Loveís Laborís Lost (Royal Shakespeare Live) Ė I wasnít sure I was likely to like any performance of this play very much but this one is fun an accessible, unlike the Complete BBC version which is a bore. The setting is Edwardian.
Cymbeline (RSC Live)- Gender swaps some characters including Cymbeline (who isnít the star of the show or even much of a character) which sometimes doesnít matter. It mostly serves to make Cloten, the villain, seem like more of a sexual predator rather than just a dufus, and then has him killed off by a woman. Alot of people dismiss this play as a misguided mess but this performance is lucid and very enjoyable.
Loveís Laborís Won: Much Ado About Nothing (RSC Live) Ė A companion production to ď..Lost,Ē hence the title (some people think this play was the fables Loveís Labourís Won, although that seems doubtful) and it uses the same cast. I like this play much more than Lost, so maybe the difference in enjoyment was due to expectations? Anyway this is good. The most distinctive production choice was the decision to make us feel bad for laughing at Dogberry (who seems to have Parkinsonís?).
Troilus and Cressida (Complete BBC Series) - I think this is the only commercial version currently available, although an RSC production is coming out. The first half is boring but I think thatís Shakespeareís fault. This might be one thatís easier to enjoy on the page than on the stage (or screen).
Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC Live) Ė This is my pick for the worst Shakespeare play but this production is probably as good as itís going to get without making it shorter. At least the best stuff is in the last two acts, which makes it easier to sit through.
Hamlet (Manchesterís Royal Exchange Theatre) Ė Hamlet is played by a woman but is still a male character, but some of the other characters are gender swapped. Some of them donít matter but having a Polonia instead of Polonius maxes for an interesting shift in their relationship to Ophelia. Also Rosencrantz is a girl and seems to have been Hamletís high school #### buddy. This is a good production with a Hamlet who probably becomes genuinely madder than the way Iíd read most other performances. I thought moving the To Be or Not to Be speech to after the killing of Polonia, which Hamlet covered in blood from moving the body, was questionable but I guess it fit the production.
Worth a Look:
The Merchant of Venice (RSC Live) Ė Eeeh, this wasnít that well received and isnít that good, but there are enough redeeming points, especially a strong Portia. We also get a distinctive Shylock, and a crybaby Antonio whoís relationship with Bassanio is so openly gay that they pretty much make out in front of everyone before and after the trial, which really doesnít work for me. Thereís also a giant swinging metal ball in the back of the set which everybody in the universe hated.
Hamlet (1969 film version starring Nicol Williamson) Ė Williamson is good enough to make this worth watching (unless thereís a youtube comp. of all of his soliloquies and longer speeches) but the rest of this is completely goddawful in almost every way. Okay the gravedigger (we only get one) and player king are good but everything else is ass. Anthony Hopkins is Claudius and heís horrible but itís the directorís fault. I think Ophelia is supposed to be a zombie or something. At least itís under two hours.
Henry IV (from 1995 BBC series Performance) Ė I wanted to see this because I read it had a good Falstaff and then it turned up on Amazon and I was excited. It does have a good Falstaff but everything else sucks. I donít think any of the actors rehearsed together or spoke to any sort of director before showing up and giving whatever the hell performance they wanted.