KING LEAR, Shakespeare's great tragedy, is beautifully rendered here. Paul Scofield is majestic as the mad, doomed and very human king. It is a heartbreaking performance in a play almost too painful to endure. It is a staggering dramatic work.
This recording is absolutely delightful. Alex Jennings, a terrific English actor, portrays seemingly hundreds of characters with complete confidence and rich humor. He clearly relishes the joyous magic of Dickens' prose. Although not one of Dickens' most well-known novels, OUR MUTUAL FRIEND offers plenty of his special plot-twists, delicious characters and mordant social observations. His portrait of the eerie, nocturnal Thames and its denizens is particuarly memorable.
MOBY DICK, for my money the crown jewel of American literature, is an enormous book and presents enormous challenges to adapt and abridge. This audio version is told with spirit and vigor, illuminating the surprisingly light moments of Melville's novel with particular humor. The characterizations are distinct and highly memorable. Quite rightly, this is an Ahab to terrify! I am deeply sorry, however, they decided to cut "The Whiteness of the Whale" chapter -- which has to be one of the absolute pinnacles of Melville's prose. Alas. But for that omission, this would have been almost a perfect listening experience. Give it a try.
CORIOLANUS is a notoriously difficult play, never much beloved by American audiences. The thorny protagonist can seem cold and off-putting; the political arguments dense and formal. Still, though, this is one of Shakespeare's most exciting and provocative plays. Give it a chance. Unfortunately this recording suffers from a lead performance that never really takes off emotionally. Thankfully, the Volumnia of Susannah York is a formidable titan. This is a very clear and concise version of the play -- even if it lacks the granduer and emotion of the great Richard Burton recording which is, alas, currently only available on cassette.
A wonderful production of Shakespeare's profoundly moving and profoundly political play. Anthony Quayle provides a solid philosophical anchor as Brutus and Ralph Richardson is appropriately august as Caesar. If you recall this play tepidly from High School, listen to it again. It is thrilling drama, moves like lightning, and Marc Antony's funeral oration -- cleverly performed here -- is every bit as great as its reputation would insist. The political in-fighting and propaganda of the play are very familiar and sophisticated and -- going in to an election year -- should be required listening or reading.
A thoroughly delightful version of Shakespeare's play, highly recommended. Hugh Griffith almost steals the show as Caliban. At a brisk two hours, this recording of the magical play flies past.
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