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Tad Davis

Philadelphia, PA USA

ratings
1549
REVIEWS
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FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
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HELPFUL VOTES
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  • A Christmas Carol

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (52)
    Story
    (51)

    A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman and Hall and first released on 19 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visitations of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

    Tad Davis says: "One of the best"
    "One of the best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There are so many wonderful recordings of this wonderful book - how could you possibly pick one over another? Simon Vance is one of the most reliable narrators in the business, and he delivers the goods here as well. His voices form a miniature orchestra, taking us through the story with speed and clarity. I often pick up details in one of Vance's narrations that I missed in reading the book or listening to other readers. Here it was an emphasis on the smells of London that I hadn't noticed before; and my mouth watered at the descriptions of the food. I loved it.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Henry VI, Part 2: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 1 min)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By David Tennant, Kelly Hunter, Norman Rodway, and others
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Young King Henry VI has married the beautiful Margaret of Anjou but the new queen is ruthless and ambitious. Supported by the powerful Duke of Suffolk, Margaret plots the overthrow of her enemies, chief among them the Duke of Gloucester. But the Duke of York also aspires to the crown, and the common people, led by Jack Cade, are in rebellion. To the despair of the mild young king, England descends into civil war.

    Tad Davis says: "This review is actually for Part Three"
    "This review is actually for Part Three"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Well, this is dumb. I just realized that I posted my review of Part Two under Part Three. So I may as well post my review of Part Three under Part Two and hope that anyone interested in either play will read both.

    The third part of Henry VI condenses most of the action of the War of the Roses, and as such is filled with one (sometimes confusing) battle after another. Wakefield, Barnet, and Tewkesbury follow one another in a whirlwind, dissolving into clashing steel and shouting men.

    The rise and fall of great ones can be confusing too. The Earl of Warwick fights for York, then Lancaster, and then he's dead. Clarence, one of the sons of York, fights for his brother, then switches sides, then switches back again. Henry (played here, as before, by the brilliant David Tennant) is king, then he's not king, then he's king again; Edward, son of Richard Duke of York, is king and then not king and then king again. When the dust settles, Edward is on top and Henry is dead.

    It's probably better not to try to keep it straight. Just go with the flow and focus on the great set pieces in the play, of which there are many. One enacts the death of Richard Duke of York, standing on a hillock in the midst of battle, tormented by the taunts of Queen Margaret (played as before by the excellent Kelly Hunter). “She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France!” he cries: “O tiger’s heart wrapped in woman’s hide!”

    Another great set piece - also on a hillock in the midst of battle (on stage, they could be the same hillock, lending a visual resonance to the scene) - King Henry laments his fate, born to be king but without the strength of personality needed to do the job. As he watches, “enter a father who has killed his son and a son who has killed his father,” portraying the costs of civil war in starkly human and individual terms. (This scene, with haunting background music, is particularly effective.)

    And keep your eye as well on David Troughton as Richard, younger son of the lamented Duke of York. His murderous ambition becomes clear as the play progresses. The Richard who ends this play is the Richard who opens his own play, Richard III (the next in the series), declaring that “the winter of our discontent” has been made glorious summer “by this son of York” - his brother Edward. By the end of THAT play, everybody - Edward, his children, brother Clarence, Richard himself, and all the Lancastrians but one - is dead.

    If you've seen Richard III and have wondered about the background, the third part of Henry VI is an excellent introduction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Henry VI, Part 3: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By David Tennant, Kelly Hunter, Clive Merrison, and others
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    The Yorkists have been temporarily victorious and the Duke of York has assumed the throne, but the Lancastrians, led by Queen Margaret, counter-attack. As the fortunes of war shift, both the innocent and the guilty are swept up in the maelstrom. And increasingly dominant amid the chaos is the sinister figure of the crook-backed Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

    Tad Davis says: "One of my favorites"
    "One of my favorites"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a complicated play, like Part One, and if you're not familiar with it, it might be a good idea to keep the text handy. The first segment of this play deals mostly with the scheming that leads to the downfall and murder of Good Duke Humphrey, the King's Protector. The conspiracy to bring this about is led by Queen Margaret and (according to the play) her lover, the Duke of Suffolk.

    The second segment stages the rebellion of Jack Cade and - following the collapse of that disorganized revolt - an even more dangerous one led by Richard, Duke of York. York finally comes clean about his determination to take the throne, and he and his sons and allies unleash the "dogs" at the Battle of St Albans. The War of the Roses is on.

    Several people lose their heads in this play: Suffolk first, then Lord Say and his son-in-law James Cromer, and finally Jack Cade himself. The heads are not lopped off and forgotten: they are handled, fondled, tossed, stuck on pikes and made to kiss. It must have been quite a challenge for the Elizabethan props department.

    David Tennant, Clive Merrison, and others continue the contributions they made in Part One. Tennant gives a standout performance as the tortured and passive king. Late in the play, he's had enough, and he explodes with anger and invective. It's an all-too-brief moment: after banishing Suffolk, he lapses back into tortured passivity.

    Kelly Hunter, as Queen Margaret, had a few lines of dialogue in Part One, but here assumes a major role. Margaret expected to marry a KING, not the huddled mass yearning to be free that her husband has become. "What are you made of?" she yells at him, as the Battle of St Albans goes against them. "You'll nor fight nor fly!" The royal faction increasingly looks to her for leadership.

    Another distinctive voice in this part is Kenneth Cranham as Jack Cade. To me, Cranham has always sounded a bit like James Mason. Here he plays an out and out villain - an anarchist, an ignorant leveler, the embodiment of chaos. Yet, Shakespeare being Shakespeare and Cranham being Cranham, even Cade gets a moment of compassion (only a moment: if you blink, you'll miss it).

    Another voice to "watch" here is David Troughton, son of Patrick (the Second Doctor). He plays Richard Crookback, second son of the Duke of York. The role is brief here but will be developed brilliantly in the next two plays.

    Of the three Henry VI plays, Part Two is my favorite. It pretty much has everything - and best of all, it has the classic line: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!"

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Henry VI, Part 1: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By David Tennant, Kelly Hunter, Clive Merrison, and others
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    The all-conquering King Henry V is dead and the throne is occupied by his infant son, Henry VI. The good Duke Humphrey of Gloucester has been appointed protector, but a struggle for power soon develops between the young king's Lancastrian relatives and the powerful house of York under Richard Plantagenet. Meanwhile the French, led by Joan of Arc, the maid of Orleans, threaten to win back the territories lost to Henry V.

    Tad Davis says: "Action-packed, crowded with characters"
    "Action-packed, crowded with characters"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Henry VI Part One is another one of Shakespeare's early plays. There are three Henry VI plays, and there's a lot of discussion in scholarly circles as to what order they were written in and whether Shakespeare had any collaborators. The first part is especially problematic in that respect.

    One theory that seems to be in favor at present is that Shakespeare originally wrote a two-part play about Henry VI that were later designated parts two and three. Rival playwrights, seeing the success of his plays about the reign, created a play that focused on other parts of the story: the wars in France, the hero John Talbot, and the evil and cunning (to the English!) Joan of Arc. This play was also successful; and eventually, because Elizabethan actors often moved from one company to another, it came into the possession of Shakespeare's company. He added a few scenes to tie it more closely to his own plays, and it was staged as a prequel.

    However it came to be written, it's an exciting, colorful play with one spectacular battle scene after another. The courageous Talbot fights the evil French at Orleans, Rouen, and Bordeaux; cities are taken, lost, and retaken; swords clang and cannon go off. Meanwhile the English nobles at home quarrel amongst themselves and fail to send Talbot the support he needs.

    The quarreling is more intense than usual because the King of England, son of the valiant Henry V, is a studious, uncertain, and ostentatiously devout minor. Played by none other than David Tennant, Henry VI is a weak king, who pleads ineffectually with his nobles to love God and befriend each other.

    Meanwhile the Duke of York, played by Clive Merrison - the voice of Sherlock Holmes for BBC radio - begins to lay the groundwork for his own bid for the throne. He is, as so many characters in this play are, a descendant of Edward III, and while York's claim isn't as strong as he would like to think, it's not imaginary; and there's no question he would make a stronger and more effective king.

    Talbot is overcome and killed by the deceitful French, and the "witch" Joan of Arc - played by Amanda Root - is captured and burned. The play ends in midstream, as the Duke of Suffolk lays plans to have Henry marry the noble but penniless Frenchwoman Margaret. Suffolk's intention is to dominate Henry through Margaret. Part Two will show how that works out for him. (Spoiler alert: not so well.)

    The Arkangel production is terrific, as almost all of the Arkangels are, giving this rarely produced and imperfect play the same commitment and energy they give to the major tragedies. Sound, music, and top-knotch acting are all integrated into a rapidly moving historical epic.

    One caveat. Though the producers go out of their way to make the factions clear, it IS audio. On stage, when the various groups enter, they wear white roses or red, instantly communicating their allegiance. That important visual cue is missing in audio. With such a large number of characters, it might be helpful to keep a copy of the play handy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • An Antarctic Mystery; or, The Sphinx of the Ice Fields: A Sequel to Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym'

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Jules Verne, Brian Taves (introduction)
    • Narrated By Tim Gerard Reynolds
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    During his twilight years, the French author Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote two original sequels to books that had fired his own youthful imagination but which he felt to be incomplete: Johann Wyss's Swiss Family Robinson and Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Arthur Gordon Pym (1845) was only one of many Poe stories which Verne admired; no other single author had more impact on his writing.

    Tad Davis says: "Good, but not all of Verne"
    "Good, but not all of Verne"
    Overall
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    Story

    This is a tough one. The narrator is good - something unfortunately all too rare in Verne audiobooks - and the translation has been somewhat revised from the original by "Mrs Cashel Hoey." But the audiobook is missing the Brian Taves introduction mentioned in the description. And a comparison of the text with a more recent translation - the one by Rick Walter published by SUNY - shows that many of the cuts made by Mrs Hoey have not been restored in this version. I would use this as an intro to the story - but try to get your hands on the Walter edition (which has, in addition to the original novel by Edgar Allan Poe, a long critical essay by Verne about Poe's novel).

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914

    • UNABRIDGED (31 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Margaret MacMillan
    • Narrated By Richard Burnip
    Overall
    (180)
    Performance
    (171)
    Story
    (167)

    From the best-selling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.

    Jean says: "A different viewpoint"
    "The why and the how"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've read and listened to several books about the origins of World War I; this one is the best I've encountered so far. Much of the territory is familiar, but MacMillan goes back further, provides more detail and context, and weaves it into a fuller narrative than most of the others. She shifts seamlessly between lively portraits of individual leaders and analytical and statistical accounts of military and social changes.

    Many books mention that Russia lost a war with Japan in 1905 and that major civil unrest in Russia followed. MacMillan goes into detail about both, explaining causes and consequences. Many books mention that Paris was distracted in the summer of 1914 by the trial of Henriette Caillaux, who murdered the editor of Le Figaro. Macmillan tells us more about her husband, Joseph Caillaux, and his prominent role in foreign affairs; the scandal of the trial made it impossible for him to act as a voice of restraint in the crisis.

    The first part of the book is more geographic than chronological. MacMillan takes us on a tour of the European capitals, introducing us to the pathetic Kaiser Wilhelm II (described by someone as a warship at full speed without a rudder); the happily married and largely detached prime minister of Great Britain, Lord Salisbury; rising men like Edward Grey, Joseph Chamberlain, William Churchill and Lloyd George; the tragically clueless Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family's involvement with the unwashed Rasputin. We spend time at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (which she enjoyed immensely but refused to pay for), and at the 1900 Paris Exposition. We hear about the many international conferences that tried to promote peace or at least establish rules for "civilized warfare."

    And she describes the new factor in governance that sometimes hamstrung a country's leaders: the rise of newspapers and the nebulous but powerful force of "public opinion." And terrorism: the president of France, two Spanish prime ministers, King Umberto of Italy, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, the uncle and grandfather of the Czar were all murdered in terrorist attacks. It was not exactly a balmy time.

    The second part of the book is a fascinating narrative account of the many crises that preceded the outbreak of war: the two Moroccan crises; Austria's unilateral annexation of Bosnia; the two Balkan wars; the bloody coup in Turkey - each of them playing a role in desensitizing Europe to the prospect of universal war. Germany, fearful of being encircled by enemies, drew up a war plan that violated international law left and right - and the civilian leaders abdicated their responsibility; they failed to rein in the military. Many books have traced these events, but MacMillan's book is the clearest, most detailed, and most absorbing I've read.

    Richard Burnip's narration is excellent. If you want to understand the why as well as the how, this is a great place to start.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Eugénie Grandet

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Honoré de Balzac
    • Narrated By Jonathan Fried
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Hailed as the father of the naturalist novel, French author and playwright Honoré de Balzac left a legacy of treasured literary works that include Père Goriot and Cousin Bette. The daughter of a wealthy but miserly man, Eugénie Grandet falls in love with her penniless cousin, Charles. The two plan to marry, but at the behest of her father, Charles must first go overseas to make his fortune. Returning years later, Charles calls off the engagement, leaving Eugénie heartbroken and vengeful.

    Tad Davis says: "Unpleasant people"
    "Unpleasant people"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Balzac's "Eugenie Grandet" is an early and short entry in his massive "Human Comedy" project. The comedy in Balzac's case is not funny: it's simply showing people "as they are" rather than how they wish they were.

    And in this provincial town, how they are is mostly unpleasant. Eugenie's father is a sharp dealer in the business world, is astonishingly rich, and is a mean-spirited miser. He resents the money they have to spend on candles, and the family spends many evenings in the dark. Eugenie has a set of rare gold coins that are worth a fortune, and her father demands to see them on a regular basis - presumably to make sure she hasn't cashed them in.

    Eugenie's cousin Charles shows up, and Monsieur Grandet has to break the news to him that his father, overwhelmed by financial ruin, has committed suicide. At one point Grandet and an ally go to Paris and in a series of complicated transactions, they bilk the creditors of Charles's father and skip town. I have to admit I couldn't follow the details of their scheme; it hinges on the legal differences between bankruptcy and liquidation.

    Ultimately Eugenie, her father's sole heir, ends up rich and alone, her hopes for love with Charles having come to nothing. At one point Charles does seem to genuinely love her; she gives him her gold and he goes off on a business venture; but fooled by Grandet's meanness into thinking they're poor, he turns his romantic attentions elsewhere.

    The novel's pace is uneven. There are many sharply etched scenes, gradually building toward an ugly confrontation; and then suddenly the narrative whips through the next decade in a couple of paragraphs.

    Not many people to care about here. Everybody but Eugenie is, or becomes, corrupted by money. Still, it's a carefully observed novel of provincial life, and is definitely one of the shorter and more accessible novels of Balzac.

    Unfortunately I didn't care much for the Recorded Books narrator, Jonathan Fried. His reading style is a bit too "external" for me, too much like an announcer and too little like a storyteller. The translation is relatively recent, though, and on balance I'd have to say it's worth a listen.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • King Jesus

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Robert Graves
    • Narrated By Philip Bird
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Robert Graves's controversial historical novel is a bold reworking of the story of Christ. Here Jesus is not the son of God, but the result of a secret marriage - the descendant of Herod and true King of the Jews. Written from the perspective of a lowly official at the end of the first century AD, King Jesus recounts Jesus's birth, youth, life as a charismatic 'wonder worker' and the unorthodox, bitter nature of his death and resurrection. Portraying Jesus not as divine but as a flawed human bent upon his own doom, this retelling of the gospels is a compelling blend of research

    Darwin8u says: "Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given"
    "An earnest failure"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What a strange book this is. Robert Graves is a master of classical history and literature - his "Anger of Achilles" is one of the best translations of "The Iliad" around - and he's turned his attention here to what should be congenial territory: first century Roman Palestine. But the results are decidedly mixed.

    The basic premise of the novel is easily told. Jesus, in this account, is the legitimate grandson of Herod the Great. Herod's first-born son Antipater contracts a secret marriage with Mary and gives her into the safekeeping of the elderly widower Joseph. Antipater is executed by his father on a trumped-up charge, and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus escape to Egypt. But a small group of people know the secret, and when Jesus is ready to announce himself, they are there to offer support.

    What makes the book so odd is not this historical fantasy but the bizarre mythology and superstitious rituals that surround it. Jesus, on being crowned, is immediately pushed off a cliff by his adherents, because of course the King Must Be Lame. He limps his way around Galilee, getting into interminable (and sometimes incomprehensible) debates about theology with other Jewish leaders and with Mary the Hairdresser - a witchlike incarnation of Mary Magdalene.

    It all comes to a head in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. Most Jews want a traditional king, one who will throw out the Romans, but Jesus is after a bigger and more spiritual kingdom: he is after nothing less than the Suppression of the Female. And this is where, for me, the novel really goes off the tracks. Graves has turned it into another occasion for beating his personal dead horse, the supremacy of the "White Goddess." Jesus fails because he turns his back on the power of The Mother.

    But ultimately it isn't the strangeness that makes this book (in my opinion) an artistic failure: it's the endless debating about minutiae. "King Jesus" is boring. The story is told from the perspective of an upperclass Roman citizen some 60 years later, and in Graves's masterful hands, it sounds like it's been translated - by Robert Graves - from a Latin original. It is straightforward, earnest, devoid of passion, and dull.

    It's not the narrator's fault. Philip Bird does an excellent job making it all sound real; the narrative pace is steady and clear, and the voices of the characters are differentiated by tone and accent. But in this case, the audacious, opinionated, brilliant Robert Graves missed the mark.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Wessex Tales

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Thomas Hardy
    • Narrated By Neville Jason
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Wessex Tales, a collection of short stories including "The Three Strangers", "The Withered Arm", and "The Distracted Preacher", deals with a number of timeless themes seen so often in Hardy’s work: marriage, class, revenge, and disappointed love. Many of the tales have a supernatural tinge, and all are set around Hardy’s much loved homeland.

    Tad Davis says: "A Sampler"
    "A Sampler"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A couple of the stories in this collection have something I wouldn't have believed was possible: something almost resembling a happy ending. I love Thomas Hardy, but I do get tired of the relentless hammer of fate he uses to pound his characters, often with the help of contrived coincidences (or somebody's odd reluctance to speak up at The Key Moment).

    Most of the stories here are not happy. Some, like "The Imaginative Woman" and "The Melancholy Hussar," end brutally. A couple, like "The Withered Arm," are a bit spooky - and end brutally. Relationships between husbands and wives are mostly stunted and ill-fated.

    So it's not a collection to be undertaken lightly. But there are occasional touches of humor, as there sometimes are in Hardy, and a couple of people who escape the overall sentence of doom. Neville Jason does a wonderful job narrating, as he did with "Jude the Obscure." Overall, it doesn't pack the same punch as Hardy's longer works, but the stories make up an interesting sampler.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Miranda Carter
    • Narrated By Rosalyn Landor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (129)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (82)

    In the years before the First World War, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V of Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war that set 20th-century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world.

    D. Littman says: "interesting and entertaining work of history"
    "Intimate lives of the rich and famous"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    "George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm" provides a unique perspective on the years leading up to the First World War. Miranda Carter focuses on the three related royal houses - the monarchs of England, Germany, and Russia - who were first cousins and who often addressed each other as "Nicky" and "Willy" (but possibly not "Georgie").

    The characters of the three monarchs, especially the autocrats Wilhelm and Nicholas, are drawn with precision and dramatic detail. Nicholas, for example, was brought to the deathbed of his grandfather, Alexander II: Alexander had been mortally wounded by a terrorist bomb that blew his legs off and exposed his entrails. When Nicholas's father Alexander III died after a short reign, the family was in dire straits; Uncle Bertie - Albert Edward, Prince of Wales - took charge of the funeral arrangements and tried to coach Nicholas in his new role, a role for which the clueless young man had been given no preparation.

    Carter's account of the death of Nicholas and his family at the hands of the Bolsheviks is wrenching. Wilhelm II comes in for an unusual amount of sympathy as well: his terrible birth, with a dislocated shoulder that left his arm permanently disabled; and his flight to the Netherlands as the war drew to an end, where he puttered sadly about, tried to justify himself, and in later years sent congratulatory telegrams to Hitler (which Hitler received with scorn).

    As a portrait of royal families, it's a first-rate listen. Rosalyn Landor, the narrator, speaks with exquisite precision and empathy but with an occasional hint of exasperated humor. As a study of the origins of the First World War, it's a bit lopsided: Austria-Hungary wasn't in the grandchildren-of-Queen-Victoria league, so there's not much discussion of that empire; the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is dispensed with in a sentence. And the political situation in France - horror of horrors, a monarch-free Republic - receives little attention.

    But the book serves its purpose: these three remote, lofty figures of history are given a local habitation and a name, not to mention recognizable personalities. Their lives, like everyone else's, were a mixture of blessings and great suffering.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 59 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By Michael Maloney, Damian Lewis, Saskia Wickham, and others
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Proteus loves Julia in Verona, Valentine loves Silvia in Milan. But when Proteus meets Silvia, he falls for her too, and the heartbroken Julia sets out in pursuit. This delightful and sometimes disquieting early comedy of love lost and found offers lyrical poetry, disguise, clowning, outlaws, and a most unreliable dog.

    Tad Davis says: "Prentice work"
    "Prentice work"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's been a major treat finally having the Arkangel Shakespeare available on Audible - almost as good as finally getting the Beatles on iTunes. This remarkable series of recordings includes every play Shakespeare wrote, in a full-court-press audio production with sound effects and an original score. The series is 10-15 years old at this point, but it holds up magnificently.

    "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" is not one of Shakespeare's best. My own private theory is that it was his first play, written before he even left Stratford. Most of the scenes involve only two people; the famous (or infamous) last scene leaves one character, Sylvia, mute for the last 10 minutes. The turning point of the play is completely unbelievable. The puns, some of them tedious to begin with, go on forever, and there's a surprising carelessness about place names. It's definitely prentice work.

    On the other hand, the play has the servant Launce and his dog Crab. Launce is played here by the brilliant John Woodvine: if you're old enough, you may remember him as the evil uncle from the sprawling stage production of "Nicholas Nickleby." Launce is dumb as a post, but not so dumb that he can't see that his master, Proteus, is a scoundrel. Proteus is played by Michael Maloney (who did a brilliant turn as the Dauphin in Branagh's "Henry V"); he tries to betray the love interest of his best friend, Valentine, played by Damian Lewis (quite a change from his more recent incarnation on "Homeland"). In fact, one of the pleasures to be had from the series is recognizing the voices of actors who are better-known in other contexts.

    The music for all of the Arkangel productions is composed by Dominique Le Gendre. The score sounds like the kind of jazzy, smoky music you'd hear in the background at a candlelit dinner. Usually it works, but the one criticism I have of the production is that his version of "Who is Sylvia?" misses the mark, with an overly complex melody that doesn't quite fit the pace of the lyrics. It's a rare misstep in the series.

    If you're going for the Shakespeare highlights, you can give this one a pass. But if you're determined to do the whole canon, it's well worth your while: if nothing else, there's always Crab.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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