Tuesday, July 11, 2017
That Dude, Will--the Bard ...
We started streaming this last night--the new TNT miniseries Will, about young Will Shakespeare heading off to London to try to begin a life in the theater. We watched only about fifteen minutes of the first episode, not because we disliked it (though that may yet be possible!) but because it was very near the time in the evening (9-ish!) when my brain says: That's enough for today ... I am shutting down! I'll try some more this evening--or soon.
Here's a link to a trailer for the series.
Episode One begins in Stratford-upon-Avon, where a harried Ann Shakespeare (his wife) is dealing with their children (three at the time); she is not at all happy that he is going off to London, about 100 miles southeast, a distance that would take several days in the late 1500s. Ann comes across as a bit of a grouch in this portrayal--although we have absolutely no evidence about how she actually felt. But--alone with three little ones?--I get it ...
Then we see Will walking, approaching Elizabethan London, where the street life quickly sweeps him up, and where a street urchin leeches on--and steals something and runs. We paused where Will is entering a large drain to pursue the lad. I'm guessing the odor wasn't too pleasant, since sewage treatment lay far, far in the future.
We haven't yet seen much of Will as a writer--just a moment at the very beginning when he scratches out with his pen something that he didn't like. Oh, those writers! Never happy with their words ...
The recent review in the New York Times was not all that positive, though I merely skimmed it because I wanted to watch the shows for myself, but here's a link to what the NYT said yesterday. I've clipped it and will read it more carefully after I've watched more for myself ...
We do love to mess with the Bard, though, refashioning him over the decades and centuries to make him conform to our ideas about what he needs to be. For us. So, just in recent years, we've had the gay Shakespeare, the lover-boy Shakespeare (Shakespeare in Love), the pot-smoking Shakespeare, the devoted-husband Shakespeare, the unfaithful husband Shakespeare, the crypto-Catholic Shakespeare, the atheist Shakespeare, the former-soldier-and/or sailor Shakespeare, the ignorant-country-kid-who-never-could-have-written-Shakespeare Shakespeare, ad infinitum. And this will go ever on.
Joyce and I (as I've written here before) have now seen performed (live and onstage!) every play the Bard wrote. Some of them we've seen many times (the ones most commonly produced: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet--you know). And we still go each summer up to the Stratford Theatre Festival in Canada for a week (soon, soon--health permitting--we'll be headed up there again). And we have been constantly delighted, surprised, even thrilled by the different ways contemporary directors stage the productions--each, of course, showing a different view of the Bard.
In recent years, for example, we've seen productions of Midsummer Night's Dream that were set in the era of Sgt. Pepper (complete with Beatles' music), on a different planet, as entertainment at a wedding reception, on a bare stage with an emphasis on the pure darkness of some of it, and on and on.
But here's what I've learned: All of these productions--all of these re-visions--are just different ways of tilting the mirror that Shakespeare, 400 years ago, crafted so that we, now, can see--with humorous and disturbing clarity--ourselves.
And so I will continue with Will--how could I not?--and will post more about it here from time to time.
Here's a link to TNT's website info about their series.