So Mr. P & I went to see the streamed National Theatre Live broadcast of Sir Ian McKellen's "King Lear," and I'm really glad we did because that is the way to see these plays, if you ask me. Even with our theater's chronic tech problems, and even though we were in the theater for going on four hours.
Quick comparison: Mission Impossible: Fallout: in the theater for two hours forty minutes, felt like eternity. King Lear? Over in a flash.
I was not bored for a second. I did not have trouble following the play, even though I've never read it. The acting was, if not uniformly excellent, certainly very high quality and in some cases hard to imagine bettering. I now have a crush on James Corrigan, who played the nefarious Edmund. McKellen was everything I'd hoped.
Seriously loved that Kent was played by a woman, Sinead Cusack, who was SUPERB. Since Kent is arguably the hero of the piece, extra special love here.
The director staged the play in two long acts, which works for the modern theatre-goer, and the break in the text was in a logical and cliff-hangery place.
Then, coincidentally, Amazon just released a new Lear film starring a slew of fabulous actors including Anthony Hopkins (Lear), Emma Thompson (Goneril), and Jim Broadbent (Gloucester). This was an abridged presentation, coming in at right around two hours total. We watched it, and I definitely preferred the unabridged version. A lot of plot threads just disappeared in the truncated text.
Hopkins' Lear was very different from McKellen's: meaner, more violent, with less pathos. Less sympathetic, and without some sympathy for the old bastard it's difficult to conceive of the piece as an actual tragedy. The Cordelia in the Amazon film was stronger, to my mind, and Emma Thompson has never been anything less than perfect.
The two versions were quite similar in their sort-of-modern settings. Both had Cordelia marrying the Duke of France but then in military uniform, actively participating in the French sortie on English soil. I have no idea if she has conventionally been played as a soldier.
So, one of the upcoming events promoted with this screening was a December NTL broadcast of 'Antony & Cleopatra,' with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo. I have already ordered tickets.
And since I have got my Shakespeare thing going, I think it is time to re-watch some of the filmed versions that live in the jukebox. I have also, finally, downloaded a copy of the complete plays so that I can, belatedly, further my education in this regard.