Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Henriad

It should come to no surprise to my fellow erudite TV Sluts that the folks across the pond are adept at creating one hell of a Shakespeare adaptation.  After all, THEY INVENTED SHAKESPEARE. It should also come as no surprise to any Anglophiles that Ben Whishaw is adorable and an amazingly talented actor. Anyone who has seen him in The Hour or Bright Star knows what a mad gifted artist he is.

Usurping my crown is, like, way not cool, bro.

But did you also know that Tom Hiddleston (aka our favorite comic villain, Loki)  is also hot and is playing Prince Hal in the BBC adaptation of The Henriad, entitled The Hollow Crown, airing in the U.S. on most PBS stations? That is a true fact that I just said. 

Drinking and whoring? Yeah, I can handle that. 

Yes, the Brits have gone and done it again. If you're feeling like you need a brush-up on your Willie Shakes, and you weren't able to make it up to the Stratford Festival in Ontario this year, take heart. The BBC adaptation is, SHOCKINGLY, very good. I have borne witness to so much bad Shakespeare in my life, that it does me little heart good to see it done well. Last night, PBS aired the oft-forgotten Richard II. True, it doesn't have the name-recognition and cache of the more popular and commonly performed plays, but it has a driving plot and some damn good soliloquies. We all know that performing Shakespeare is the litmus test of an English-speaking actor, and I was pleased with the Richard II cast. Shakespeare really is one of those cases where the actors' job basically is to get out of the way of the language. In this production, the cast performs with such honesty and the language percolates off the actors' tongues with crystal clarity, which just makes the whole production that much more compelling. 

The plot of Richard II is thus:  Richard II (Whishaw) was the last Plantagenet king of England. ("What's a Plantagenet," you ask? Go back to school!). He is replaced by the first Lancaster king, Henry Bolingbroke/Henry IV (Rory Kinnear). Richard is a young and ambitious king, but he's very wasteful and he spends too much time on buying useless crap from Italy. He also doesn't choose his counselors very well, which seems to have been a common thread among European royals. Richard starts renting out parcels of land to wealthy noblemen to raise money to fund his wars against Ireland. (That England. Always picking on the Irish.) He also seizes the land of his well-respected uncle, John of Gaunt (FUCKING PATRICK STEWART), after John of Gaunt dies.

But wait! There's more! Richard has a cousin named Henry Bolingbroke, who was John of Gaunt's son, and he is PISSED. Not only did Richard seize his land, but he had also exiled Henry six years earlier. 

You were in Skyfall? No way. Me, too.

Richard leaves England to fight a war in Ireland. (Again. WTF. Stop with the Ireland invading already.) While he's gone, Henry assembles an army and invades England. Richard's allies all desert him in his absence, and he returns to England. Henry takes him prisoner and ensconces him in a castle in Pomfret, where he languishes until a plot against Henry unfolds. An assassin takes it upon himself to murder Richard. Henry now feels like he has blood on his hands and jaunts off to Jerusalem to absolve himself of sin. Because that'll help.

I guess that didn't go well.

The only thing that bugged me about this production was, at the end, Richard's body is dragged into Henry's throne room (which is apparently where he sits all day...yawn). The scene pans up from two men standing over Richard's diapered dead body, to a sculpture of Christ and two disciples that is hanging from the ceiling. I was like, come on. COME ON. Come, on really? It's not that I found that offensive in a religious way (since I'm pretty much a heathen). I simply found it heavy-handed from an artistic standpoint. Richard II was murdered by political enemies, but martyred? Really? CAMMAHHHN.

The next installment of The Hollow Crown is Henry IV Part I, with Jeremy Irons as the much older Henry IV and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. Michelle Dockery is apparently taking a break from being all weepy over Matthew to make an appearance as Lady Percy. 

I may be too sexy for this crown.

The Hollow Crown is airing on PBS as part of Great Performances. You can watch it online  or check your local PBS listings for air dates and times. 

Is this why I had a dream that I was Rosalind in As You Like It last night? Imma gonna go with yes 

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