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Good, but could have been better
on March 6, 2013
The concept and execution of this project is laudable. How fine it is to have Derek Jacobi, one of his generation's best actors, taking us through the political battles of Richard II. Jeremy Irons is equally adept at narrating the Henriad. But what were the producers thinking when they tapped Ethan Hawke to guide us through one of the Bard's greatest, darkest, most sublime plays is beyond me. He comes across as knowledgeable as that fine critic Opie Taylor - the only thing lacking is a "Gee Whillikers Pa". He asks a fellow expert what "Murther" could mean. When he is told the answer his eyes bug out "Really? Murder?" Was neither IanMcKellen or Patrick Stewart available? What about Rowan Atkinson? Another low point is when Jacobi stuffs his inane theory that Shakespeare did not author the plays down our throats. The Earl of Southampton did indeed write poetry under his own name and it is worse than mediocre - are we to believe he only wrote well when using Shakespeare as a front? Absurd. It has no business in this program, but one guesses Jacobi demanded to be able to make his wild speculations or he would not participate. I am second to none in my admiration for the man's acting prowess, but the cockamamie theory he advocates makes me wonder about his native intelligence. It is always wonderful to have Trevor Nunn as a guide through anything Shakespearean and he does a yeoman like job with "The Tempest". The program is good, but uneven.