My chief criterion in evaluating a dramatized performance of Shakespeare is that none of the lines are left out, save a few words here and there. Secondly, I also appreciate accurate sound effects, and a subtle "soundtrack," and a good overall recording quality. By all of these measurements this Naxos production of Hamlet scores well. The main problem is that, in a couple of scenes, Hamlet himself starts speaking way too fast for one to take in the lines. One might argue that this play is soooo long that, since this company has - quite justifiably - decided to remain loyal to Shakespeare's script, it only makes sense that they would have to hurry it up a bit. A few reviewers have failed to take the validity of this argument into account. The BBC Shakespeare productions are invariably bad about leaving out large chunks of important dialog. Any geek like you or me who listens to audible dramatizations of Shakespeare will insist on every verse being spoken.
This audible performance of Arcadia is very well acted and produced. My chief criteria for these audible plays are: (1) How closely does the performance stick to the script - i.e. have they omitted a significant portion of the dialog? (2) Sound quality: does it sound like they recorded a live stage performance with a microphone sitting on a corner of the stage, or was it recorded specifically for a listening audience? And do they use sound effects well?
On both accounts this is a high-quality production. It is also a charming, funny and intelligent play.
According to an article I read on the live performance of this play in London, some critics gave Ejiofor positive reviews while McGregor and Reilly did not fare as well. Whip me such foolish critics! Others there are who recognize McGregor's rendition of Honest Iago as nearly flawless; who can see that he pulls off the relentlessly ruminative diabolical genius with precision. And such a one do I profess myself. I've listened to many audible dramatizations of Shakespeare, and this one is probably the best.
Fantastic, subtle sound effects, well cast, superbly acted, and, unlike the BBC version, it does not omit any lines - thus, we have a terrific audible rendition of Shakespeare's play.
Invariably, and inexcusably, BBC shortens Shakespeare, and they apply an ax rather than a scalpel. This is a particularly egregious example. As one would expect, the introducer emphasizes the genius that Falstaff represents as a comic creation, and he tells us: "It is said, that Elizabethan audiences used to stop cracking their nuts when Falstaff came on stage, so as not to miss a syllable. They had the right idea." To give you just an example: In Act I, scene two, 55 lines of a total of 215 are omitted, 30 of which are Falstaff's.
This is not slightly abridging; it is butchery.
Like the other BBC Radio Shakespeare plays I've purchased (7 or so), the sound quality, production, acting and music are brilliant. In particular, William Houston's performance of Edmund is fantastic. However, as always, BBC omits very large portions of the dialog - some of the best lines - and this is so unacceptable and maddening. Let's consider what kind of person listens to audio dramatizations of Shakespeare: would any of us accept anything less than a strict adherence to Shakespeare's script?
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