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Shakespeare outdoes Game of Thrones in the BBC's Hollow Crown

The Henry VI plays are condensed into two servings of power battles, sex and witchcraft with fine performances from Hugh Bonneville and Sophie Okonedo

Shakespeare’s early histories used to be written off. Harold Bloom, in his massive book on Shakespeare, devotes a derisory seven pages to the three Henry VI plays and tells us “they do not live now”. But, as RSC revivals of the complete trilogy by Michael Boyd and Terry Hands have proved, they make terrific theatre. I would guess that the first two-hour segment of the BBC version, broadcast on Saturday night, will have also kept viewers riveted to their screens, astonished that Shakespeare could outdo Game of Thrones.

Condensing the trilogy into two sections, as Ben Power and Dominic Cooke have done here – and as Peter Hall and John Barton did in their 1963 Stratford production of The Wars of the Roses – inevitably means some loss.
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Bernard Horsfall obituary

Imposing stage and screen actor whose work ranged from Shakespeare to The Bill

The character actor Bernard Horsfall, who has died aged 82, appeared in television, films and on the stage for more than half a century. Tall, imposing and authoritative, he appeared in many of the major television series from Z Cars and Dr Finlay's Casebook to Casualty and The Bill, and in Doctor Who took no fewer than four roles.

In 1968 he played Lemuel Gulliver in The Mind Robber, where he was encountered by Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor, in the Land of Fiction. The following year he returned as a Time Lord in The War Games. In 1973, with Jon Pertwee now donning the time-traveller's cape, he played the Thai chieftain, Taron, in the six-part Planet of the Daleks. And finally, he was another Time Lord, Chancellor Goth, in the 1976 story The Deadly Assassin, famously battling with Tom Baker
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Bernard Horsfall obituary

Imposing stage and screen actor whose work ranged from Shakespeare to The Bill

The character actor Bernard Horsfall, who has died aged 82, appeared in television, films and on the stage for more than half a century. Tall, imposing and authoritative, he appeared in many of the major television series from Z Cars and Dr Finlay's Casebook to Casualty and The Bill, and in Doctor Who took no fewer than four roles.

In 1968 he played Lemuel Gulliver in The Mind Robber, where he was encountered by Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor, in the Land of Fiction. The following year he returned as a Time Lord in The War Games. In 1973, with Jon Pertwee now donning the time-traveller's cape, he played the Thai chieftain, Taron, in the six-part Planet of the Daleks. And finally, he was another Time Lord, Chancellor Goth, in the 1976 story The Deadly Assassin, famously battling with Tom Baker
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Joe Melia obituary

Outstanding actor of stage and screen who made his name as Bri in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

The British theatre changed for ever when Joe Melia, as the sardonic teacher Bri, pushed a severely disabled 10-year-old girl in a wheelchair on to the stage of the Glasgow Citizens in May 1967 and proceeded to make satirical jokes about the medical profession while his marriage was disintegrating. The play was Peter Nichols's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which transformed the way disability was discussed on the stage. It made the names overnight of its author, the director Michael Blakemore, and Melia. Albert Finney took over the role of Bri on Broadway.

Flat-footed, slightly hunched, always leaning towards a point of view, Melia, who has died aged 77, was a distinctive and compassionate actor who brought a strain of the music hall to the stage, a sense of being an outsider.
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Joe Melia obituary

Outstanding actor of stage and screen who made his name as Bri in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

The British theatre changed for ever when Joe Melia, as the sardonic teacher Bri, pushed a severely disabled 10-year-old girl in a wheelchair on to the stage of the Glasgow Citizens in May 1967 and proceeded to make satirical jokes about the medical profession while his marriage was disintegrating. The play was Peter Nichols's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which transformed the way disability was discussed on the stage. It made the names overnight of its author, the director Michael Blakemore, and Melia. Albert Finney took over the role of Bri on Broadway.

Flat-footed, slightly hunched, always leaning towards a point of view, Melia, who has died aged 77, was a distinctive and compassionate actor who brought a strain of the music hall to the stage, a sense of being an outsider.
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Michel Duchaussoy obituary

French actor who played several classic roles on stage and dubbed the voice of Marlon Brando in The Godfather

In order to fully appreciate the wide-ranging acting talents of Michel Duchaussoy, who has died from a heart attack aged 73, one would have to be both French-speaking and resident in France. To those less fortunate, the knowledge of Duchaussoy is restricted to his striking appearances in several Claude Chabrol movies, and others by Alain Jessua, Louis Malle and Patrice Leconte, which were among the relatively few of his many films to be released in Britain and the Us.

In France, Duchaussoy was equally known as a television actor, whose voice was also recognisable from his dubbing of cartoon characters and stars such as Marlon Brando, in The Godfather. Prolific as he was in films and television, Duchaussoy was celebrated mainly for his 20-year tenure with the Comédie-Française theatre in Paris. There,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Nicol Williamson obituary

Actor whose unpredictability never undermined his electrifying talent

Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1969, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage. The experience was recycled in a 1991 Broadway comedy called I Hate Hamlet, in which he proved his point and fell out badly with his co-star.

Williamson's greatest performance was as the dissolute and disintegrating lawyer Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence at the Royal Court theatre in 1964. It was
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Nicol Williamson obituary

Actor whose unpredictability never undermined his electrifying talent

Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1969, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage. The experience was recycled in a 1991 Broadway comedy called I Hate Hamlet, in which he proved his point and fell out badly with his co-star.

Williamson's greatest performance was as the dissolute and disintegrating lawyer Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence at the Royal Court theatre in 1964. It was
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

John Wood obituary

Ferociously intelligent actor who reigned supreme in Stoppard and Shakespeare

John Wood, who has died aged 81, was one of the greatest stage actors of the past century, especially associated with his roles in the plays of Tom Stoppard. But a combination of his enigmatic privacy and low profile on film – he cropped up a lot without dominating a movie – meant that he remained largely unknown to the wider public.

As with all great actors, you always knew what he was thinking, all the time. Wood was especially striking in the brain-box department. Tall, forbidding and aquiline-featured, he was as much the perfect Sherlock Holmes on stage as he was the ideal Brutus. He exuded ferocious intelligence, and the twinkle in his eye could be as merciless as it was invariably amused.

As the Royal Shakespeare Company's Brutus in Julius Caesar in 1972, he was undoubtedly the noblest Roman of them all,
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

John Wood obituary

Ferociously intelligent actor who reigned supreme in Stoppard and Shakespeare

John Wood, who has died aged 81, was one of the greatest stage actors of the past century, especially associated with his roles in the plays of Tom Stoppard. But a combination of his enigmatic privacy and low profile on film – he cropped up a lot without dominating a movie – meant that he remained largely unknown to the wider public.

As with all great actors, you always knew what he was thinking, all the time. Wood was especially striking in the brain-box department. Tall, forbidding and aquiline-featured, he was as much the perfect Sherlock Holmes on stage as he was the ideal Brutus. He exuded ferocious intelligence, and the twinkle in his eye could be as merciless as it was invariably amused.

As the Royal Shakespeare Company's Brutus in Julius Caesar in 1972, he was undoubtedly the noblest Roman of them all,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Sheila Burrell obituary

A striking stage presence for more than 60 years and a familiar face on TV

Sheila Burrell, who has died aged 89 after a long illness, was a cousin of Laurence Olivier, and a similarly distinctive and fiery actor with a broad, open face, high cheekbones and expressive eyes. She stood at only 5ft 5ins but could fill the widest stage and hold the largest audience. Her voice was a mezzo marvel, kittenish or growling and, in later life, acquired the viscosity and vintage of an old ruby port, matured after years of experience.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, she made her name as a wild, red-headed Barbara Allen (subject of the famous ballad) in Peter Brook's 1949 production of Dark of the Moon (Ambassadors theatre), an American pot-boiler about the seduction of a lusty girl by a witch boy and the hysterical reaction of her local community.

The role remained one of her favourites,
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Sheila Burrell obituary

A striking stage presence for more than 60 years and a familiar face on TV

Sheila Burrell, who has died aged 89 after a long illness, was a cousin of Laurence Olivier, and a similarly distinctive and fiery actor with a broad, open face, high cheekbones and expressive eyes. She stood at only 5ft 5ins but could fill the widest stage and hold the largest audience. Her voice was a mezzo marvel, kittenish or growling and, in later life, acquired the viscosity and vintage of an old ruby port, matured after years of experience.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, she made her name as a wild, red-headed Barbara Allen (subject of the famous ballad) in Peter Brook's 1949 production of Dark of the Moon (Ambassadors theatre), an American pot-boiler about the seduction of a lusty girl by a witch boy and the hysterical reaction of her local community.

The role remained one of her favourites,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Nicholas Selby obituary

A familiar face on TV and a stage actor at the cutting edge

Nicholas Selby, who has died aged 85, was, in many ways, the archetypal supporting actor: dependable, grave and imposing while emitting a sense of authoritarian decency, courtesy and old school charm. And yet, although he was a familiar face on television, playing majors, judges and elderly peers – and a chief constable in the long-running late-1960s police series Softly Softly – he was linked with radical theatre work at the Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was one of the earliest associate artists.

Selby was, in fact, an old-fashioned socialist, hailing from a working-class family in Holborn, central London, where his father worked for a rubber company. The family lived above a cinema, where young James (he later changed his name at the behest of Equity), the youngest of three, watched all the new releases free of charge.
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Pete Postlethwaite obituary

Oscar-nominated British actor with a vast range who could move between comedy and tragedy with ease

The actor Pete Postlethwaite had a face that elicited many similes, among them "a stone archway" and "a bag of spanners". These unflattering descriptions, plus his tongue-twisting surname, would suggest an actor with a career limited to minor supporting roles. But Postlethwaite, who has died of cancer aged 64, played a vast range of characters, often leading roles, on stage, television and film.

He was at ease in switching the masks of tragedy and comedy. The working-class martinet father he played in Terence Davies's film Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), which Postlethwaite credited as his big break, can be seen as paradigmatic of his career. Postlethwaite powerfully conveyed the father's double-sided nature: at one moment he is tenderly kissing his children goodnight, the next he is ripping the tablecloth off in a rage.

Postlethwaite was
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Pete Postlethwaite obituary

Oscar-nominated British actor with a vast range who could move between comedy and tragedy with ease

The actor Pete Postlethwaite had a face that elicited many similes, among them "a stone archway" and "a bag of spanners". These unflattering descriptions, plus his tongue-twisting surname, would suggest an actor with a career limited to minor supporting roles. But Postlethwaite, who has died of cancer aged 64, played a vast range of characters, often leading roles, on stage, television and film.

He was at ease in switching the masks of tragedy and comedy. The working-class martinet father he played in Terence Davies's film Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), which Postlethwaite credited as his big break, can be seen as paradigmatic of his career. Postlethwaite powerfully conveyed the father's double-sided nature: at one moment he is tenderly kissing his children goodnight, the next he is ripping the tablecloth off in a rage.

Postlethwaite was
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

David Thomson on Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren is so hardworking that it is tempting to take her for granted. But she is always looking for something different

Have you seen the wild look in Helen Mirren's eyes? It's as if she knows the world has gone mad, so she can do anything. The pained realism and long-suffering compromises that dogged Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect are put aside. She has been Queen Elizabeth, both I and II, and if anyone cared to propose an Elizabeth of Transylvania from the Dark Ages then Mirren could do it. Or if you prefer a bloodthirsty and lascivious pope, she is your actor. At 65, she is still one of the sexiest women on screen. It's not what she does, but what she knows.

Mirren has never been anything less than accomplished and bold, but Stephen Frears' The Queen was a confirming potion for her, a laying on of hands.
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Geoffrey Hutchings obituary

Shakespearean actor who played many familiar roles on film and television

Few actors can claim to have played most of Shakespeare's clowns and made some of them funny, but Geoffrey Hutchings, who has died of meningitis aged 71, did just that. An associate artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he played Launce, Bottom, Feste, one of the Dromios and even the impossible Lavache in Trevor Nunn's great "Crimean war" All's Well That Ends Well, with Peggy Ashcroft making her RSC farewell as the Countess of Rousillon. Hutchings brought an individual quality of asperity and crackle to everything he did, and was noted early on as a character actor of uncommon personality: small, slight, but always ferocious, he was like a terrier with a dangerous bark.

He grasped Autolycus, for instance, that wandering snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, in Ronald Eyre's 1981 The Winter's Tale at Stratford-upon-Avon, and transformed him into a
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Geoffrey Hutchings obituary

Shakespearean actor who played many familiar roles on film and television

Few actors can claim to have played most of Shakespeare's clowns and made some of them funny, but Geoffrey Hutchings, who has died of meningitis aged 71, did just that. An associate artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he played Launce, Bottom, Feste, one of the Dromios and even the impossible Lavache in Trevor Nunn's great "Crimean war" All's Well That Ends Well, with Peggy Ashcroft making her RSC farewell as the Countess of Rousillon. Hutchings brought an individual quality of asperity and crackle to everything he did, and was noted early on as a character actor of uncommon personality: small, slight, but always ferocious, he was like a terrier with a dangerous bark.

He grasped Autolycus, for instance, that wandering snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, in Ronald Eyre's 1981 The Winter's Tale at Stratford-upon-Avon, and transformed him into a
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

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