Tuesday, August 15, 2006

John Barton on Shakespeare

For the last few days, I've been watching the Royal Shakespeare Company workshops led by John Barton, taped by the BBC around 1980. I've read the accompanying book before, but.... Oh. My. God. It's chilling and mesmerizing to watch the RSC actors work text. I've had just barely enough experience in the rehearsal room and in workshops--especially at the One-month Intensive at Shakespeare & Company--to understand what Barton and his actors are doing. They almost make it look easy.

The shows focusing on irony and coolness & passion should probably be reviewed at the beginning of rehearsals by all local companies putting up a Shakespeare play. It's revelatory stuff.

It's also funny to watch a young Ian McKellan showboating; hogging the camera; stealing the spotlight from John Barton himself. He's the know-it-all kid we all hate (I've been him more than once!) When I lived in Boston in the mid 1980s, I saw McKellan do his one man introduction to Shakespeare; clearly, he had begun to shape it as far back as the Barton workshop.

6 comments:

Trish Egan & Harold Phillips said...

Also of note from that series is Patrick Stewart's way-too-long fringe of hair... I'm not one to critique people's hair choices, but letting your hair grow almost to your shoulders when you've got a bald pate could be considered a... questionable coifure choice :)

David Loftus said...

Where does one get a copy of this? Does the Multnomah County Library have it, by any chance?

Trevor said...

That is an awesome series. I found myself trying to watch one right after another but there's so much to take in. Very enjoyable.

paulmonster said...

Yes, David, MCL does have copies of it, but they're incomplete and invariably checked out/on loan.

Then again, it's been over a year since I worked at the Library, and it just may be that they do have a copy now.

I also know that the PCC Library system has it all on tape up at the Sylvania campus.

pjs

jason said...

When Donald and I were at school together, our teacher based his whole Shakespeare introductory class on those tapes. I don't know if it showed, but a lot of what we got out of that was what we brought in to Othello. Or tried, anyway. :-)

Steven Wolf said...

I see where it is some time since comments have been received. Let me advise all who follow this that the John Barton RSC workshops are now available on DVD (see Amazon.com). I have ordered my copy and have not been so excited since Kenneth Clark's Civilisation likewise came to DVD in America. I have been doing all these years with excerpts from Public Television that I hoarded on very poor VHS copies. For those who are familiar with these programs, they are such stuff as dreams are made on.