The Shakespeare tragedy that gave us the expression "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." King Lear has not one but two ungrateful children, and it's ... See full summary »
The development of Finch's Bolingbroke makes R2, H4 pt 1 and H4 pt 2 superlative
Several people have commented on the strong performance Jon Finch gives in the BBC versions of Richard II, Henry IV pt. 1 or Henry IV pt. 2. On first watching I thought Finch an odd choice as Bolingbroke opposite Jacobi's Richard, since Richard needs to have the more elegance and grace of the two for the play to work well. But Jacobi manages an effeteness that works surprisingly well against Finch's robustness. As the play goes on, it's Finch's nuanced performance that catches the attention. He sustains the performance powerfully and subtly through the 3 play sequence - interestingly, a previous commenter saw King Henry as focal point of the Henry IV plays with Falstaff and Prince Hal at the margin, a reversal the usual critical take on the play and the impression it makes when read. Individually each of the plays have excellent performances (Jacobi's Richard, Gray's York, Quayle's Falstaff) but it's all three taken together that achieve the extraordinary, with Finch's development from calculating ambition to success that fails to satisfy to diseased and guilt-tormented disillusionment, at its center. This is one of the more memorable Shakepearean performances I've seen on film. As for production values ("stagey" comments), though the budget was low it was spent in effective ways, excellently researched and executed costuming and simple, but appropriate, sets. Production and acting are "stage"/technique-y, but this works with the plays' larger than life characters and language especially the rhymed verse of RII. These actors speak the difficult language admirably. The three plays, along with Measure for Measure and perhaps Hamlet, are the best in the BBC Shakespeare series, all in all.
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