RSC Shakespeare on Screen
A special film programme, created to complement the Royal Shakespeare Company’s cycle of plays King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings in the Theatre, will take place between 9 and 31 January.
At Barbican Cinema, Barbican Centre
£11.50 (standard), £10.50 (concessions), £9.20 (members) £6 (under 18s) £5 (Young Barbican)
A special film programme, created to complement the Royal Shakespeare Company’s cycle of plays King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings in the Theatre, will take place between 9 and 31 January. RSC Shakespeare on Screen will uncover highlights from 50 years of Shakespeare in performance. Nine titles have been selected from the huge archives of RSC work captured on stage or reconceived for film and television. Highlights include introductions from special guests including Vanessa Redgrave, Janet Suzman and Sir Willard White; Trevor Nunn’s iconic 1979 production of Macbeth with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench, originally performed at The Other Place in Straford-upon-Avon; Peter Hall’s 1959 A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Charles Laughton as Bottom in a rarely-seen partial recording; and Gregory Doran’s production of Hamlet (2009) filmed on location in an abandoned seminary in North London with David Tennant in the title role. A discussion with RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, film and literature professor Judith Buchanan and a panel of guests will focus on the RSC’s involvement with film and television and the challenges of translating stage productions to the screen.
This season is curated by John Wyver, RSC Director of Screen Productions, in association with the Barbican.
Macbeth (#) (Dir Trevor Nunn) (UK 1979 Dir Philip Casson)
Sat 9 Jan 3pm, Cinema 1
Graced by fiercely thoughtful performances from Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, Trevor Nunn’s intense and intimate production, originally staged at The Other Place, was recorded in an almost bare television studio. This vivid screen adaptation captures its powerful sense of claustrophobic evil.
RSC Shakespeare on Screen: Discussion
Sun 10 Jan 2pm, Cinema 2
RSC Director of Screen Productions John Wyver will introduce a discussion chaired by film and literature professor Judith Buchanan with a panel including RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran. The talk will explore a wide range of questions about the RSC’s involvement with film and television and the challenges of translating stage productions to the screen.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (#) (Dir Peter Hall) (UK 1959 Dir Hubbell Robinson 75 min)
+ Introduction by John Wyver
Sun 10 Jan 4pm, Cinema 2
Filmed on three cameras for American television in the theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, but seemingly never broadcast, this is a precious and rarely-seen partial record of Peter Hall’s acclaimed staging.
The Wars of the Roses - Henry VI (#) (Dirs Peter Hall, John Barton) (UK 1965 Dir Michael Hayes, Robin Midgeley)
+ Introduction by John Wyver
Mon 11 Jan 12pm, Cinema 2
The premiere of a newly restored BBC recording, once thought lost, of the first great RSC History plays cycle. Filmed using innovative techniques on the stage at Stratford-upon-Avon. In Henry VI, David Warner’s touching English monarch is contrasted with Janet Suzman’s fiery Joan of Arc. The first part of a trilogy directed by the great Peter Hall.
The War of the Roses - Edward IV (#) (Dirs Peter Hall, John Barton) (UK 1965 Dir Michael Hayes, Robin Midgeley)
+ Introduction by John Wyver
Mon 11 Jan 3pm, Cinema 2
Peggy Ashcroft blazes across the screen as Queen Margaret in this brilliant production. This second part of the trilogy is also newly restored by the BBC and is one of the most significant and compelling productions of theatre on television.
The War of the Roses - Richard III (#) (Dirs Peter Hall, John Barton) (UK 1965 Dirs Michael Hayes, Robin Midgeley)
+ Introduction by Janet Suzman
Tue 12 Jan 6pm, Cinema 1
Peter Hall’s vision for this production, the final part of the trilogy, is concerned with “the corrupting seductions experienced by anybody who wields power: Ian Holm’s compelling, chameleon-like King Richard is at the centre of this innovative BBC recording. There are also wonderful performances from Janet Suzman (Lady Anne) and Eric Porter (Richmond). The filming of Richard III’s climactic fight with Richmond is one of the earliest uses in Britain of hand-held electronic camera. Played on John Bury’s massive steel set, this defining production for the RSC is revealed as one of the greatest achievements of post-war British theatre.
Othello (#) (UK 1990 Dir Trevor Nunn 204 min)
+ Introduction by Sir Willard White
Sun 17 Jan 3pm, Cinema 2
Produced for BBC Television’s Theatre Night strand, this is a powerful version of Trevor Nunn’s 1989 intimate production featuring Ian McKellen, Willard White, Imogen Stubbs and Zoe Wanamaker. The setting suggests the American Civil War and the text is played almost in full. Nunn directed the screen version himself, favouring the performances over any strong sense of visual style.
As You Like It (#) (Dir Michael Elliot) (UK 1963 Dir Ronald Eyre)
Tue 19 Jan 6pm, Cinema 1
+ Introduction by Vanessa Redgrave
One of the earliest hits for the newly established RSC, Michael Elliott’s sparkling version of Shakespeare’s comedy is still remembered with joy by a generation of theatre-goers. The design was dominated by a huge oak tree but the production is most memorable for Vanessa Redgrave’s luminous Rosalind, supported by Max Adrian and Ian Bannen.
King Lear (#) (UK 1971 Dir Peter Brook 137 min)
Sat 23 Jan 3pm, Cinema 1
Peter Brook’s vision of the tragedy was filmed in black-and-white against the snow-covered landscapes of Denmark’s North Jutland. The existential drama features a magnificent central performance from Paul Scofield.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (#) (UK 1996 Dir Adrian Noble 105 min)
Sun 24 Jan 3pm, Cinema 2
A richly visual imagining of the play, shot in stylised settings and vivid colours, and presented as if dreamt by a young boy. Based on Adrian Noble’s 1994 staging, this is a triumph of lush design by Anthony Ward, and immaculate performances.
Hamlet (#) (UK 2009 Dir Gregory Doran 185 min)
Sun 31 Jan 2pm, Cinema 1
Filmed on location in an abandoned seminary in north London, this striking television film captures the essence of Gregory Doran’s 2008 modern-dress staging. David Tennant’s quicksilver characterisation is central to a reading that imagines Elsinore as a world of surveillance and spying. Other standouts in the distinguished cast include Patrick Stewart (Claudius), Penny Downie (Gertrude), Mariah Gale (Ophelia) and Oliver Ford Davies as an incomparable Polonius.