. If you saw the Avengers, or want to see it, it’s worth also checking out Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America because they are all entertaining and provide insight into the various characters. Lastly, the new Amazing Spider-man came out and Andrew Garfield good in the part, so it’s worth a watch.

Television

There’s lots of good television to watch or catch up on as well. I recommend, highly, The Hour, which tells the story of a BBC news program in the 1950’s that strives to tell the truth. Journalists Bel, Freddie, and Hector have to go up against the British government in order to give a true look at what’s going on in the country during the beginnings of the Cold War. The show has some amazing acting and storytelling, and also makes quite a lot of good commentary on journalism. Series 2 is airing now.

Doctor Who is coming out with a new Christmas special, introducing new companion Clara. If you haven’t seen the first half of series 7, in which Amy and Rory left, now’s a good time. It starts off questionably but gets going by the third episode to end spectacularly. If you haven’t watched Who before, I’d suggest starting all the way with 2005’s Series 1, with the Ninth Doctor, and working from there. It’s quite a fun ride.

Sherlock is not coming out with anything knew, but with both lead actors starring in new films, it’s worth checking out for anyone who hasn’t watched. It’s a modern retelling of the Sherlock Holmes stories that is compelling and fantastic. There are two series out, and they both have cliffhangers that leave you wanting more.

For Shakespeare lovers, BBC came out with a series entitled The Hollow Crown over the summer, featuring the plays Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Henry V. Some fantastic actors filled in the roles, with Ben Whishaw as Richard II, Jeremy Irons as Henry IV, and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V. It’s well worth checking out if you want to see an extremely well done take of Shakespeare’s histories.

Books

As a student who doesn’t get too much time to read, I can only recommend a few, but I can promise you that they are good. First, I’d like to recommend Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell–if you can’t see the movie, definitely read the book before it comes out on DVD. It’s six vastly different stories nested within one another that show how, ultimately, we are all connected.

For the history lovers out there, Chinese Lessons by John Pomfret is a good look at what communist China was like after the Cultural Revolution, told through the eyes of the author when he studied abroad in China shortly after the country was opened to students from the West, and includes the stories of several fellow classmates he met that, against all odds, ended up going to university with him.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is the story of a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh trying to make their way through life, trying to get clean and failing, and ultimately trying to find a way out. It’s a good book with interesting narration (phonetic, in the style of a thick Scottish accent) and a great movie adaptation that also shouldn’t be missed.

If you like Game of Thrones or are a fan of the BBC series Merlin, or simply like tales of knights and magic, read The Once and Future King by T.H. White. This novel tells the story of how King Arthur became king, how Merlin taught him to view the world and then continued to be his friend during kingship, and how Arthur’s marriage and kingship fell apart. It’s epic, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking. Read it.

I hope that everyone has a fantastic holiday and gets to do a lot of fun things before next year eats up time again.

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All the Entertainment in One Sentence

I’m taking some screenwriting classes, and one of the first things we learn about is ‘loglines’. A logline is a one-sentence description of a script, whether it be 3 pages or 100 pages, that describes the action of the movie. I figured, being the bored sort of person that I am, that I could review every movie/television special I’ve seen this summer with a logline. This would save time, and energy, and it’s also good practice. And trying to sum long things up in one sentence is…amusing. So, here is the product of a rather boring period during the day:

The Avengers-A bunch of superheroes who aren’t really heroes have to learn to work together to stop Loki, the God of Mischief, and his alien friends, who are intent on destroying midtown Manhattan.

The Dark Knight Rises-Batman comes back after 8 years of being a recluse to fight Bane, a strong man with a funny voice who is also intent on destroying Manhattan…er, I mean, Gotham.

Richard II-King Richard (II) of England banishes Henry, only to have Henry take the kingship from him because of some sort of revenge involving Richard crying a lot and beautiful scenery.

Henry IV Part 1-King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons) tries to prevent civil war with Scotland, while his son, Prince Hal, drinks and does Jeremy Irons impressions until he is called off to war.

Henry IV Part II-Falstaff plots to become rich and Henry IV is dying, leaving Prince Hal to take over the throne, and not get drunk anymore.

Henry V-After the French insult Henry V with tennis balls, Henry declares war on them, and marries the French King’s daughter for good measure.

Brave-A young Scottish princess named Merida doesn’t want to get married, so she turns her mother into a bear instead.

Midnight In Paris-Owen Wilson finds out that at midnight, 2011 Paris turns into 1920’s Paris, and he can’t quite get over how F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dalí, and Ernest Hemingway exist.

Batman and Robin-Batman takes a bunch of drugs, which makes him hallucinate the likes of Uma Thurman and Bane in a hospital, and Robin makes “witty” remarks.

Kill Bill-A nameless woman who was nearly killed at her own wedding decides to kill everyone else, using only a katana and a lot of anger, and no small amount of toe movement.

Thor-Mythological Norse gods, like Thor, Loki, and Odin, have major family problems that result in large-scale fights that destroy everything, all because they didn’t go to therapy.

Captain America-A scrawny kid with every issue under the sun because a super soldier, gets called Captain America, kicks Nazi ass, and ends up being late for a dinner date.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers-Aragorn injures himself being a badass, Legolas says obvious things, and the hobbits putter around some gorgeous scenery, all while an evil wizard wages war on everyone, and somewhere in all this two hobbits find time to get high by smoking plants.

Billy Elliot-A young boy named Billy wants to dance, and his town, which is full of miners, doesn’t want him to dance, but he’s just so good at dancing.

Trainspotting-A bunch of Scottish heroin addicts make a mess of everything, and the main character, Renton, repeatedly tries to get off heroin, with varying success on a scale of “too high to care” to “I’m running away because I stole my friend’s money and he’ll kill me but at least I’m not on drugs.”

So, if you couldn’t already tell, I watched a lot of different movies this summer. And it was awesome! But most of these (not all) are pretty good, so if you have spare time, watch away.

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Review-The Hollow Crown “Presume Not That I Am the Thing I Was”

It’s not often that Shakespeare is on our televisions (and indeed, in the U.S. Shakespeare is almost never on our televisions), but this summer the BBC decided that Shakespeare would be the main act of the summer. They aired ‘The Hollow Crown’, a four-part mini-series consisting of four of Shakespeare’s history plays—Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. Not only that, but the BBC tied The Hollow Crown to the Olympics by saying that Shakespeare represents a huge part of British culture. They hoped to bring Shakespeare to mainstream audience, to pique interest in the magnificent stories that he wrote and the excellent job directors and actors could do bringing them to life. I can attest to that culture, having studied Shakespeare last year in London and having seen many productions of his plays—England is truly alive and well with Shakespeare’s work, certainly more so than the United States.

The idea behind producing all four of Shakespeare’s histories is to make an epic story, which provides more depth than simply adapting one of the plays could provide. Here, we get to see the journey of kings, sad and triumphant, peaceful and warlike. In Richard II, we see how Henry IV becomes king. Henry IV is all about Henry’s son, Prince Hal, going from being an irresponsible young rapscallion (yes, I did use that word) to realizing his duty as the next in line for the throne. In Henry V, that same Prince is now a king, determined to prove that he is a good king and one to be taken seriously.

These plays could be very boring, considering that the story of the succession of kings is ultimately a story full of politics, and politics, while intriguing, can be a bit dull at times. Indeed, the dullness of politics has its moments in these productions, but those moments are few. Instead, Shakespeare’s plays and the resultant productions focus on the personal stories—this isn’t just about the succession of Kings, but about men growing into the roles of kings, or relinquishing them, in their own ways. They are personal journals, in which the kings, while divine rulers to their subjects, are shown in much more human, personal moments, so they become men that we can sympathize and relate to. And overall, the series is successful in creating not only good stories, but characters we can relate to even as they strive to be greater than most.

Richard II

Richard II is a Shakespeare play that is rarely adapted to the screen, and for good reason. Not much happens. Richard is king of England, and two of his subjects get into a quarrel. He banishes them both, and leaves to go wage a war that people don’t want. He is a young king, and some of his subjects think he is unfit to rule. One of the men he banished, Henry Bolingbroke, returns to England and, with some help, takes the throne from Richard, and weeds out those in the kingdom who would betray him. He grips England with an iron fist.

Ben Whishaw as Richard in the mirror scene.

In this production, Richard II is played by Ben Whishaw. Dark haired, pale skinned, and always dressed in white, Richard is given a lot of visual symbolism. He is often made to look like Christ, both when he spreads his arms wide in front of the throne as a king before his subjects and later, when he looks Christ-like in death with an arrow sticking out of his side (and his chest, and his shoulder), the picture of sacrifice. Ben Whishaw plays Richard well, as a delicate, sometimes sassy, sensitive king. He is very obviously very young, both in appearance and action. He doesn’t know quite how to run a kingdom, and isn’t quite strong enough to go head-to-head with those that criticize him; instead, he punishes them. We feel for him in his sensitive moments, such as when he can’t bear to part with the crown, but we also can understand why he doesn’t make a good king.

The usurper is Henry Bolingbroke, played by Rory Kinnear, who does a good job playing Richard’s foil, in that not only is he older in appearance, but he acts more like a king-he is strong-willed, and a leader, and determined. He is also ruthless, in some ways; he demands the heads of traitors. Yet he is also respectful; we learn that for all he wanted Richard locked away, he did not want Richard dead. And Kinnear convinces us, more than Richard ever could, that he is a king, even before the crown is on his head.

There are also other actors who light up the screen when they are on. Patrick Stewart plays John of Gaunt, briefly, in the beginning. This is Henry’s father, who is a harsh critic of Richard, who stands up to him, and then dies, and Stewart allows him to make a mark. David Morrissey is steadfast as Northumberland, one of Henry’s supporters.

Besides the actors, the cinematography itself is enough to steal some scenes. We get

Richard in the final scenes.

wide, sweeping shots of green fields. There are many scenes where we see turquoise water and the waves lapping up upon a clear, pristine sandy beach. Even smaller scale scenes have there moments—Richard and his cousins sit upon a stony bridge surrounded by green trees, feet hanging over a steady stream on a clear, sunny summer’s day.

The costuming is equally wonderful to look at. Richard wears white-gold garments that are made for a king of extravagance, while Henry goes for imposing dark colors.

If this production is anything, it is a production meant to be looked at. What the script cannot provide in action the production makes up for by being candy for the eye. The film, at two hours and twenty minutes long, can drag in places, but there’s always something to watch, whether it be the costumes, the scenery, or the symbolism. At one point Richard looks in a mirror and smashes it, declaring that he is no longer king. The imagery is heavy, and there is no pulling punches, but it works to make the story more cinematic than the script originally is.

Henry IV Parts 1 and 2

If Richard II is a production of images, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 is a production of actions and words. The script has more to give for television purposes, in that more happens, and faster. There is definitive action. As a result, the production doesn’t need as many lingering shots or symbolism. Instead, the story is more practical and stark, moving on when it needs to, with very little in the way of scenery to speak of. It isn’t pretty to look at, but it is captivating to watch.

Henry IV, as a whole, is the coming-of-age story of Prince Hal, King Henry IV’s son. Hal is irresponsible and keeps bad company and seemingly has no concept of the fact that he is soon to be king. On the other end of the spectrum is Northumberland’s son, Hotspur, who is noble and a respected warrior, who eventually decides to lead a civil war against the king. Prince Hal decides to take up the responsibility of war and challenges Hotspur. This is his first step towards being worthy of the title of king. This is what makes up Part 1.

Part 2 focuses on Prince Hal’s friend, Falstaff, a drunkard of a man who steals, lies, and does everything to excess. He has no responsibilities, and he certainly never grew up, despite being an old man. Yet, with Henry IV so wrapped up in being a king and keeping his crown, Richard’s death still looming over him and causing unrest, Falstaff has become a sort of surrogate father to Hal, if a very bad one. This second part examines Falstaff’s character in parallel to Prince Hal’s, and what it is that eventually makes Hal realize that in order to become a good king, he must cast Falstaff and the rest of his bawdy friends off and make a new life for himself. And it isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

Henry IV is played by Jeremy Irons, and Irons plays him as stern and always aware of his

Jeremy Irons as Henry IV

duty. He is tired, in this production, and as Hal points out, the crown has eaten away at him. And Irons makes his character look it—the concerns over his son and the civil war and everything else wear him down until, sick and frail, he is close to panicked that he will not be able to impart on Hal the ways of kingship. He and Hal have no real relationship to speak of, save for an undercurrent of resentment, until the end, when both accept the future—Henry’s death and Hal’s kingship.

Tom Hiddleston makes us invested in Hal’s journey, by playing him as a rogue but with an undercurrent of something more serious. He is aware of responsibility but does not take it, not until he needs to, and he is also innocent to what being a prince and, later, a king entails. This is most obvious during his battle with Hotspur, when he comes from the battle gasping and faces Hotspur wide-eyed and almost desperate before managing to get a hold of his anger, whereas Hotspur is self assured-battle is where he belongs. In Part 2 Hiddleston brings more sensitivity to the performance when he realizes what being King has done to his father, and what he must do.

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal, shortly before becoming King.

It is the last part of Henry IV Part 2 that Hiddleston shines the most, accepting responsibility for being the king and mourning his father’s death. Hiddleston allows Hal to lose his carefree attitude and replace it with something more regal, and determined to prove that he is responsible and ready to be king. He doesn’t lose his sensitivity, or his humanity, but he allows it to show to different people—his father and his court. With Falstaff, he is cold and aloof, every part the king to make it known that he has rejected his formal life. He is not the thing he once was, he tells Falstaff, and we can all see it in the way he holds himself, the look in his eye, and the way he talks. His fathers’ death has changed him.

Simon Russell Beale is Falstaff, known for being one of the most bawdy characters in any of Shakespeare’s works. Beale, however, makes Falstaff a little more well-rounded (no pun intended, maybe) by showing that Falstaff does, in fact, find some affection in his friendship with Prince Hal. Sure, he often uses the friendship to save himself from punishment, and he uses everyone around him to his own ends, even claiming to have killed Hotspur despite that honor being Prince Hal’s, but there is an undercurrent of genuine affection towards Hal, and sadness when Hal rejects him. By the time we get to Henry V, Falstaff is nothing more but a shell of his former self. This performance works on many levels by making Falstaff more interesting. However, during Henry IV Part 2 Falstaff spends most of the play being grim, which makes his sadness at the end stand out less than it should—after all, Falstaff should be reasonably merry until he absolutely has reason not to be. And he only has reason to be truly grim when Hal rejects him.

Part I tends to be more interesting than Part 2, because there is a lot going on—we are introduced to characters, and given a civil war to worry about, and everything ends with a defining moment for Hal. Part 2 picks up towards the end, when we see Falstaff’s hope that once Hal is king, life will be good for him, juxtaposed with Hal’s realization that he must cast off his old life to be a good king. One of the most powerful moments is between Hal and Henry IV, when Henry IV tells him that he hopes his rein will be more peaceful, because he would gain kingship by divine right (inheritance) rather than through usurping the crown.

Henry V

Henry V picks up a few years after the previous installment, when Prince Hal, now Henry V, is enjoying a peaceful rein. He is a good king, but there is a problem with France, which owns some lands that should, by rights, belong to Henry. So, they decide to fight for those lands against France in order to bring peace to the nations.

More than that, Henry V is the story about a king who realizes that, at the heart of everything, he is also simply a man, like his subjects. What is most interesting about this production is the way in which it differs from the past. The most recent production of Henry V had Kenneth Branagh in the lead role (and directing) and was big. Branagh played Henry as a confident king, one who would rally whole troops with inspiring speeches, one who was self-assured.

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V.

Tom Hiddleston goes for a different approach—he makes Henry V’s story not only that of a king who is a man, but of a man who is trying to prove that he is a good king, despite his past. The major speeches of this play are where the change is most obvious—instead of being delivered to whole armies, Hiddleston’s Henry delivers to handfuls of people, addressing individuals even, making the speeches more personal, and all the while seeming like he’s trying to reassure himself as much as those he speaks to. And this emphasizes the fact that Henry is also a man like his subjects, because he, too, has his doubts, and Tom Hiddleston plays upon those uncertainty well. His king is sure of himself when he needs to be, in front of others, but is much less sure when alone, or disguising himself as a commoner, or while trying to woo Katherine, or in prayer. But he is still a king, nonetheless, one that owns the battlefields and fights in Agincourt until the very end, determined to win. The performance makes you feel for Henry more, and as a result you become more invested in his story.

Edward Akrout plays the Dauphin as an angry young man, similar to Hotspur in Henry IV. The Dauphin is the prince of France, and is opposite of Henry in many ways; in that he is angrier and more eager for war. But they also share similarities: they are both determined to prove themselves, they are young, and they are proud and will not back down.

John Hurt voices the Chorus, which is handled interestingly, through interludes that carry the narration forward in time, the Chorus being a voice-over to visuals that show the passage of time and allow everything to flow smoothly. Interestingly enough, we find out that Hurt’s character is not the just Chorus, but is Falstaff’s boy, who goes to war in France as a child and witnesses Henry’s sudden death years later. We get a closure with him, having followed him through the story, always in the background, the only thing carried from Henry’s old life to his new one. He becomes an old man, and stands by Henry’s old throne, and delivers the Chorus’ last lines, closing the final chapter of an epic story of kings.

So is it worth watching? Yes. The Hollow Crown is beautiful produced, directed, and acted, and if there were ever a way to see all of Shakespeare’s histories, this is it. Put together, the histories become one epic story of kings rising and falling, of triumph and failure, love and loss, coming of age and taking on responsibility. Most of all, these stories are about change. People change, times change, but each change brings on a new story.

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