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TOPIC: BBC - a revelation!

BBC - a revelation! 10 years 6 months ago #865

  • akfarrar
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What a reputation the man has!

(Not Shakespeare this time - Good old 'King Henry'.)

Tudor playboy, musician, sportsman, passionate lover, wife killer, church destroyer, (and saviour) in one.

American WASPs are 'P' because of he.

And Shakespeare has a play with the title, 'Henry VIII'.

Well, it is also known as ‘The Famous History if King Henry the Eight’ but that’s far too long for the playbill and we already know the man is famous.

Not so the play.

I’ve just watched the first half of it in fact – from the BBC complete works.

Surprising really – intelligent matter. You don’t notice that when you read it – and I have only a vague remembrance of watching this performance back in 1979 so I only know it through a dutiful, once only, read.

You expect a different treatment of the characters – and much more vitriol against the Spanish (so far it is the French who have had to suffer a jolly good dose of Great English Xenophobia – can’t keep a respected enemy out of it). Catherine, Henry’s first wife, seems a most sympathetic character.

There is an ambiguity with Wolsey – everyone kicking at his common ancestry and ambition – but he is effective and another not exactly unsympathetic ‘representation’ (especially, one suspects, to a working class chap like Shakey).

And at this point there is a dreadful sense of fate weaving – a dark thread slipping into the cloth of gold.

Is there anything anyone could have done?

Which brings up the parallel with Romeo and Juliet: Several times there are little stage actions and theatrical moments that remind one of the earlier play. There is the masquers interrupting a feast, for example, and a man singling out a young woman – with talk of hands; there is the old worldly wise woman talking to the young girl who pretends an innocence not entirely believable, but not hypocritical.

But with R&J you know it didn’t have to be like that – here there is no escape – and it is not just a personal tragedy, it is National History.


The play of departures!

Just finished the second half of the BBC Henry the Eighth: Jolly good too!

What struck me most was the number of departures - and no one given a bad end.

Written well after the events - in a Protestant country - out of the Tudor reign; and no blame to be seen.

Wolsey dies an honest Christian; Catholic Catherine dies a saint's death; Cranmer - to die at the stake under Catherine's daughter's yoke - is deeply holy and prophesies, at the christening of baby Elizabeth, nothing but glory - and virginity and death.

What was Shakey thinking?

Surely it was written for a court performance under James? It is a chamber piece - so much 'internal' - so protagonist free.

What vice there is, is that of ambition and court pettiness. There is no evil here.

It is the fall of angels. Foreshadows of Milton – Wolsey’s words at his end especially.

And what a production – as close to where it should be as the Beeb could get – genuine Tudor locations (so right for this chamber piece).

But still something missing?

Maybe the theatrical.

How intriguing that the original Globe burnt down during a performance of this play – the theatre itself rebelling at so strange a play?
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BBC - a revelation! 10 years 6 months ago #885

  • Tue Sorensen
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I have recently seen this BBC production as well, and I liked it, too. Wolsey is the core character, and Cromwell is also important as his close ally. You're right about Wolsey's ambiguity - Timothy West plays him excellently, admirably and innocently; you'd practically swear he was no kind of traitor at all! It's an interesting play, and I think there are dimensions to Wolsey that we haveyet to discover.
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